It’s late at night and you’re tucked comfortably in bed, just drifting off to sleep, when there’s a high-pitched buzz of something dive-bombing into your ear. You jump up, wide awake, and turn on the lights. The dreaded female mosquito – a fragile, tiny winged insect that drinks blood and makes an irritating drone – has invaded your bedroom and you must scour the walls and ceiling to locate and kill it or, more likely, them. There will be no rest until you do. Trust me; I speak from half a century of bitter experience.
My earliest encounter with mosquitoes was in 1960. I was five years old and on my first ever trip to Israel. I remember my family’s four-day journey by land and sea from our house in north London to this distant, dusty land. We finally arrived at the kibbutz in northern Israel where my cousins still live, and at last I could rest my weary head on the pillow. I was just drifting off to sleep when there was a high-pitched buzz in my ear. The next day, to add injury to insult, I was covered in bites.
Although my aversion to all things that buzz and crawl hatched right there and then, I came on many subsequent holidays to Israel and bravely made aliyah in1994. Over the past 15 years I have slowly gotten used to the reality of living with all manner of insects and learnt various coping strategies. I always make a beeline for the supermarket shelf that contains insect repellents at this time of year and I arrange for a pest control company to fumigate my house on a regular basis. There isn’t much that can survive the hostile terrain my house has become, but with each passing year the mosquitoes are becoming ever hardier, and the mosquito season is getting longer.
What can be done to repel mosquitoes?
Starting from scratch, the first thing to do is to try to eliminate the problem from its source by ensuring that you don’t have any standing water, which is where mosquitoes lay their eggs. This could include buckets, pets’ water bowls and old paddling pools. Anything that contains even a small amount of water can breed mosquitoes.
The next thing is to fix fine mesh fabric screens to windows and doors which will allow fresh air in while keeping mosquitoes and other flying insects out. You do need to ensure that there are no holes in the screens, though, so as to prevent any mosquitoes slipping through the net.
Mosquito nets - such as an umbrella net to envelope your bed or patio furniture or a hat with a net to cover your face - can prevent bites, but unless you are planning to visit a jungle any time soon, here in Israel it’s probably sufficient to place nets indoors over beds and, more particularly, over cribs.
Insect repellents can be put on your body by means of creams, roll-ons, wipes and sprays. Most are safe for both adults and children, but you should check the labels and read the safety information. Avoid eyes and lips, but don’t forget the back of your neck and other less obvious areas which should be protected.
Natural repellents containing extracts from neem trees, lemon eucalyptus trees, or the perennial herb catnip are available for those who would rather not put any chemical insect repellents on their skin. Citronella oil is well known as a natural mosquito repellent and can be sprayed around window frames, above pillows and used in scented candles. Soybean oil and clove oil have both been cited as natural repellents, while some people hold that eating garlic repels mosquitoes and other insects – and indeed certain humans - if eaten in sufficient quantity.
Another natural insect repellent is anti-bacterial mouthwash. Apparently, if you spray it around your door frames (not directly on to the wood), on the floor and outside in the garden it will repel mosquitoes for several days. I haven’t tried this myself; it has only been recommended to me by word of mouth.
The repellent that I find the most effective is the two-pin plug into which a tablet is inserted each day. The plug goes into a mains socket and an odorless insecticide is released as the tablet is heated, which kills the mosquitoes.
There is no doubt that mosquitoes are a common scourge these days. I hope that at least one of these suggested remedies will provide some respite. If you have any other tried and tested mosquito repellent measures please write to the magazine firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a buzz at the office 09 956 5728.