Libbys on the Loose:2 Humans. 2 Great Danes. 1 RV.: Get rid of Mosquitoes and other biting bugs!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Get rid of Mosquitoes and other biting bugs!

Mosquitoes love me.  No, mosquitoes crave me.  No BS.  If you were to look up "mosquito", you would find a picture of a small, funky-looking, flying insect with a long, syringe-like "nose".  Underneath that, you would find "mosquito bait" where you would see a picture of me!  In the case that you live in area free of mosquitoes (heaven?), check out the pic.   If you're not
familiar with who they are, or what they do, consider yourself fortunate - I remain at the top of their most-wanted list.

Mosquitoes suck. literally!  If you're in the woods, as many RVers are, you're bound to have a run-in sooner or later.  There you'll sit, unsuspecting, and wham! suddenly something stings on  your arm.  You look down and see one of these greedy little blood-suckers feasting on... you!  Whether you swat him away or smack him dead, it doesn't matter, the damage is already done.  Within a few minutes, you'll start to have an itching sensation at the site of the bite.  Normally, the infected area will swell up over the course of the next day or so, then usually subsides, along with the itching.  You can use topical creams or sprays to help relieve the pain, but if you're like us, you know that an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure!    

If you've even been to Florida, then you probably know about the swarms of mosquitoes - so much so that it's called the "Florida State Bird' by many Floridians!

Since I've been the one who always draws the mosquitoes, I've been able to test a number of products, some with success, others with utter failure.  Are creams and sprays the best defense or is there something better?  Can you prevent mosquitoes from biting you?  And why is it that some people are more susceptible to getting "attacked" by these little flying vampires?  

From Wikipedia:
"The females of most species (of mosquitoes) are ectoparasites whose tube-like mouthparts (called a proboscis) pierce the hosts' skin to suck the blood. The word "mosquito" (formed by mosca and diminutive ito) is from the Spanish or Portuguese for "little fly"Thousands of species feed on the blood of various kinds of hosts, mainly vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even some kinds of fish. Some mosquitoes also attack invertebrates, mainly arthropods. Though the loss of blood is seldom of any importance to the victim, the saliva of the mosquito often causes an irritating rash that is a serious nuisance. Much more serious though, are the roles of many species of mosquitoes as vectors of diseases. In passing from host to host, some transmit extremely harmful infections such as malaria, yellow fever, west nile virus and filariasis."
By definition, there is much more at risk than just a bite or the itch after.  With diseases that could cause extreme sickness such as West Nile Virus, avoiding mosquitoes isn't just for comfort, it's for safety, too.  Instances of transmissions of the aforementioned diseases are very low in the United States.  However, there have been instances, especially in tropical climates, so again, better to prevent.  

The first types of products most campers use are topicals, sprays, and creams.  Application to the skin and/or clothes is usually necessary for the best effectiveness.  There are a few keys things that we consider when we do use topical repellents:
  1. Does it work?
  2. Skin feel - is it greasy, light?
  3. Smell - is it pleasant?
DEET based products.  The FDA says that it's safe for those over the age of 2 months to use up to 100% DEET as suggested.  There are two things we like about DEET.  
  1. It works!
  2. Spray on clothes, not skin.
  3. Smell is pretty neutral - depends on product
So what's the bad it it?  It seems like those are two great things!  They are, but (despite the FDA's findings) I don't trust it.  There are products with lesser percentages of DEET that you spray directly onto your skin, but they can leaving you feeling greasy and you defiantly need to wash it off when your done being outside.  Also, if you have sensitive skin, the DEET can give you a rash.  I've also had DEET stain clothes that have been treated with some DEET based products.  We use the product below to treat outdoor furniture, steps, and perimeter fences - in my opinion, it helps!

Another product that we use are tiki torches that burn an oil/citronella combination.  They add a nice touch to the campsite with the light of a few small fires.  The added bonus is that the torches repel mosquitoes because of their citronella oil content.  For us, the jury is still out on these.  It seems like every time we've had tiki torches, citronella candles and products of the like, there have still been bugs attacking us.  OK, so maybe not attacking us, but they were definitely still in the area.  So maybe at the worse, these act as more of a deterrent than a full-on repellent - a "first line of defense" against the (sometimes) wave of mosquitoes. 

Citronella definitely seems to have some effect on helping deter the hunter from getting to the hunted.  The two products below have all-natural ingredients to get rid of both mosquitoes and other biting insects.  Bottom line:
  1. They work!  The No Natz works best with no-see-ums, black flies, and other flying pests.  The No Mosquitoz works best for mosquitoes.  It's not quite as effective with other pests, but it works great on mosquitoes!
  2. It's a mixture of natural oils.  Some would probably say that it feels greasy (it is natural oils) but doesn't bother me at all.  
  3. It smells amazing.  I like to spray it on and inhale.  :)
If we are choosing based on natural vs chemical and effectiveness vs not, this one wins hands down.  I do find that I have to reapply this stuff more than the DEET-based products, but I feel better about putting all natural oils on my skin and clothes than I do putting chemicals anywhere near my skin!  As far as a solution for a topical, this one comes out on top. 


This brings us to the last, our favorite, method of repelling mosquitoes.  Like most amazing products that we've discovered, this one comes from a close friend, Robby S. - thank you! This is the same guy behind the Big Green Egg story.  The Thermacell is a butane-powered device that heats a plate on which an oil-soaked fiber square sits.   As the square heats up from the plates' conductivity, it emits a light smoke from the from of device.  That's about all we know about it.  A magical smoke comes out and mosquitoes go away.  If you want to know more about how it works, click here.

According to the company, one unit is good for 15'x15' coverage. We can confirm that as pretty accurate.  That said, if you have more than one or two people and/or pets, we recommend

one for every two people or pets.  They will definitely work with only one per two people, but if you are in the deep woods, etc, where there are more mosquitoes than trees, we would err on the side of caution and use one each.
  1. They work so well, we hardly ever use anything else!
  2. There is no touching of anything oily, greasy, or "yucky" - you don't feel like you have to shower after using this product
  3. The smoke that the device emits is neither a bad or good smell - it's just sort of...there.
For us, if we had the two of us and our two dogs, we would use two Thermacells.  Speaking of the furry four-legged types, they benefit from using the Thermacell, too.  Dogs and cats are susceptible to biting insects, too.  When we take ours hiking, they usually wear harnesses, so we attach one to each of their harnesses.  We've literally seen swarms of mosquitoes a few feet behind us, but didn't dare come near as long as we were using the Thermacells. 

Our dogs are also treated with a topical called K9 Advantix II in addition to using the Thermacell units.  Advantix repels fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and other flying and biting insects.  According to Bayer's website:
"K9 Advantix II is a once-a-month topical application for dogs and puppies that REPELS and kills ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes. K9 Advantix II contains imidacloprid, permethrin and pyriproxyfen that work in concert to REPEL and kill parasites that can potentially transmit disease-causing organisms."
In addition to the monthly topical, we also give our dogs a monthly oral medication called Heart Gard.  Heart Gard prevents heartworms from being transmitted to pets by infected mosquitoes.  While this is not something that humans are susceptible to, our four legged loved ones are, so we want to ensure that they are protected!  Not only does it protect against heart worms, but also has protection from roundworms, hookworms, but Heartgard, much like Advantix, comes in strengths based on the weight of the dog.  Please let us know if you have any questions on any of these - we want to make sure your pets are protected just like you are!

That pretty much sums it up for the pet products.   There are other pet products that we've used (Comfortis - discontinued use due to concerns about its safety - and it only repelled fleas) but these have proven to be the most effective for the longest amount of time, and have the benefit of being recommended by our amazing vet. The length of time that Advantix works and its strength and effectiveness is dependent upon a few factors (Heartgard is an oral medication, so its effectiveness is only affected by the size of the dog):
  1. Size of your pet (make sure you get the right size/strength product)
  2. Pet activity - If your pet plays in water a lot (Bayer claims waterproof), it may shorten the effective use time, especially in saltwater 
Generally, you should expect about a month of use out of each application.  The product usually comes in six-application containers, so each package lasts about six months.  We usually administer our medications on the first of every month - makes it easier to remember.

We hope that you never have to worry about using any of these products.  The reality is that, chances are, unless you live inside and never spend any time out-of-doors, you will need to fend off these little flying demons.  I've personally been bitten at least a thousand times in a research effort for this article - you're welcome :)  But if you do want to (or have to) brave the outdoors and spend lots of time in it like we do, the use of these products, whether alone or in conjunction with each other, will help you and your pets to steer clear of potential disease-carrying insects. 

Disclaimer: We are not paid writers, neither for our writing or our opinions. We represent our experiences with products, services, etc, with 100% accuracy and give our unbiased feedback.

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