How to avoid mosquito bites

The recent British weather has been perfect for mosquitoes with warm, wet weather providing the insects with perfect breeding conditions. Experts say the increasing popularity of water butts in gardens has added to their numbers by providing additional hatching grounds.

At last protection from the biting creatures could be at hand after researchers discovered a new way of repelling them – by pretending to be one of their predators!

Scientists have found that an aquatic insect known as a backswimmer, which is similar to a water boatman insect releases a “scent” that scares off mosquitoes – although it cannot be picked up by the human nose.

Backswimmers prey on the larvae of the biting insects, and so female mosquitoes have developed a tendency to avoid areas where they detect chemicals given off by the predators. The researchers now hope to use their findings to develop new repellents for humans to use.

It is hoped that unlike other insect repellents, which require to be used all over the body and can damage clothing, smaller amounts of repellents based on chemicals released by backswimmers could keep mosquitoes at bay.

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in stagnant pools of water, where they hatch into swimming larvae before the airborne adults ultimately emerge.

Backswimmers, which prey on the larvae, give off chemicals known as predator-released kairomones. Female mosquitoes have developed the ability to detect these chemicals and avoid laying eggs where they are present.

Mosquitoes usually feed upon nectar, but the females drink blood to provide extra supplements for their eggs when they are preparing to lay. It is at this time when they become a nuisance to humans and can transmit parasites such as malaria (although not in the UK) and other blood borne diseases.

According to experts, the 33 breeds of mosquito living in the UK have been “thriving” this summer. An increase in the use of patio heaters and rainwater collection tanks have helped to attract the insects into gardens.

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* Premium £5.32 includes Insurance Premium Tax based on an adult aged under 55 taking out a “Standard” Single Trip 24/7 travel insurance policy for 3-days in Europe excluding personal possessions cover and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press (September 2010) and are subject to change.