As the weather starts to heat up, humans are not the only creatures to revel in the warmer weather. There certainly seems to be more mozzies out and about, and as summer approaches we are spending more time outdoors. Worrying about insects and disease just isn’t for the people of the middle ages- many modern tropical diseases can be prevented by using insect repellents.
What kinds of insects bite people?
There are many types of insects that ‘bite’ us. Every bite is not the same, and the mechanisms behind the bite utilises some very unique mouthparts! Some insects such as mosquitoes extend a mechanism of six different mouthparts onto and into the skin.
The most common type of insect bite during warmer weather is from a mosquito. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, and have higher populations in wetter climates as they lay their eggs in water. Female mosquitoes are the only type that bites, surviving on blood and nectar— male mosquitoes only require nectars for foodstuffs.
Other types of insects that bite are sandflies and fleas. Sandflies are found where there is sand such as the beach, deserts and by rivers. For those of use with pets, we know all too well about the explosion of fleas during the summer months. Keep your pet’s flea protection up regularly, and be super vigilant for two years after an episode of fleas. Flea eggs can remain dormant and survive for long periods of time.
What diseases do they carry?
“Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.”
Insects that bite can pose a risk to public health because they can carry diseases. Many of us have heard of the bubonic plague. However, it was not caused by rats- rather it was caused by the fleas the rats carried. Bubonic plague is rare these days, but insects can still cause a variety of nasty illnesses.
Insect born diseases are of particular concern in tropical areas because insect populations are far higher. Ross River virus, malaria, West Nile fever and Dengue fever are some of the most common insect transmitted tropical diseases. Public health warnings are issued for areas of disease outbreaks, so keep an eye out when travelling or living in at risk locations.
Types of Insect Repellent
DEET: N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. The Environmental Working Group has classified DEET as safe for human use, with reduced dosages for infants and children.
Neem: Neem oil has seen a recent surge in the market with a call for ‘natural’ and ‘safer’ ingredients.
Picaridin: Hydroxyethyl isobutyl piperidine carboxylate is an alternative to DEET and the World Health Organsation state it is more effective than its counter-part. This insect repellent should be used in areas where there is a high risk of tropical disease.
Citronella: Is a biopesticide with some activity against mosquitoes and other insects. This should not be used in high risk areas as it does not give reliable protection.
Physical Barriers: Mosquito nets and window covers provide a long lasting and cost effective method against biting insects. Some nets are also coated in Picardin to increase their effectiveness.
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