How to Prevent Vector-Borne Diseases This Spring

Chris Ching

After a long winter, there is nothing better than getting outdoors and enjoying the warmth. Unfortunately, ticks, mosquitos, biting gnats, biting flies, and other insects will also be outside enjoying the weather in swarms. These insects may seem harmless to some, however, they can carry and spread disease-causing pathogens rather quickly. 

Most insects prefer temperatures over 80°, but they're not shy about making early appearances if temperatures reach over 45°. As many U.S. cities gradually become hotter and conditions become wetter as a result of climate change, it’s now important to stay protected year-round. 

Climate change is bringing earlier springs, which means insects will be resurfacing much earlier than expected. This increases the chances of vector-borne outbreaks occurring in your city. Unfortunately, outbreaks like these are often out of our control, and although we can’t necessarily control the influx of biting insects invading our communities, we can take proven effective steps to prevent from being bitten.

 

SPRING INSECTS TO AVOID

Mosquitos: “Are mosquitos dangerous?” is a question we get asked a lot, and the answer is yes. In fact, in 2016, Bill gates called mosquitos the deadliest animals in the world.

There are no limits to the number of times a mosquito will bite a person. They generally bite until they are satiated, but if interrupted they will quickly find a new person or animal to bite.

Mosquitos have been the culprit behind many outbreaks of vector-borne diseases in the United States, including West Nile virus, Zika virus, Chikungunya virus, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (EEE).

Biting Gnats: The United States is home to roughly 600 different species of gnats. Gnat is a very broad term that refers to many different species of flying insects; the most common biting gnats include biting midges, sand flies, and no-see-ums. 

Gnat bites cause itching, irritation, redness, and swelling. While gnats don’t spread diseases, they often bite many times and can cause major irritation and skin infections. 

Biting Flies: The most common biting flies include black flies, deer flies, and horse flies. Fly bites are irritating, and can cause a sharp, burning sensation. Some people can even experience life-threatening allergic reactions to the saliva of certain species of biting flies.

One of the most common vector borne diseases in the United States is spread by deer flies. Deer flies spread tularemia, a rare infectious disease that attacks the skin, lungs, eyes, and lymph nodes.

Ticks: Ticks typically come out by April when temperatures are warmer, but they are actually a threat year-round. Ticks are among one of the most dangerous parasites because they can spread illnesses like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, and Babesiosis, and they can be found anywhere from the woods to your backyard.

 

HOW TO PREPARE FOR SPRING BUGS

Keep Insects Out of Your Yard & Home

What biting gnats, mosquitos, and no-see-ums all share in common is their dependence on water, especially female insects that need water to reproduce. They can make homes out of any standing water in your yard, and it only takes a tablespoon of water for mosquitos to breed. 

Another way to minimize insect populations in your yard is to remove any old, standing water from your yard (common places are plant plates and kids’ toys). This will eliminate places for them to breed and reproduce. 

Additionally, mow tall grass and eliminate any leaf piles. Get these tasks done before the spring showers hit because they tend to hide in areas that retain moisture. Don’t forget to deer proof your yard, as deer are popular hosts for ticks. 

It’s also important to keep insects out of your home and preying on your family when they are least prepared. If you like to keep your doors and windows open in the warm weather, repair any holes in your screens and cracks in windows and doors. 

Refer to our Insect Watch page to monitor the mosquito borne disease intensity index in your state this spring.

Protect Yourself Against Bites 

Covering exposed skin with long-sleeved clothing creates a barrier between your skin and biting insects. However, it’s not likely that you’ll stay bundled up all spring and summer, and even if you do, mosquitos can bite through clothing. The only way to truly protect yourself from bites is by wearing a safe and long lasting bug spray. Our picaridin bug spray is a great DEET alternative that provides protection against a wide range of insects. Our bug spray repels mosquitos and ticks for 12 hours, while providing 8 hours of protection against biting flies, chiggers, gnats, and no-see-ums. 

Other repellents only protect against one or two types of biting insects. Wristband repellents can protect against mosquitos, but only the areas closest to the wristband, not the whole body. Natural-ingredient repellents exist and claim to ward off mosquitos using tea tree oil and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). Although they can provide some protection against insects, they are not long lasting and require multiple applications. On the other hand, picaridin products are long-lasting, protect the entire body from ticks, mosquitos, biting flies, biting gnats, and more. Picaridin is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Ranger Ready with Picaridin is registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

 

HOW TO APPLY RANGER READY REPELLENTS

Travel Abroad with Caution

Get out and travel this spring, but don’t forget to consider the insects that you might come across while vacationing. As you begin packing for your next destination, don’t forget to pack a bug spray that works. 

Acknowledging and preparing for the health and safety risks associated when traveling internationally is crucial. Packing a travel size bug spray can prevent you from contracting the world’s most common diseases, like Chikungunya, Dengue fever, Malaria, Yellow Fever, and Zika virus. 

Read more about preparing for travel with Ranger Ready. 

Ranger Ready Repellents are great for the whole family. We offer kid-friendly bug sprays that can be sprayed on anyone age-1 and older and are safe to use during pregnancy. 

Prevention begins with the daily use of a safe bug spray that you can trust. As vector-borne illnesses become more common, we encourage you to make mosquito, tick, and fly-bite prevention part of your daily routine, rain or shine.