Being originally from the Northern Rockies summer has always been a welcomed season. We would get a month or two with temperatures that go up past 70 degrees. Every night it goes back down to darn chilly. Moving here I have loved the warm weather. I realize the locals take pride in complaining about the heat, and someday I will join their ranks I’m sure. However, there is one thing I would like to mention. With the warm weather along come the bugs. Lightning bugs are fascinating. That’s my only exception. The rest though, they need to go. Specifically, MOSQUITOES!
For those of you whom have recently arrived from the moon let me break it down. Mosquitoes have this uncanny sense to detect where you are and how yummy you will be. They hang around moist areas (standing rain puddles and ponds anyone?). Memes abound online over them being the state bird of Texas (they do seem larger than usual here). Also, they can carry some frightening diseases like West Nile and Zika.
If you are concerned about Zika, there is a great website to learn more about areas that have been reporting cases. Go to www.texaszika.org to learn about symptoms, and more information on the disease. Thankfully, only 3 cases have been reported this year, so far. West Nile is an equally dangerous thing to come in contact with. A great resource is www.dshs.texas.gov/idcu/disease/arboviral/westnile/. It shows you the map of counties with reports of it this year and while Bell county has been clear so far, there are two counties that aren’t terribly far away.
But hold on! While all of this churns in your mom brain, please remember it’s no reason to not enjoy the beautiful area we are in. This is simply something to consider and plan ahead to avoid. In the evenings and early mornings when mosquitoes are most active be aware and make sure to use your repellants. There are a multitude of great options for people to stay bite free.
Start with your home. Most of us have beautiful yards that kids want to play in. Adding a few special plants to the backyard can really make an impact. Mosquitoes are naturally repelled by certain varieties. Marigolds, lavender, and even petunias are all beautiful and aromatic additions that mosquitoes don’t enjoy. If you want a handy herb aspect be sure to include plants like basil, thyme, and rosemary. Also, we have all heard of citronella candles. If you plant citronella plants you don’t even have to worry about a burning wick.
If you have to have your candles though, citronella is a great way to go. There are so many sizes and varieties available in stores. Another option for candles for the DIY mom is to take a mason jar and fill it with slices of lemon or lime, rosemary, mint, and basil (whatever you prefer) and fill the rest with water. Add a floating candle and light it up. The heat from the candle helps diffuse all of the smells and oils from them and works for a moderate area like the patio. It’s a great option for those who don’t care for citronella. Yet another is to use essential oils. Add a drop or two to the mason jar luminaries and enjoy the aroma.
Of course, you will not spend the entire summer in the back yard. For going out and enjoying the local parks and pools nothing as quite as useful as a good spray. The EPA recommends sprays with one of their approved active ingredients. Those ingredients must be in a minimum concentration in the formula. Some of what they consider to be acceptable are: DEET, IR3535, and citronella. My personal no-fail spray is Cutter Backwoods. I know there are a lot of people who prefer Avon Skin-So-Soft products also.
Aside from using a spray there are some amazingly innovative options out there today. You can purchase clothing that has been treated to repel them. One that we tried last fall was a coil bracelet that had the repellent in the plastic. The Cliganic bracelets worked well for the older kids and adults that wore them. However, with kids like my fidgety 3-year-old they didn’t get to stay on long enough to work well.
If you are looking to take on a larger area there are some machines available that can reduce mosquitoes numbers over a greater space. Many of them work by using a small propane tank to attract the mosquitoes and trapping them. Since you don’t have them out there breeding these can really help if used over a long period of time. Years ago, my folks invested in one. The only thing I would add is determine the rules of Rock Paper Scissors beforehand as neither you nor your spouse will want the chore of cleaning it out.
Hopefully this will give you some great options to look up when it comes to defending your family this summer. Please keep in mind no option is fool proof and infallible. There will still be bites, but maybe just fewer for you and yours. When they do fail make sure to have a good crème on hand for the itches. I love using Caladryl Clear. Another quick option for bites and stings that comes straight from my mom and grandma is some baking soda mixed with a few drops of water into a paste. When Grandma is right, there’s no point arguing.