RV Podcast Ep. 356: Mosquitos and Camping

 RV Podcast Ep. 356: Mosquitos and Camping

If anything ever did not go together, it's mosquitos and camping. Here's what you need to know about dealing with these vicious bloodsuckers when you're trying to enjoy a camping trip.

Our guest in the Interview of the Week for Episode 356 of the RV Podcast, is Dr. Janet McAllister, of the Centers for Disease Control. Since this has been such a horrific year for mosquitos, we thought it would be good to bring back an interview we did with her a while back that explains what we need to know about mosquitos.

And we also talk about the growing tick investigation now sweeping the country.

To watch the video version of the entire podcast, check below.

And for the audio version of the podcast, you can listen on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and all the other podcast apps, as well as clicking the player below if you'd like to listen or download on your computer.

Mosquitos and Camping : Know Your Enemy

Dr. McAllister is the Centers for Disease Control’s top expert on mosquitos, a medical entomologist who knows more about mosquitos than you'd think possible including mosquitos and camping.

We first interviewed her back in Episode 204 of the RV Podcast and she talks about everything from the right mosquito repellant to use, to when they are. most active,

Here is an edited transcript of the interview highlights:

Dr. Janet McAllister of the Centers for Disease Control talked to us about mosquitos and camping
Dr. Janet McAllister

What should we know about mosquitos and camping?

Mike Wendland:          
In terms of mosquitos and camping and the environment, campsites, tall grass, times of day … windy conditions … what are our best options, environmentally, to avoid being bothered by those biting mosquitoes?

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Well, certainly, if there's a lot of vegetation around your campsite like you mentioned, tall grass or bushes, someplace that adult mosquitoes can find harborage in … those are going to be more likely to have mosquitoes in them, that would then come out and bite.

So, more open areas, as far as vegetation. Also, people don't like to be bitten by any kind of mosquito, but, a lot of the mosquitoes that are going to bite you, are not actually the mosquito that's going to transmit some of these mosquito-borne diseases.

Mike Wendland:          
I'm curious now. Are there different kinds of mosquitoes? I thought there was only one mosquito?

Are there different kinds of mosquitos?

RV Podcast Ep. 356: Mosquitos and Camping 1
A swarm of mosquitos

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Yeah. Absolutely. People think that a mosquito is a mosquito. Kind of like if you think about dogs … all dogs are dogs. They may be brown ones and black ones, and big ones, and little ones, and spotted ones, but they're all dogs. That's not the case. Mosquitoes are more like birds.

People get that a hummingbird is a very different animal from a bald eagle. They eat different things. They do different things. Mosquitoes are the same way. While they all start their life in standing water and end up as this flying pest, they eat different things, they prefer different types of water.

The majority of the mosquito species, actually don't even feed on humans. There are some mosquitoes that are specialized so that they only feed on frogs, which they certainly wouldn't be a problem for us.

Only the female mosquito is a blood sucker

Mike Wendland:          
I always heard it was just the female mosquito that bites. Is that true? Or, is that one of the myths?

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
That is true. She needs a blood meal to get enough protein, to develop eggs.

Mosquitos are, basically, good for nothing!

Mike Wendland:          
Is there any benefit to a mosquito? I mean, do they do anything? People say snakes, for example, I know nobody likes snakes, most people don't, but snakes do good things but what about mosquitoes? Is there any function that they form out there, other than making us glad to go inside at night?

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Well, they do serve as a source of food for other animals. They're not the sole source of food. There's not any particular animal that only eats mosquitoes, and if mosquitoes went away, that animal would suffer. But, they do serve as part of the food chain to us.

But Mosquitos can relly make you sick

mosquitos and camping unfortunately go together
No one likes mosquitos!

Mike Wendland:          
The symptoms that somebody has, that should cause them to seek medical assistance … what are those symptoms?

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Really, if you feel bad enough to go to the doctor … some of the symptoms are going to include a high fever. You may have headaches. Occasionally, there could be a rash. I'm glancing over, because I have a list of my symptoms, here. Body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea.

These viruses cause kind of a flu-like illness. Certainly, flu is associated with the winter months. If you're having some sort of flu-like illness in the summer months, if they're severe enough, you should be going to the doctor, and trying to figure out what is causing those symptoms.

When are mosquitos most active?

Mike Wendland:          
The best time of day or night to avoid mosquitos and camping? Then, sunshine versus cloudy days. Anything that we should know about them if we want to minimize our exposure to getting bit by these vermins.

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Yes. The majority of mosquitoes feed, either at night or right around dusk or dawn. There are some mosquitoes that will bite any time of day or night. Some of the more pesty mosquitoes, like the Aedes albopictus, or the Asian Tiger mosquito, will bite anytime day or night, but they really don't prefer to get out of the shade.

If they're in the bright sun, that's gonna be drying on them. That's going to be detrimental for them. So, they tend to not follow them out into bright sunny areas. Certainly, on a cloudy day, they don't have that issue, so, they can hunt you during the day, as well.

Mike Wendland:          
Did you say Asian Tiger mosquitoes?

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Yes. Yes.

Mike Wendland:          
That sounds like an invasive species. Is that normal … I mean … just …

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Yes, it is an invasive species. It came into the United States, we think, through the used tire trade, and established itself back in 1986, and has been spreading since then throughout the southeast, and now, the eastern US.

Besides Mosquitos and Camping, we need to be aware of ticks

besides mosquitos and camping, we need to watch out for ticks
Tick infestations are spreading across the nation

Mike Wendland:          
The other thing that we hear about, are ticks. It seems like we're having an epidemic, I hear, of ticks. We hear so much more about Lyme disease. I know, I don't think that's … is that your … that's not your specialty, or maybe it is, but we're talking mostly mosquitoes. I have to ask about the tick thing. Is that getting worse or better?

Dr. Janet McAllister:   
Yes. Certainly, ticks are very important. There are a lot more cases of tick-borne diseases than there are of mosquito-borne diseases. We estimate, there's probably, on the order of 300,000 new cases a year, of Lyme disease.

We have also found several new tick-borne diseases here, in the United States. They're pretty rare, but we're just starting to really, I think, scratch the surface on what's going on in ticks.

Mike Wendland:          
Before we get off ticks, I know as we travel, I have seen more signs in places that say, “Ticks are now here.” It's almost like they're going into areas that were not much of a problem before. Is there any validity to that, or are we just hearing more about it?

Dr. Janet McAllister:  
Yeah. Ticks seem to be expanding their ranges. We're starting to see some of the, for example, the main tick that transmits Lyme disease, its range is expanding. It's expanding further to the west, to the south, and to the north. It seems to be moving. We don't know exactly why we're seeing more of the ticks.

Now that you're informed, stay safe and let's go explore someplace new.

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

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