I love summertime, I really do. I love everything about it: from being able to go to the beach in my flipflops to braaing in the garden. I don't mind getting into a hot car (something my husband detests) and I love the long evenings. But with those long evenings come mosquito bites.
Ok, so maybe I don't love absolutely everything about summer.
In a recent blog post, we took a look at why mosquitoes bite some people more than others, and I definitely fall into the more than others category, for whatever reason. Ankles and wrists seem to be their favourite spots, along with the top of my feet (definitely the itchiest bites occur there!). I also investigated whether natural remedies really work in preventing mosquito bites, and came to the conclusion that natural plant oils definitely do offer some protection against mosquitoes.
I started to wonder whether there were times of day - or of the year - when I was more likely to get bitten by mosquitoes. We all associate them with summer, but I wondered whether they were just as prevalent at other times of the year and we just don't notice them because we are inside more. And are they active during the day too, or is it just in the evenings as you sit down for an alfresco meal, or are about to drift off?
There are hundreds of different types of mosquitoes worldwide, all with slightly differing habits and habitats, so it makes sense that in order to avoid them, you need to know when those mosquitoes common to your geographical region are most active.
Working for a pest control company gives me an advantage when asking these sorts of questions; I turned to our resident expert, Mario Pluke, Technical Manager for Rentokil Sub Saharan Africa.
Mosquitoes most common to South Africa
According to Mario, the two most common types of mosquitoes found in South Africa are the common house mosquito (Culex pipiens) and the small, black and white-striped bush mosquito (Aedes aegyptii), neither of which - thankfully - transmit Malaria. There is also the Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), an imported species but one which is gaining ground in South Africa.
Frequently confused with the bush mosquito is the elephant mosquito (Toxorhynchites) which is actually not a pest, as it doesn't feed on blood. It's likely that we confuse it with the bush mosquito due to similar markings, although the elephant mosquito is much larger in body size. This mosquito is actually also known as the mosquito eater due to their larvae often feeding on other smaller mosquito larvae.
What time of day are mosquitoes most active?
The common house mosquito generally breeds in any water lying around domestic areas. They readily enter houses where the females will feed on humans or domestic animals. Whilst they don't transmit malaria, they are vectors for various other diseases, including filariasis (a parasitic disease caused by roundworm infection and then spread by mosquitoes). These mosquitoes bite at night and usually rest indoors before and after their blood meal.
The bush mosquito has a definite preference for human blood and is commonly found in and around human dwellings. They breed easily in water trapped by garden plants and domestic containers. This is the nuisance species that bite during the day and early evening!
Is there a mosquito season in South Africa?
Mosquitoes are definitely seasonal in South Africa: it is simply too cold at night for them to survive in the South African winter and spring months (typically May to mid-September). Another reason why the winter months are generally malaria and mosquito-free in South Africa is that this is the dry season when little or no rain falls (except in Cape Town which has a Mediterranean climate). Mosquitoes thrive when there is plenty of surface water during hot summer rains because they need both warmth and water to breed.
However, with the recent drought in Cape Town, many homeowners have installed JoJo tanks to catch as much rainwater as possible for use in the hot summer months ahead. Unless treated regularly with bleach or chlorine, these are the ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes. For more tips on saving greywater at home, read our Initial blog post here.
What can I do to avoid mosquito bites?
Based on the above, summer and autumn are when these common mosquitoes are going to be most active, and they bite both during the day and at night! So here are some tips on how to avoid getting bitten:
- Avoid bright colours: do not wear bright colours or use strong scents such as perfumes and deodorants as these attract insects
- Reduce exposed skin: wear long sleeves, trousers, footwear and hats
- Use insect repellent sprays on exposed skin and repelling products or candles when sitting outside
- Avoid areas with water: keep clear of slow-moving or still/stagnant water, and clear any standing water around your property
- If you do have a JoJo tank, make sure to treat the water with bleach or chlorine regularly
- When hiking through brush or rough grass tuck your trousers into your socks, and avoid brushing through long grass or bushes
Visit the Rentokil website for more information on what to do if you do get bitten by a mosquito.
If you are worried that your alfresco dinners this summer are going to be ruined by mosquito bites, contact the experts at Rentokil for a professional solution to your mosquito problem.
For more insights like these straight to your inbox Subscribe to our Blog.