Combatting the unofficial state ‘bird’

As we all know, this summer has been an uneven mixture of drought and heavy rains. To that point, we’ve had just enough rain to keep a steady supply of mosquitos on hand. Because they are both an irritant and pose substantial health risks, a few words of caution are in order.

On the matter of health risks, we all know about malaria transmission in the tropics. But we should also remember that mosquitos can transmit many diseases and parasites, including West Nile Virus. Dog owners should also be aware that mosquitos transmit heartworms to their furry friends. Fortunately, there are several ways to either prevent or treat these potentially fatal diseases.

Sadly, just staying indoors is no guarantee of safety. As the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service states: “Most mosquitoes are active during twilight hours and at night; however, around the home, mosquitoes that breed in discarded containers can be active during the day as well as during twilight hours and at night. Other species are strictly daytime biters, while others bite only at night.”

Because they require water to complete their breeding cycle, any comprehensive strategy requires standing water reduction. According to an instructive brochure provided by the extension service (, there are seven main techniques we can use to minimize the mosquito breeding: 1. Do not store open containers, tires, etc., on your property where they can collect rainwater. Properly discard them as soon as possible; 2. Check flowerpots for excess water; 3. Flush out the water in birdbaths at least every five days; 4. Store boats, canoes and other objects so that they do not collect rainwater. Remove water that collects in depressions in tarpaulins covering boats and other equipment or objects; 5. Keep rain gutters free of leaves and other debris that prevent water from draining; 6. Correct drainage problems in your yard to prevent rainwater from pooling; 7. Correct or report drainage problems in ditches along public or private roadways.

The extension service also recommends mosquito traps — with the admonishment that bug zappers, while entertaining are largely ineffectual. So, too do they recommend tight fitting window screens. While chemical control of adult populations is effective, the extension service cautions that the only real way to deal with the scourge is reduction of potential breeding sites.

Other ways to minimize their effects focus on techniques after being bitten. Obviously, if serious symptoms manifest (fever, nausea, etc.) you should immediately seek medical attention. If you’re simply dealing with a bothersome sore, there are a few simple remedies.

When most of us are bitten, we want to scratch the itchy bite. However, scratching can do more damage than good. Instead try to soothe your itch with ice. The cold is sure to soothe your skin and help with the swelling — not just with mosquitos — but with any common insect bite.

You may also try one of the plethora of topical creams available over the counter at any drug store or pharmacy department. When the itching and swelling are really unbearable, you may need to reach for a little medication. Ibuprofen will help with the swelling and an antihistamine should alleviate the itching for a while. Remember always to read the labels or ask the pharmacist for correct dosage.

A curious palliative treatment making the rounds on the Internet is a hot spoon. The idea is you warm up a spoon under hot tap water and then place the spoon against the skin for a couple of minutes. The heat breaks down the protein left in the skin from the bite. While a bump may remain, the itch should dissipate.

As above, nobody likes to be bitten, but with a few simple preventative steps you can reduce the area mosquito population for everyone’s benefit; and if the bites do come, that electric fly swatter may be just the distraction you need to keep from scratching.