Your Biggest Bug Questions, Answered

Consider these solutions when dealing with those pesky pests.

  • Lindsy van Gelder

Do fair-skinned people really get bitten by mosquitoes more often?
No. And neither do women nor redheads nor any other specific group. Part of what attracts mosquitoes is the amount of carbon dioxide, heat, and moisture that a person emits. Unfortunately, those factors are determined by genetics, and they’re hard to measure. The one phenomenon that scientists have noticed is that “the more you sweat, the more attractive you can become to mosquitoes,” says James E. Cilek, professor of entomology at Florida A & M University, in Panama City. But they are not sure why. Whether this has to do with the scent or the moisture in perspiration isn’t clear.

How can I uninvite bugs from an outdoor summer party?
Avoid scheduling your event at dusk, when mosquitoes and no-see-ums are most plentiful, and cover food between trips to the buffet. Your best bet among repellents, says Cilek, is probably a yard spray (try Cutter Bug Free Deck & Patio Outdoor Fogger; $12.50, amazon.com). Candles containing citronella oil have been found to be effective in repelling bugs, but they deter only those that are hovering within three feet of the candle. As for electronic bug zappers, they trap only the insects that happen upon them.

How do I keep no-see-ums out of the house if they are small enough to get through door and window screens?
Give them a little air: These tiny bugs can’t survive in a breeze of more than about two miles an hour. Try using overhead fans in the house or on the porch, or manipulate the air current with a couple of strategically placed box fans.