You may have heard before that mosquitoes are the “world’s deadliest animal.” Although you may think this is hyperbole, the fact is that in some parts of the world one child dies per minute due to diseases received via mosquito bite. If you have paid attention to the news in recent years, you know that mosquitoes are known as “disease vectors” and their saliva can transmit diseases such as West Nile Virus and Zika.
Knowing about mosquitoes and the diseases they spread is one thing, but understanding why mosquitoes bite can help us determine how to prevent mosquito bites. It’s easy to villainize mosquitoes, but the fact is they are just doing what nature intended them to do.
Have a mosquito problem? Western Exterminator pest control specialists know how to get rid of mosquitoes around your home and property. Contact your local Western Exterminator office for information about our mosquito treatments.
Why do mosquitoes bite?
The first thing to understand is that only female mosquitoes bite. Although mosquitoes have both male and female sexes, the males do not bite. This is because female mosquitoes need blood in order to produce eggs. Therefore, the males, which do not produce eggs, require no blood and feast on flower nectar and plants.
It is important to note that female mosquitoes get no nutritional value from the blood they ingest. The blood is used to manufacture eggs, which they then lay in water and males then inseminate them, resulting in more mosquitoes. For sustenance, female mosquitoes eat nectar from plants.
How do mosquitoes bite?
Mosquitoes require the blood of animals to feed upon for reproductive purposes. Their senses allow them to follow the CO2 trail of humans and mammals in order to feast upon them. Humans and other mammals secrete chemicals in their breath and through their skin which can also attract mosquitoes to them.
Once the mosquito has landed upon the intended prey, they use their needle-like proboscis to pierce the skin. Mosquitoes have developed excellent senses to find just the right spot on a person’s skin. The best spot is where the outer layer of the dermis is easy to penetrate, giving easy access to a capillary or other blood vessel. Once the female mosquito has pierced the skin, she may move the proboscis around a bit to find the capillary and then open up the blood vessel to start the blood flow.
It’s at this point that the mosquito injects saliva into the wound. The saliva is where the potential viruses are found and how the mosquito transmits disease. Within the saliva is an anticoagulant. This stops the blood from clotting and makes sure the blood flows smoothly down into the mosquito’s gut, where it is then processed into the protein needed to create eggs.
All of this happens very quickly and often without the person being bitten even realizing it’s happening. The itching and the bumps come from the body reacting to the foreign substance (saliva) being injected into their system. The body then generates histamines to combat the substance, resulting in bumps and itching.
Bed bug bites vs. mosquito bites
When you wake up to find little red bumps on your skin, it can be difficult to determine what caused them. Just because you find them upon waking up doesn’t necessarily mean they are bed bug bites. You could just as easily have been bitten by a mosquito during the night. Though both types of bites tend to itch, mosquito bites will start itching more immediately, while bed bug bites may take a few days to begin itching. Another differentiating factor between bed bug bites and mosquito bites is the location of the bites. Mosquitoes will bite any part of the body not protected by clothing. Bed bugs, on the other hand, often leave behind groups bites arranged in a distinct pattern. These bite clusters are usually found on the neck, hands, arms, and legs. Lastly, mosquito bites often last for a shorter amount of time than bed bug bites. Read more about how long mosquito bites last below.
How long do mosquito bites last?
Mosquito bites do not last very long unless the person suffers a severe allergic reaction to the bites. For most people, the bump and red mark will vanish within a week or two. Scratching the bite can also lead to secondary infection and cause the bites to last much longer. If the infection becomes severe enough, there can even be permanent scarring. However, this is very rare and usually only results from many, many bites.
Those who are sensitive to insect bites and stings should pay close attention to their mosquito bites. It is possible to have a very bad allergic reaction to the saliva injected and this can cause swelling, rashes and more severe allergic reactions. If this happens, seek medical attention immediately.
How to stop mosquito bites from itching
There are a few things you can use to stop mosquito bites from itching, including:
- Rubbing alcohol – best used right after the bite. As the alcohol dries, it cools the area and can alleviate itching, also helping reduce the risk of infection.
- Oatmeal – oatmeal baths can help alleviate the itching of numerous mosquito bites. Small amounts added to the bites can also provide some relief. The oatmeal should be washed off after about 15 minutes.
- Honey – honey has numerous medicinal properties, one of which is reducing the itchiness of mosquito bites. They honey can also reduce the inflammation of the bite. Use this only indoors as the sweetness of the honey can attract more mosquitoes outside.
- Aloe vera – you can use creams made from aloe vera, or keep aloe plants at home. Breaking off the thick leaves and squeezing the aloe vera onto the bites help reduce the swelling and offer relief from itching.
- Antihistamines – because the body releases histamines to attack the saliva in the bite, taking over the counter antihistamines can help counter this and reduce itching. Make sure you are not allergic to these medications and consult a doctor about any medicine interactions.
Reducing the itching is crucial. The more someone itches a mosquito bite, the worse the itchiness gets, as the scratching causes the body to release more histamines.
Stop mosquitoes with Western Exterminator
Western Exterminator offers solutions for your home and yard to get rid of mosquitoes. Our treatments clear out your yard and surrounding property and target all of the hiding places mosquitoes like to use for resting during the hotter portions of the day. Our treatments can help reduce mosquito activity for weeks at a time, allowing you to enjoy your yard and summertime activities without worrying about bites.
Contact your local Western Exterminator and talk to us about the mosquito issues you’ve had or been having.