As we reported yesterday health authorities have warned there’s an increased risk of serious mosquito-borne diseases in Victoria over the next few weeks, but just how can you best protect your family from being bitten? We’ve spoken to a leading entomologist who warns not all insect control products are the same.
Experts were predicting a busy bug season, and the tropical-like weather in many parts of Australia have created the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and flies. The Healthy Mummy had a chat to University of Technology Sydney leading urban entomologist Bryce Peters, who has spent 30 years testing the effectiveness of household insect control products.
“Not all insect control products are created equal,” he explains. “Citronella candles don’t work and coils are only effective if used indoors, which is generally unpleasant due to the smell. Insect sprays, especially wall-mounted, automatic systems, are one of the easiest and most effective options for combatting flies and mosquitoes.
“Pyrethrins is one of the most effective active ingredients for targeting flying insects, and it is 100 per cent natural.”
How safe are the insect repellants that are currently on the market?
“The active ingredients in APVMA registered repellent products go through years of testing to show that they do not cause undue harm when the products containing these ingredients are used as directed,” Mr Peters told The Healthy Mummy, “The active ingredients most commonly used in skin-applied repellent products sold in Australia are DEET (diethyltoluamide) and picaridin.”
Mr Peters says a quick Google search will show that there are some drawbacks of DEET, however Victorian health authorities do recommend using products with picaridin or DEET to keep the current crop of mosquitoes at bay.
Do these products work?
“While DEET and picaridin are both very effective at repelling flying insects, research has shown that citronella has very poor efficacy in both personal insect repellent products and repellent candles. The best results I’ve seen for citronella in repelling mosquitos showed efficacy of around 40 per cent meaning that it didn’t work at all on six out of every ten mosquitoes.”
Why is it important we use repellant on our kids?
“Aside from mosquito-borne diseases the other important reason to protect your kids from mosquitoes is for the simple fact that mozzie bites are very itchy. Any parent knows that if your young child has multiple mozzie bites it is unlikely you are going to get a full night’s sleep.”
Here are some expert tips to help protect your home from mosquitoes, if you’re worried about using repellents on your children’s skin:
- Eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. Remove all standing water and mosquitoes will have nowhere to lay their eggs. Any pool of water, even a little in the saucer of a pot plant is enough for mosquito larvae to thrive and turn into biting adults.
- Mosquitos love shade. Regularly prune hedges and mow the yard to limit the places where mozzies can hide.
- Use an automatic insect control system in the living areas in your home. These products spray very small amounts of insecticide at regular intervals to keep bugs at bay. Mr Peters says if you want a more natural alternative, look for automatic products that use the 100 per cent natural active ingredient, pyrethrins. This plant-based active ingredient has low toxicity and is made from Australian grown pyrethrum daisies.
What are some natural ways to keep the bugs away from our homes?
“Several plants have developed clever defences to deter bugs – while some plants even survive on bug meals. In the garden you can try companion planting carnivorous plants such as sundews, pitcher plants, or the old favourite, the venus fly trap. Or if carnivorous plants are not your thing you might consider planting garlic, catnip, or pyrethrum daisies.”
How do we decode the labels on insect control products?
“Insect control products contain both ‘active’ and ‘inert’ ingredients. Inert ingredients simply won’t work on their own, and can include solvents, propellants, emulsifiers and fragrances,” Mr Peters explains. “To confirm if a product contains the 100 per cent natural plant-based active ingredient pyrethrins, simply check the listing of active constituents on the product label or look for the new Australian Natural Pyrethrins ‘daisy’ logo.” You can find out more about these products HERE.
How do we know we’re using the products correctly?
“Due care should be taken when using any pest control product. Always read product labels and use only as directed. One tip when using flying-insect- killer aerosols is to remember to shake the can thoroughly before use.”
More information on mosquito control is available HERE.