The Washington Times - August 25, 2008, 01:10PM

There’s a standing joke that for years has made the rounds on Virginia‘s Chincoteague Island — the one with the annual wild pony roundup — that says the mosquitoes on the beautiful island are big enough to saddle, or that they should be declared the state bird. Okay, so that’s an exaggeration, but there are days when the wind blows from the west across massive fields of marsh grass, resulting in veritable clouds of the bloodsucking “skeeters” coming toward human habitation. There’s a price to be paid when it happens and it includes a lot of swatting, scratching and spraying with drugstore remedies.

The local Chamber of Commerce won’t like that kind of advertisement, but we’re fair about such things because the same also goes for much of Maryland’s Dorchester County, which isn’t far from Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Dorchester’s mosquito swarms are legendary, especially after lengthy periods of rain that fill every pot hole and marsh ditch with water and quickly turn into breeding facilities for the insidious insects.


All the same, our friends in Florida who now are bidding good riddance to Tropical Storm Fay say we don’t really know about ridiculous mosquitoes until we visit the rain-soaked Sunshine State.

From Tallahassee comes word that state entomologists predict a mosquito outbreak of the highest sort thanks to Fay’s monsoon rains and the resulting flooding that took place.

Pest control officials fear that they’ll have a tough time dealing with the blood-thirsty insects because recent budget cuts have also cut down possible mosquito relief efforts, such as massive spraying with insecticides.

Worse yet, Florida claims to have 82 species of mosquitoes. Here I thought there were only a couple of different mosquito types, but 82, several of which can carry the dreaded West Nile virus and something known as Eastern equine encephalitis? It’s scary, don’t you agree?

Maybe some help is coming from the University of Florida where researchers have studied the amazing effects of Geraniol, a substance derived from geraniums. Actually it’s the oil of geraniums that naturally repels mosquitoes and a batch of other insects, including ticks and roaches.

Of course, it wasn’t long before a company capitalized on this and created something known as the BugBand — an insect repellent that features the active ingredient Geraniol.
The BugBand folks manufacture sprays, wrist bands, towellettes, even bead bags that can be placed in a vehicle, dog kennel, or on a window sill to keep the ‘skeeters at bay. I haven’t tried the stuff because for some odd reason mosquitoes generally don‘t bother me, but you can check it out at

I’ve always believed that the only sure-fire thing that kept away pesky biting and stinging insects was the chemical DEET. I’m talking about 100 percent DEET, not some drug store spray can with 15 per cent of the stuff mixed into scented propellants.

However, some folks now say that DEET isn’t good for your health — that it can cause health problems. All I know for sure is that the hordes of black flies and mosquitoes I’ve encountered during hunting and fishing trips to northern Canada and all of Alaska absolutely hate 100 percent DEET. As far as I can tell, I’m still functioning, save perhaps for a change in my behavior. Nowadays, besides mosquitoes and ticks, I also dislike loudly played car radios and people who gab away on their cell phones while driving on the highways. Wonder if they’d disappear if I sprayed them with DEET? But that would probably require something stronger than the 100 percent type.

- Gene Mueller