We all know these pesky little buggers that buzz around us when we're in the dark. They lurk, stalk and wait for the opportunity to strike. Their lineage can be traced to the ancient times of 100 million years ago. Their senses and tactics, which have been developed through the ages, have remained the same: Sniff out prey, loiter in the vicinity, wait for an opening, strike quickly and strike plenty. All in the name of procreation. Oftentimes, the females spread the disease, while the males remain spectators to the proliferation of the species. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the mosquito.
They're everywhere these days. Even our cars are no longer a safe haven, as they become regular haunts when we leave open a window or door longer than necessary. This presents many car owners with the tricky challenge of how to get rid of these tiny blood-sucking predators.
The solution is surprisingly simple. Science has determined that mosquitoes are attracted to the following things within a 180m range:
* Carbon dioxide. When we breathe, we produce this invisible odorless gas as a byproduct. Skeeters can detect this and zero in on us. Heavy breathers or those engaged in strenuous physical activities are favorite targets, too.
* Body odor. How we smell affects how prone we are to being bitten. Scientists haven't entirely identified which scent yet, but noted that some odors are more attractive to mosquitoes than others.
* Sweat. This leaves increased amounts of chemicals on the surface of our skin. These chemicals attract the pests.
* Stinky feet. Tests have shown that smelly feet and objects that come into contact with them, including stinky socks, become bullseye to the bugs.
* Body heat. Like carbon dioxide, heat usually means a living creature is nearby.
* Strong perfume scents. Designed to be pleasant to our olfactory senses, some perfumes are also signals of potential food sources for mosquitoes.
* Steroids or cholesterol on human skin. Scientists have also identified that people with high levels of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface also attract mosquitoes. They didn't exactly say why, however.
* Dark nooks and crannies. These provide a hiding place for the skeeters to rest while they wait for their prey to appear.
* Stagnant water. This is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep the water moving. Remove water from containers, or cover stagnant water in containers.
Now that we know what attracts mosquitoes, we have a better chance of keeping them out of our cars.
* Keep the surrounding area clean and well lit. By keeping the area where you park your car generally clean, you reduce the chances of mosquitoes migrating into your car's cabin. Keeping things clean also applies to our vehicle's exterior and interior. Mosquitoes are attracted to certain odors, primarily from us and our personal items as the chemicals and scent we produce are transferred to our clothing, shoes and other belongings. Anything that gets in contact with our stuff then becomes a potential marker for mosquitoes to home in on.
That includes our vehicle carpets and floor mats, where we leave spare footwear. Sweaty gym wear and used clothes are a no-no. Stowing them in a gym bag or non-porous bag goes a long way in keeping your car mosquito-free. While there is no evidence yet if car perfumes are a culprit, forgoing their use and keeping the interior clean can keep the car smelling fresh far more effectively than any air freshener. Personally, we find activated carbon to be a more effective odor remover than anything else.
* If you have to use a seat cover, do not go for the synthetic-leather kind. This kind of cover doesn't breathe and makes you sweat more. Thus, it leaves residue on the seat surfaces, attracting skeeters inside your car. A fabric seat cover is the alternative. Or better yet, since carmakers have already spent a fortune in making sure that car upholstery will last a long time, don't use any seat covers at all. Use a commercially available fabric protector to protect the fabric and leather instead if you want to shield the seats from spills and liquids.
* An organic repellant might also be a good idea. Many organic repellants such as citronella bars are available on the market today.
* Keep your windows and doors closed when you park your car anywhere. This is perhaps the best way to keep the blood-sucking disease-carriers away from your vehicle once you've done all of the above. If they can't get in, then there won't be anything to worry about, right?
Artwork by Lloyd de Guzman