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Tips for getting through the summer without scratching your skin off.

Are you itchy yet? It’s mosquito season.

Pest control company Orkin just released its annual ranking of the U.S. cities most beleaguered by mosquitoes. Atlanta topped the list for the second year in a row, followed by Chicago and Washington, D.C. Rounding out the top ten: Detroit, Houston, Raleigh/Durham, Boston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Charlotte, and Nashville.

​Mosquito control is handled primarily at the local level. In the early 1900s, some cities established mosquito abatement districts to combat the buzzing scourge. (These were tasked with draining swampland, which corresponded to a decrease in malarial outbreaks.) However, such services have faced cuts in recent years. Most efforts focus on draining or filling potential mosquito breeding grounds, such as storm drains, tree holes, and sites with garbage or overgrown vegetation. Crews may also take the fight to the enemy, spraying pesticides, deploying natural predators such as bats and mosquitofish, or trapping mosquitoes using carbon dioxide. One particularly creative campaign in San Francisco sent bikers out to inspect storm drains and tag them with colorful paint dots.

For most people, mosquitoes are just a nuisance. But they can also transmit life-threatening diseases such as dengue, chikungunya, and West Nile virus, and their bites can cause serious allergic reactions in some individuals. Scientists are still trying to understand the mechanism behind mosquito attraction, but we do know that the pests prefer some people over others and that this has a lot to do with genes.

No matter how alluring you are to mosquitoes, it’s a good idea to follow these recommendations from Orkin to help prevent bites:

  • Apply an EPA-registered insect repellent before heading outside.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants outside from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Empty standing water from bird baths, flower planters, and outdoor toys. Mosquitoes only need a small amount of water—just a few inches—to breed.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts regularly or cover them with mesh to help prevent leaves and debris from collecting and holding water.
  • Make sure that any screens on windows or doors fit tightly and are free of holes.
  • Eliminate standing water inside the home that may attract mosquitoes to spaces like kitchen sinks and pet bowls.

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