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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

New Smart System Tells Mosquitoes to Eat Elsewhere

I love every part of my home, but my favorite place by far is my outdoor covered patio. As soon as the weather permits, I am the first one out and the last one in. I like the fresh air, the view, and knowing which neighbors are coming and going. I like hearing the birds in the morning, the frogs and crickets at night. What I don’t like are the mosquitoes.

Unfortunately, they like me.

The minute I step outside, it’s as if a neon light goes on: “The Buffet Is Open.” Mosquitoes zoom in like sports fans to a tailgate party. Apparently, I am among the unlucky 20 percent who, researchers say, are particularly appealing to these villainous vectors, who have a hankering for type O blood (yes), the smell of sweat both fresh and dried (uhh, it’s summer), folks who run warm (again, it’s summer), certain body chemistry (which is up to your genes), and those who drink beer, a factor you can control but may not want to.

In other words, if you’re taking a break from doing yard work, and sit down on the lanai to have a brewski, you’re lunch.

I’ve tried many mosquito management methods: bug sprays, zappers, candles, peppermint oil, citronella torches and electromagnetic wristbands. Because mosquitoes don’t like moving air, I keep the outdoor ceiling fan going. I have a pest control service spray the yard regularly, and have planted herbs and flowers that mosquitoes allegedly don’t like. (Who asks them?)

And I’m still prey.

So, when I recently got an email about a new smart mosquito system that connects to your wi-fi, letting you control the release of localized mosquito repellant from an app on your phone, my first thought was: “More gadgets that don’t work.”

Over 10 years ago, I had tried another product from the same maker, Thermacell Repellant, and was disappointed. The battery-operated lantern worked by heating up a wafer-like, repellent-infused insert. Once warm, the insert released repellent to fend off mosquitoes within 10-feet. I never knew if it worked, because either the batteries were dead, or the wafers were.

However, I was willing to give the brand ― one of the biggest names in the mosquito world for over 22 years and a favorite among outdoorsmen ― another try. Products do improve. But first, I called my soon-to-be son-in-law, an avid hunter and fisherman, to get his take.

“I love Thermacell,” he said without hesitation. “I clip one on my belt when I go hunting or fishing, and carry butane cartridge refills with me. It’s the only thing that works.

“You’ll think I’m a redneck,” he continued, (I don’t, by the way), “but while duck-hunting in the swamps of Louisiana,” (uh, maybe I do) “it was the only thing that kept mosquitoes away.

I’m frankly stunned. Men’s hunting tales so rarely apply to better living.

“So should I try this in my yard?” I asked.

“Heck, yeah,” he said.

While I don’t plan to be in a Louisiana swamp, I would like to sit on my patio with a friend without worrying about getting Zika virus.

After reading several favorable reviews about what the maker claims is the first smart mosquito repelling system, I ordered the smallest Thermacell LIV, which retails for (cough) $699. The system’s hub plugs into a GFI outlet (so no batteries to recharge or butane to replace). The hub connects via cable to three repellers. These are thermos-sized devices made of weatherproof die-cast aluminum. When you turn the system on, repellers heat up and release a synthetic version of a compound in chrysanthemums that small biting insects don’t like. Each repeller covers a 20-foot zone, creating a bubble mosquitoes don’t want to be in. Imagine putting a giant cake dome over your picnic table or hot tub.

I installed the system a week ago with admittedly low expectations. I have spent every evening since and some mornings on the patio. What I noticed was that I stopped noticing mosquitoes because there weren’t any mosquitoes to notice.

I also liked that, unlike traps and zappers, the system doesn’t attract and kill mosquitoes, it just

tells them to go somewhere else to eat. And it doesn’t smell. Those who want to spend less can skip the tech and still get the same benefit, according to company spokesperson Alex Emmanuele. Thermacell also cells non-smart products (the E55 or E90), which look like large tumblers, run on rechargeable batteries, and sell for around $50 each.

“However,” he added, “if you’ve invested money in a nice outdoor area or hot tub that you can’t enjoy because of mosquitoes, this might be worth it.”

If you would just as soon mosquitoes ate elsewhere, here are eight ways, in addition to zone protection, experts say you can reduce mosquitoes in your yard this summer:

1. Eliminate standing water. Puddles, wheelbarrows with rainwater, stagnant birdbaths, and the like, are where female mosquitoes lay their eggs.

2. Mow your lawn. Mosquitoes like hanging in places that are cool, damp and dark, so long wet grass is ideal. Keep your lawn trimmed.

3. Hire a pro. A professional pest control service can spray the yard to discourage mosquitoes.

4. Install a misting system. Surround your yard with misters that regularly spray plants and bushes creating a protective barrier.

5. Plant plants they don’t like. These include mums, lavender, marigolds, mint, citronella grass, and rosemary.

6. Keep air and water moving. Run your fans and your fountains, so mosquitoes can’t get comfortable.

7. Put out traps and zappers.

8. Use bug spray. If you know you’ll be outdoors, apply bug repellent with at least 30 percent Deet. If you would rather avoid chemicals, try peppermint spray.

CAPTION: Outsmarting Mosquitoes The latest weapon against mosquitoes is the Thermacell LIV, a smart system that uses a wi-fi connected hub to control repellers (front right) placed around the yard, where they provide pest protection, only when you need it, around decks, patios, firepits and hot tubs. Photo courtesy of Thermacell.

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