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5 tips to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes according to a Vancouver insect expert

These basic tips will help keep those little bloodsuckers at bay.
A Vancouver insect expert offers tips on how to keep those pesky mosquitoes away.

There's a reason mosquitoes seem to swarm people.

Like a pie to a cartoon character, we smell good to them. According to new research by co-authored by Dr. Ben Matthews, a zoology professor with UBC, a common species worldwide sniffs out humans in particular. When a human and another mammal stand next to each other, it'll pick the person.

While there are 84 species of mosquito in Canada, the mosquito the study looked at (while nearly found everywhere) hasn't shown up in Vancouver (though it's in Ontario). That doesn't mean humans don't smell good to others, though.

In fact, the future of mosquito bite prevention technology might be in altering how humans smell to the little bloodsuckers.

"There are people thinking about probiotic creams we could develop to augment or replace bacteria on your skin to produce repellent odours, or reduce the bacteria that produce the odours that are attractive to mosquitoes," Matthews says. "And a one-time use could last for months or years."

However, until that's possible, Matthews offers up five basic tips to avoid attracting mosquitoes and those itchy bites.

  1. Get rid of standing water
    This is a preventative measure. Mosquitoes love standing, stagnant water, so make sure they can't find what they love. Matthews notes this can range from unused tires to clogged gutters to bottle caps.
  2. Use DEET
    The chemical N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, more commonly called DEET, is the best defense against mosquitoes (and fleas, leeches, ticks and more) humans have developed. Experts have deemed it safe if used properly, even for pregnant women, and it's been used for more than 60 years.
    "While some of the natural repellents sound great, including citronella candles, they tend not to be super effective," says Matthews.
  3. Cover up
    Mosquitoes can smell humans and need to land on exposed skin. To hamper their ability to smell you and find a landing pad, cover up. That means long sleeves and pants.
  4. Avoid popular mosquito hangouts
    This may seem basic, but don't go to where the mosquitoes are. "This depends on the species but generally avoid places with standing waters, including wooded areas or lakes. There’s even a mosquito that breeds in rockpools in Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver," Matthews says.
  5. Screens are good
    If you're in a place where there are lots of mosquitoes, screens are your friend. Matthews suggests screens for all windows that are open and keeping the doors closed. If that's not possible and you're in a place with lots of mosquitoes, then a mosquito net is a simple, effective barrier.