Mosquitoes in Spain

Looking at some of the travel forums on the web, many people ask "Are there mosquitoes in Spain?". Well, the answer to that is a resounding yes! And of course the Spring and Summer months are "mosquito season", meaning they will be more active.

There have recently been reports in the news of a large rise in the number of cases of people being bitten by the larger Tiger mosquito, which is a native of tropical and subtropical regions of Southern Asia.

They are around a 1/4 of an inch in size and recognisable by the distinctive black and white stripes on the body and white stripe through the middle of the head.

Bites are usually a lot bigger than those of the native Spanish mosquito, but are are rarely life-threatening. There is a slight risk of the victim contracting serious tropical diseases such as Malaria or Chikungunya, as was the recent case of a number of local residents in Gandia, Valencia.

Alicante experts recently warned that they were seeing around 20% more bites from Tiger mosquitoes in the Alicante province.

Then we have the recent concerns regarding the Zika virus, which can cause the neurological brain disorder Microcephaly in newborn babies. The virus is transmitted via the female Aedes aegypti or Yellow Fever mosquito with most cases to date being reported in Brazil and other South American countries. Those traveling to Spain or other European countries are relatively safe from Zika although it is important to note that the virus can also be transmitted via sexual intercourse from a partner. 

As recently as July 2016, the first case of Zika in Spain was reported in Barcelona, with the newborn child being diagnosed with the condition. It is believed that the mother contracted the virus after a recent visit to Colombia.

Although you are unlikely to contract the Zika virus while in Spain, if you are pregnant it is important to stay safe and make sure you take necessary precautions. (See below)

In our previous post “10 Home Remedies For Mosquito Bites” we gave you some advice on the specific treatments that are suitable to soothe Mosquito bites, many of which are natural remedies which can be found around the home.

But as they say, “Prevention is better than the cure”, so instead of waiting to be bitten, why not take action and avoid being bitten in the first place?

One of the first questions that we should ask though is, Why do Mosquitoes bite?

When female Mosquitoes are ready to reproduce, they switch to an all-protein diet of blood which is needed for them to produce the eggs.

Many studies have been done to determine how we can prevent mosquito bites. Both male and female mosquitoes like to feed on flower nectar so try not to use sweet smelling fragrances like perfume, body lotions, soap and shampoo, as this will merely attract them. 

Mozzies also have the ability to hone in on carbon dioxide from over 75 feet away. This is emitted from our skin and breath, so it is important to take proper measures to ensure you don’t get bitten.  For some reason studies have also shown that mosquitoes actually prefer to bite men more than women and overweight people are also at a higher risk.

Mosquitoes are actually one of the deadliest creatures on Earth, despite their size. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2010, approximately 1.2 million people died of Malaria, which is a Mosquito-borne infectious disease. 

So now we know why they bite - what can we do to try and stop them from doing it?

One of the first things we think of to help prevent getting bitten is an insect repellent. When used properly, these are safe for both adults and children alike, but what ingredient is contained in the repellents that stop mosquitoes from taking a nibble?

The answer to that, is a pesticide called Deet. Deet stops mozzies from being able to locate people that have applied it.
A repellent with a concentration of up to 35% of Deet should be applied to our skin and clothing when we are going to be spending time outside. 

The concentration should be based on the amount of hours we will need protection for. So the higher the concentration of Deet, the longer the protection. A rough guide is that a 10% concentration will protect us for about two hours.

You should also remember that chemical repellents can be toxic, so please check the labels of all repellents to see what ingredients they contain, make sure you follow the application guidelines and only ever use the correct amount needed for the time you need protection. Products containing Deet should also never be put on the hands of young children or on infants below the age of 2 months.

Natural Insect Repellents

Insect repellents work well but what about going down the route mother nature gave us?

There are many natural ingredients that we can use to help prevent mosquitoes from biting us. Below are just a few natural insect repellents.

Citronella is the most commonly known natural product used help fight off mosquito bites. When dining outside, lighting citronella candles will warn off mozzies and other insects allowing you to eat in peace. The same can be achieved by applying pure essential oil of citronella, directly to your skin.This should be a high quality essential oil bought from a natural food store NOT a fragrance oil (used to fragrance a room) as this is not adequate to apply to your skin. 

Other essential oils can also be used such as :-

  • Peppermint Oil
  • Rosemary Oil
  • Castor Oil
  • Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
  • Cinnamon Oil
  • Lemongrass Oil
  • Cedar Oil
  • Clove Oil
  • Geranium Oil

All of these natural products will effectively repel mosquitoes, but they will need reapplying more frequently (at least every 2 hours).

Garlic: It is also a known fact that mosquitoes do not like garlic, so introducing it to your meals will help repel them.

Something you won’t want to do on a daily basis but that is a good idea if you are going camping or taking long hikes through the countryside, is to mix garlic powder and water together to form a paste and apply it to pulse points, the back of the knees, ankles and a dab or two somewhere on your face and neck. Remember to to keep it well away from the eye area at all times. This probably won’t make you very popular, but it will at least stop you from getting eaten alive!

Soy Oil has been shown in some studies, to be just as effective in natural repellents as Deet is in your regular insect repellents. Soy oil is also an excellent body moisturizer, is easy to find and is quite inexpensive, making it an excellent choice. If possible get some organic soy oil.

As well as these natural remedies, there are other preventative measures you can take, that won’t cost you a penny!

For example, mosquitoes need standing or stagnant water to breed. Make sure you remove any standing water hanging around your home, clear out blocked gutters and drains and change the water in birdbaths at least once a week. By doing this you can prevent them from breeding meaning you reduce the mosquito population from around your house.

Another action you can take is to be aware of what you are wearing. If you keep these clothing tips in your mind you can help keep mosquitoes at bay.

  • Wear long trousers and where possible think about  tucking them into your socks.
  • Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours so wear light-colored clothing.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and neck or a baseball cap that has a fold-out flap to protect the back of your neck. If you are in an area that has a high mosquito population, think about wearing a mosquito net to cover your face and head.
  • Wear socks.
  • If you have babies or young children that use pushchairs, use a mosquito net to cover them for extra protection.
  • Mosquitoes, for some unknown reason, seem to be attracted to fragrances used in shampoos, bath/shower creams, aftershaves, perfumes and lotions. Not all products or scents will attract them but it seems some do, so don’t take any chances and avoid using them when spending time outdoors.

By keeping these precautions in mind, you can go ahead and enjoy those long summer days and nights without a mosquito bite in sight!!

Updated: 27/07/2016

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