electric fan

All the rain that has poured down on us in the Atlanta area this year may produce something besides greenery. We may see one of the worst mosquito seasons in years.

mosquitoNow before you jump in your car to get more high-powered spray, or buy a bug zapper, hold on. There might be another way to combat the vast horde of mosquitoes we anticipate coming this summer.

No, nothing sophisticated, nor something you slather on your body, nor a high tech gizmo. In fact, you might even call the solution essentially low technology.

We’re talking about an old-fashioned oscillating fan. You know, those simple machines which move hot air around when you are sweltering? A little research, as reported in the Science section of Tuesday’s New York Times, says that mosquitoes don’t like flying in the wind generated by a fan.

Most electric fans, even the box type fans, will work, though it’s thought that the old-timey oscillating fan blowing air about 45 degrees around a room or porch, or even the outside, works a little better.

The stirring up of the hot air doesn’t need much power behind it. That’s because mosquitoes are really slow flyers, moving along at about 1 to 1.5 miles per hour. (Granted, when you are trying to swat one, they seem to move much faster. Maybe it’s because they fly erratically, not in straight-lines, but veer left and right when confronted by a fly swatter or rolled-up newspaper. Trying to splatter one can be frustrating.)

Now don’t take our word, or that of the media, for cranking up the electric fan to combat mosquitoes. No less an authority than the American Mosquito Control Association, based in Mount Laurel, N.J., endorses the idea of using the electric fan to take on the small-but-tenacious mosquito.

electric fanTheir scientists add another dimension besides the velocity of the stirred-up wind to combat the pesky mosquito. You see, we humans give off emanations (certain odors), that allow the culprit mosquitoes to know where we are. In effect, they zero in on us by our smell. When you have a fan blowing air around in the room, this helps confuse the mosquito. As we emit carbon dioxide and heat that mosquitoes recognize, in addition to odor, the fly a zig-zag path to home in on us.

Hey, there’s documentation of all this. Entomologists from Michigan State University have studied all this, saying that with electric fans around, common mosquitoes “aren’t strong enough to fly through the wind” that the fans generates.

Here’s something else we learned. Most bites come from female mosquitoes, not the trustworthy and docile males. (Let’s hear it for the males!) So, should you get lucky and zap a mosquito aiming for you, you not only have killed that mosquito, but you destroyed a female, cutting the possibility of producing more young mosquitoes. But if you are like I am, the chances of hitting a moving mosquito is almost unheard of, if not rare.

Modern science tells us that when combating mosquitoes, think low-tech, and keep your electric fan well-oiled.

Editor's note: This story originally published at the GwinnettForum.com. Images: Close up a mosquito sucking human blood by Smith Chetanachan; electric fan by Vicente Barcelo Varona - both licensed by LikeTheDew.com at 123RF.com.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.