Another Seasonal Hazard in SW France: Mosquitoes

What's this? Find out below.

What’s this? Find out below.

Here’s another seasonal hazard: mosquitoes. I am their favourite meal. There are several reasons for that (see below) and they are becoming more of a pest down here.

Do you have blood group O? Do you have a high metabolic rate? Join the club. Recent research shows that you are among the most likely to attract mosquitoes and to be bitten silly on summer evenings. I know. I share these characteristics.

So far, this summer has been exceptionally dry and the conditions for mosquitoes to breed have not been propitious. But we had 44 mm of rain last Wednesday (having had none for more than 5 weeks). Then, they went into overdrive.

We sat out a couple of nights ago in the dusk listening to the owls and other sounds. I squashed at least eight mosquitoes. Some of them got me, though. During the night, the tell-tale itching started up around my ankles and behind my knees.

It’s the female of the species that is the culprit. And we are among the départements at risk of the tiger mosquito, i.e. the one that carries all sorts of nasty diseases, including dengue fever and chikungunya. Apparently, by prefectoral decree, it’s forbidden to allow standing water under plant pots, for example, because that’s where they breed.

A couple of years ago in August, I had a very unpleasant virus involving vomiting and feeling pretty rotten for a whole week. I don’t think this was the so-called vomiting virus. Rather, I believe it was something carried by a mosquito, which had been greatly in evidence for a few days beforehand.

So, what can you do?

  1. Anoint yourself with anti-moustique spray. I do this religiously, but they always find the Achilles heel, the 2 square mm that I didn’t quite reach. I recently used one described as Jungle Spray, but it left my watch with an indelibly cloudy face. So what did it do to my skin?
  1. Light an anti-moustique spiral and put it near your outside dining table and then sit downwind of it. The problem is that the manufacturers pack them in twos, stuck together, and you have to separate them (see the image at the top of the post). This is akin to doing a Rubik’s Cube. And since both clumsiness and lack of spatial awareness run in my family, I invariably break both spirals before I can separate them.
  1. Stick an insect-repellent plug into an electrical socket in your bedroom. Two problems here: they are expensive and the liquid is used up quickly; and if it doesn’t do the mosquitoes any good, it probably doesn’t do you any good, either.
  1. Rig up mosquito nets around your bed. I have always hated these because they make me feel claustrophobic. One always manages to get through, anyway. And woe betide you if you need to get up in the night to go to the loo. You end up swaddled in the nets like an Egyptian Mummy, unable to battle your way out.
  1. Make a special frame for your window fitted with a grill through which the mosquitoes cannot penetrate. The SF did this, and I think it’s one of the more effective methods.

Whatever you do, do not scratch the bites, however tempting it is (and they always itch in the middle of the night when you are semi-comatose). If you do, they come up in big red weals and take several days, if not weeks, to resolve.

Instead, rub a cream like Anthisan or the French equivalent Apaisyl on them, which has both soothing and preventive qualities. Both of these are anti-histamines, though, so if you are afraid of allergic reactions to them, ask for something else at your chemist.

There’s another solution: wear a suit of armour or a spacesuit all summer. Or just stay indoors.

What’s your favourite anti-moustique remedy?

You might also like:

The Sting
The Biggest Moth in Europe
A House with a Difference

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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19 Responses to Another Seasonal Hazard in SW France: Mosquitoes

  1. Pingback: Stirring Up a Hornet’s Nest | Life on La Lune

  2. pfornari says:

    Vanessa, as soon as I read your post I wondered where the dengue virus exists France, so I checked. It seems the first case of ‘locally produced’ dengue occurred in France, just near you, last year, have a look here: http://www.nathnac.org/pro/clinical_updates/nathnacdengue_france_010914.htm. The symptoms seem similar: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/dengue/Pages/Symptoms.aspx

    I am finding the mosquitos here in Rome much nastier than those in Ghana, perhaps because there’s less breeze. In Accra we use a big canopy-like net over a frame, which has easy access, and fans when it’s not air-con season. I grow lemon grass everywhere near the verandah and am told it helps, and we burn lemon grass candles outside. The Bangladeshi cream called Odomos which I brought with me is sticky but effective. Long dresses after 5 p.m, And I’m afraid we go for big chemical fumigation (outside the house) every three months (avoiding my precious veggie patch).

    In Tanzania we always used treated nets, but they don’t seem to exist in Ghana. And we don’t take prophylaxis…though I did when I went to Sierra Leone…I wouldn’t want to overload their medical services there just now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thanks for the info, Paola, which I read with interest. Fortunately, the dengue fever cases have occurred in Provence, which is quite far from us. Nonetheless, we are in the south (west) and the tiger mosquito is arriving here.

      I’ll see if I can get lemon grass candles, although I haven’t seen them here. All the anti-mosquito sprays are sticky and unpleasant and I dread to think what they do to one’s skin.

      Like

  3. Ed Morrow says:

    Hello,
    Fans, try a fan. See this article in the NY Times “A Low-Tech Mosquito Deterrent” JULY 15, 2013
    It works.

    All the best.
    Ed Morrow
    Carmel Valley, CA

    Like

  4. Oh, vanessa, i share your pain and the attraction to mosquitoes. A quick dash to bring in the washing in the early evening, forgetting to spray my ankles first, always leads to a night of itching. I use anthasan, a lot, and mozzy ‘repulsif’ spray, coils under the garden table(usually small burning pieces as i can’t seperate the rings either!) , citronella candles, plug ins for the house and still suffer. Last summer i found the bracelets in our pharmacie and wear one round an ankle when outside in the evening. A godsend that, so far, has been more effective than anything else. Pretty designs too! But i still love our french summers… lynne

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Sorry to hear that you’re a fellow sufferer. But, like you, I am prepared to put up with it because of our French summers. Thanks for the tip about the bracelets. I will try that.

      Like

  5. gillianbrown1 says:

    Poor you, Vanessa. I laughed at you trying to separate mosquito coils – they drive me crazy too! No idea what my blood group is but mozzies don’t particularly like me (red wine in the blood?). We had a very bad invasion of them this year in the Aude but they’ve all gone now – we must have blown them up to you! They say leaf-scented geraniums scare them off and I think lavender too.

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Like lemon, lavender is a natural insect repellent. I’m not sure anything is foolproof, though, judging by the other comments. I have red wine in the blood, too, and I actually think it attracts them!

      Like

  6. Osyth says:

    That is SO interesting – I had no idea that they prefer particular blood groups. My daughter lives in Malaysia and is also hugely susceptible – the Malays encourage you to eat large quantities of garlic including raw to combat them. She says its the tiger breath that results that shoos the critters away but declares that it does work – just a thought

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      The blood group theory is quite a recent one, I think. Funnily enough, I read about the garlic solution in a mag at the hairdresser’s recently – it was in an article about “les astuces de grandmère”. Apparently a substance the mossies don’t like is emitted via the pores as well as the breath. Unfortunately, it is rather anti-social!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. MarinaSofia says:

    Yes, I am a preferred victim too, as is my older son. While my younger son and his father never get bitten (the mosquitoes are probably satiated after feasting on us). I got my son to wear those anti-mossie bracelets – they work well on a limited area, but not enough for eating outside in the evening, when his legs get attacked, or else he can wear a bracelet and an anklet. This year I’ve opted for spray as well. Citronella candles are not bad for outside, although you do need loads of them and the stray ambitious mosquito still gets through.
    In short, I’m still on the search for the perfect solution. There may be none.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Like you, I’m not sure if there is a perfect solution. We had some torches that ran on a kind of citronella fuel and they worked reasonably well but they were expensive. I suppose trousers and long sleeves are one solution, but that’s not very pleasant on a hot evening.

      Like

  8. We resign ourselves to suffering in the biting season. It’s an inevitable and unpleasant part of summer! However, citrussy eau de toilette splashed on liberally seem to keep mossies away to some extent, as does Avon’s Skin So Soft, which is lovely for your skin as well! It’s a very good fly deterrent too – I use it on the animals when they’ve got wounds that we want to keep insect-free

    Liked by 1 person

  9. amelie88 says:

    Huh, I don’t believe you got infected with something a mosquito gave you. Mosquitoes don’t transmit stomach bugs that last a couple of days, which is what it seems you had. The sicknesses are usually much more severe like malaria or West Nile. In my area, West Nile was first identified in New York in 1999 and I remember a few times helicopters flying low around the region spraying trying to decimate as much as possible the mosquito population due to the sudden uptick in West Nile cases in the New York area. There is no cure or treatment, most people recover on their own but it has caused fatalities in the US (mostly among people of advanced age). But the mosquitoes here are AWFUL here in NY in the summer and they LOVE to bite me too though I am not type O blood (B+).

    However Lyme’s disease which is carried by ticks is much more worrisome where I live. Due to the explosion in the deer population, deer tick are everywhere these days, including my own parents’ backyard. We used to find them on my dog all the time due to his wandering off in the woods–he was even diagnosed with Lyme’s Disease at one point. I know a lot of people who have gotten Lyme’s Disease due to to a tick bite. If it’s caught early, it can be treated but because it mimics symptoms of so many ailments it can be hard to diagnose. If it goes undetected long enough, it can be permanent. There is Lyme’s Disease in France too now, though I remember when my mom found a tick on her in the Jura mountains sometime in the 90s and she was worried about Lyme’s, only for the doctors to tell her “Oh we don’t have that here in France.” Little did they know.

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    • nessafrance says:

      I don’t really know where the bug I got came from. But: it was in the summer (most vomiting virus bugs are winter-borne); I didn’t know anyone else who had had it; and it lasted a whole week, not just a couple of days. The vomiting lasted a day but the tiredness and migraines every day went on. So, the jury’s out on that one. But this was no ordinary stomach bug.

      Ticks are a huge problem here. I wrote a post about them a while ago: https://vanessafrance.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/ticked-off/. It seems that dogs get Lyme disease but cats don’t. Although we were always removing ticks from our cat.

      Like

      • amelie88 says:

        Huh maybe a really bad case of food poisoning?? Though that usually just lasts a day or two. But it could have been the flu–it is a year-round illness and more prevalent in the winter but people easily get it in the summer too. Anyways I’m glad it didn’t last more than a week! Sounds awful.

        Yeah we were always removing off ticks off our dog which were very obvious because he had white hair. It was very disgusting to look at when they were engorged with blood. Another pest we’ve had to deal with are bed bugs but that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Luckily they don’t transmit diseases (so say the exterminators) but they are so hard to get rid of and they can live up to a year without feeding (on humans).

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        We don’t seem to have bed bugs, fortunately. I’m not sure I’d know one if I saw it. Presumably, they are rather small.

        Another pest here is the harvest mite – aoutat in French – which is a nasty little insect that lives in vegetation and leaves bites around your waist and the top of your thighs. The adult version has 8 legs – not unlike a tick. They will be starting up soon.

        Like

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