It’s here! The mosquito Zika virus is in the U.S. headlines – big time – and among all the alarming news of the mosquito bite causing the virus, it boils down to one thing: protecting yourself.
Zika is believed responsible for a spike of babies born in Brazil with abnormally small heads, called microcephaly, and also temporary paralysis, linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Mosquitoes were generally thought of as just a warm weather nuisance. As increasing reports of their spread of the Zika virus into the U.S., which already has dengue fever, West Nile and other mosquito-carrying diseases, the stakes are far greater for controlling them.
Dan Ritter of BugBand, which produces a variety of naturally derived DEET-free insect repellents, explained there are four life stages to the Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes spreading the Zika virus: egg, larva, pupa and adult:
“From an egg to an adult takes less than 10 days, starting with the female laying eggs, usually about 100, in containers holding water. Submerged in water, the eggs hatch and the aquatic larvae quickly evolves into a pupae and three days later into adult flying mosquitoes. The females are each ready for four or more blood-sucking meals, so they can lay their eggs – and the cycle starts over again. They live for an average of three weeks and reproduce outside or inside a home,” said Ritter.
“Think of her as a tiny flying hypodermic needle, attracted to the lactic acid in our sweat, ingesting microbes directly from a person’s blood then injecting them directly into the bloodstream of another person. It’s a domino effect. Travelers bitten in one country have taken the Zika now to 40 reported countries, and those numbers are increasing.”
The only resolves to repel mosquitoes since the 1950s were products with DEET. But DEET has adverse side effects to humans such as rashes, seizures and disorientation.
Scientific discovery of Geraniol at Univ. of Fla., to repel biting mosquitoes
Geraniol (the active ingredient in BugBand) was discovered in 2003, in field and laboratory research at the University of Florida, from oils of the powerful insect repelling geranium plants. Ritter, working with U of F entomologist Dr. Jerry Butler, found that the BugBand products were very effective at repelling the female biting mosquitoes. In 2004, in another human testing study at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, Dr. Gunter Muller found 20% Geraniol gave commercially acceptable performance.
“Anglers appreciate [BugBand] because it’s water-based and there is no scent transfer on baits, or damage to monofilament lines,” said Ritter. “For years fishermen, hunters, hikers and families in outdoor activities have repeatedly used our products, not only to repel mosquitoes but other harmful insect species like ticks, gnats, no-see-ums, fleas and flies. It’s used by our military and is a popular licensed product long used by the Boy Scouts of America.”