Mosquito Awareness and Prevention

It's almost always mosquito season in Alabama.

Experts typically name March to September as the period in which mosquitoes are most active in the state, but down near the more humid Gulf Coast, mosquito season starts in February and lasts through November. Chances are that most everyone you know has been bitten by --- or, at the very least, annoyed by --- a mosquito.

But mosquitoes can be much more than an annoyance. In fact, because they are vectors --- living organisms that can transmit infectious diseases from animals to humans or other animals --- they are considered by groups like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be among the most dangerous insects on Earth.

About Mosquitoes

There are an estimated 3,700 different species of mosquito worldwide. About 200 species are in the United States, and Alabama is home to around 60 of those.

Adult mosquitoes live indoors and outdoors. They live anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the species, humidity, temperature, and other factors. Females often live longer than males.

Only female mosquitoes bite people and animals to get blood, which they need to produce eggs. Anywhere from 100 to 200 eggs are produced after each blood meal. The eggs are laid directly on or near water, and only hatch when exposed to water. The larva that emerge from the eggs stay in the water until they reach their adult stage, when they fly away to live out their own life cycle.

Visit the CDC to learn more about mosquitoes in the United States

Vector Control

Vector control is any method to limit or eradicate insects, birds, mammals, and other creatures that transmit diseases. The most frequent type of vector control is mosquito control.

While it's virtually impossible to completely avoid mosquitoes, there are several things you can do to minimize their presence around your yard and home:

  • Once a week, empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers.
  • Tightly cover water storage containers (buckets, cisterns, rain barrels) so that mosquitoes cannot get inside to lay eggs.
  • Keep weeds, vines, hedges, and grass trimmed since mosquitoes use these shady areas as resting places during hot daylight hours.
  • Keep window and door screens in good repair.
  • Use an indoor flying insect fogger or indoor insect spray to kill mosquitoes inside your home and treat the dark, humid areas where they rest, such as under sinks and in closets.

For more tips to control the mosquito population inside and outside your home, visit ADPH's Vector Control.

Mosquito-borne Illnesses

When a mosquito bites you, it injects saliva into your skin. It's the saliva that causes the bumps, itching, swelling, and redness commonly associated with such bites.

Unfortunately, some types of mosquitoes can transfer more than saliva through their bites. A few can spread germs to people and animals. A person who gets bitten by an infected mosquito and then gets sick has what is known as a mosquito-borne illness.

Mosquito-borne illnesses found in the United States include:

You can view the number of cases of mosquito-borne diseases in Alabama residents this year and in years past at Mosquito-borne Diseases

Preventing Mosquito Bites

In addition to the efforts to control the mosquito population mentioned above, there are steps you can take to prevent mosquitoes from biting you. These include:

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants when possible.
  • Treat clothing with repellents containing permethrin or DEET (diethyltoluamide).
  • Dress children in loose-fitting clothing that covers their arms and legs. Cover strollers and baby carriers with mosquito netting.
  • Apply repellents sparingly to exposed skin avoiding the eyes, lips, and nasal membranes. Do not use it on cuts, wounds, or irritated skin. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers guidance to select the repellent that is right for you.

Visit ADPH's Avoid the Bite to learn more.