Get ready to slap and scratch. Mosquito season is back with a vengeance because of higher-than-normal rainfall in some parts of the country. How can you avoid the itch as well as mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus?
-- REPEL THE SUCKERS No one product wards off all 170 mosquito varieties in the U.S. But lotions containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) work best, says Jim Olson, an entomologist with Texas A&M University. The concentration doesn't denote effectiveness, only how long it works. So 23.8% DEET products work for about eight hours, while 4.75% products last about 1 1/2 hours. Use no more than 10% for kids.
If you'd rather avoid chemicals, try herbal repellents. A good one is WPC Brand's new Repel, made from lemon eucalyptus. Avon Products (AVP )' Skin-So-Soft is also nontoxic. (The original bath oil works better than the Bug Guard Plus lotion.)
There is anecdotal evidence that suggests taking a B-complex vitamin or eating brewer's yeast, which is high in B vitamins, repels insects. Similarly, Bounce dryer sheets may provide protection if you rub them on your skin and hang them from your belt loop.
-- RUB THEM OUT Another tactic is to treat clothing or mosquito netting with permethrin, a synthetic version of pyrethrum, which is derived from chrysanthemums. An insecticide, permethrin kills mosquitoes rather than just repelling them. You can buy it in aerosol cans at sporting-good stores. Spray your outdoor work clothes, let them dry for two hours, and you've got mosquito armor that lasts two weeks.
Don't waste money on sonic devices. "Manufacturers sell 2 million to 3 million of those per year, and they don't work," says Donald Barnard, entomologist at the U.S. Agriculture Dept.'s Agriculture Research Service in Gainesville, Fla. Electric bug zappers kill more beneficial insects than mosquitoes.
-- DON'T LET THEM BREED Get rid of standing water around your house, even in something as small as a bottle cap. Make sure your rain gutters drain completely. Put larvacidal dunks containing Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) in water you can't drain. Finally, don't forget to empty the water from the dishes under your houseplants. Otherwise, you'll wind up with a mosquito maternity ward in your sun room.
By Kate Murphy