Mosquitoes are small, midge-like flies that constitute the family Culicidae. Females of most species are ectoparasites, whose tube-like mouthparts (called a proboscis) pierce the hosts' skin to consume blood. The word "mosquito" (formed by mosca and diminutive -ito) is Spanish for "little fly". Thousands of species feed on the blood of various kinds of hosts, mainly vertebrates, including mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even some kinds of fish. Some mosquitoes also attack invertebrates, mainly other arthropods. Though the loss of blood is seldom of any importance to the victim, the saliva of the mosquito often causes an irritating rash that can be a nuisance. Much more serious, though, is the role of many species of mosquitoes as vectors of diseases. In passing from host to host, some transmit extremely harmful infections such as malaria, yellow fever, Chikungunya, West Nile virus, dengue fever, filariasis, Zika virus and other arboviruses, rendering the Culicidae the deadliest animal family in the world.
To address this problem, our team uses the most effective treatments with least impact on the environment.
Many measures have been tried for mosquito control, including the elimination of breeding places, exclusion via window screens and mosquito nets, biological control with parasites such as fungi and nematodes, or predators such as fish, copepods, dragonfly nymphs and adults, and some species of lizard and gecko. Another approach is to introduce large numbers of sterile males. Genetic methods including cytoplasmic incompatibility, chromosomal translocations, sex distortion and gene replacement have been explored. They are cheaper and not subject to vector resistance.
Insect repellents are applied on skin and give short-term protection against mosquito bites. The chemical DEET repels some mosquitoes and other insects. Some CDC-recommended repellents are picaridin, eucalyptus oil (PMD) and IR3535. Others are indalone, dimethyl phthalate, dimethyl carbate, and ethyl hexanediol.
In 2015, researchers at New Mexico State University tested 10 commercially available products for their effectiveness at repelling mosquitoes. On the mosquito Aedes aegypti, the vector of Zika virus, only one repellent that did not contain DEET had a strong effect for the duration of the 240 minutes test: a lemon eucalyptus oil repellent. All DEET-containing mosquito repellents were active.
Bites and treatment
Visible, irritating bites are due to an immune response from the binding of IgG and IgE antibodies to antigens in the mosquito's saliva. Some of the sensitizing antigens are common to all mosquito species, whereas others are specific to certain species. There are both immediate hypersensitivity reactions (types I and III) and delayed hypersensitivity reactions (type IV) to mosquito bites. Both reactions result in itching, redness and swelling. Immediate reactions develop within a few minutes of the bite and last for a few hours. Delayed reactions take around a day to develop, and last for up to a week. Several anti-itch medications are commercially available, including those taken orally, such as diphenhydramine, or topically applied antihistamines and, for more severe cases, corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone and triamcinolone. A common topical remedy in camping gear is aqueous ammonia.