This summer I’ve been bitten, bitten and bitten some more – there doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by without a fresh wound appearing. It’s now got to the stage where the first thing I do, when I wake up every morning, is to carry out an immediate survey to see if I have sustained yet more insect induced injuries in the night. What is it that’s taking such frequent chomps out of me? Prime candidate number one has to be, my arch nemesis, the mosquito (or as I affectionately(!) like to call them – mozzies).
Don’t worry, I’m told, of the billions of the little blighters that are about, It’s only the pregnant females that bite – male mozzies don’t bite at all – they only feed on nectar – but that’s not much comfort as you’re nursing yet another sore spot courtesy of the persistent pests.
Why so itchy? It’s all in the saliva – the unsavoury fact is that mozzies’ saliva contains an anticoagulant to keep your blood flowing and it’s this that my body takes exception to, producing an irritated reaction.
So, am I being singled out as mozzie dining spot numero uno? Possibly! Newer research shows that mozzies like certain blood types (O is the tastiest); also, body odours and skin bacteria all play a part – these are largely determined by genetics; so if your relies were victim to the mozzies, then chances are you will be too.
OK enough of the high pitch whining, what can I do to try to put off these determined chompers? Here are a few suggestions I’ve come across:
Put a penny in a bag of water (what?) – according to those ‘old wives’ if you pop a penny into a bag of water, it’ll keep you mozzie-free. True? (well what do you think?) and the bag of water will probably attract more of the swines!!
Treat yourself to a hunk of garlic bread – apparently the garlic will put off the flying diners. True? – sadly not, there is no evidence that garlic repels them at all (but at least you get to enjoy trying!)
Do your teeth a favour (get rid of that garlic breath!) and have a good rinse around with mouthwash to keep them away. True? – nope – sadly that ‘ring of confidence’ might soon disappear as you feel the first bite of the night!
Take more B12 in your diet to ward them off. True? Actually, quite the opposite, if you excrete B12 from you skin they seem to love it and will arrive in their droves from miles around (so no extra marmite on your toast – phew!)
Set the mood by burning a citronella candle – it will stop mozzies gate-crashing your night-time party. True? Wrong again! Whilst vast quantities of citronella might act as a mild mozzie repellent, there isn’t anywhere near enough in a candle and the light is likely to help them spot the very best place in which to take a bite!
Surely science can come up with something a little more high tech to help sort out these menaces once and for all?
Here are some of the latest advances:
Genetic modification – labs have been able to breed mosquitos that have been genetically modified to have shorter lifespans – this means the females don’t get to the egg generating (blood sucking) age (this has been done in only one species out of 3,000+ though…)
Another technique is breeding sterilised male mosquitos and setting them free to join the native population. These firing-blanks males will mate with the wild females, but no eggs will be produced (or blood induced).
A third option is introducing a bacteria called Wolbachia into the mosquitos – the bacteria makes the mozzies infertile and so game over.
We can take heart then that science is fighting back against the disease carrying mosquito – if these techniques were scaled up, it might even be possible to see the total eradication of the world’s most hated insect – hoorah!
Hang on a minute though! Mozzies do have their uses (no honestly they do!) they pollinate plants, are an easy and plentiful food source for many creatures and their larvae produce nutrients that are beneficial to plants.
Perhaps an alternative approach could be to help the mozzies become resistant to the parasites that cause the diseases they carry? Maybe more sophisticated types of repellent that are bespoke for you could be created?
We live in hope, but for now, it seems, we’re stuck with the little biters – pass the antihistamine please!