Dealing with the mozzies

yellow plastic ball floating in water

Compared to a few years ago, the mosquito situation in Venice seems to have improved tremendously. I can well remember my early years here when I would get up in the morning covered in bites with a feeling of great fatigue after a night spent battling with these invisible, though noisy, enemies! Small consolation to know that only the females do the damage as they inject an anti-coagulant under the skin in order to take their fill of blood necessary to develop their eggs before laying.

Probably the main reason for my seeing an improvement in the situation can be found in an improved understanding of their habits, and a slight change in my own. My husband is not convinced that there are less mosquitoes around, but just that I now know how to deal with them a bit better! My memory of excessive numbers of mosquitoes is more likely to be of the non-biting — though still a real nuisance — kind. The numbers of that particular species diminished considerably as soon as the local authorities began to remove the dead algae which accumulated in the lagoon which was, by the way, also the principle cause of the terrible smell so often associated with the city.

Something which has definitely happened in recent years is that a ‘new’ type of mosquito has been introduced — the Asian ‘tiger’ mosquito — which has a higher nuisance value in my opinion as this one does not limit its activity to dusk and dawn, but comes out during the day.

So what are my suggestions to tourists or new residents here for avoiding the discomfort of mozzie bites?

— When you go to bed, avoid using strong perfumes. A quick shower to remove perfumes and perspiration will help

— Close all windows before turning on any lights in the evening. If you have air conditioning this will mean that you can leave the windows closed of course. If you do not have air conditioning, only open the windows again once you are in bed with all the lights turned off. Personally I do not like using any of the contraptions with chemical products which are available on the market for keeping mosquitoes away. However, some of these small electrical units do use little tablets with natural ingredients such as citronella so keep your eyes open for those. Citronella is also the deterrent used in various types of candles, but of course it is not wise to leave these unattended in bedrooms during the course of the evening. They are ideal for eating outside if you have a terrace or ‘altana’ — as also are the spiral burners, commonly known as ‘vulcano’ which burn slowly letting off smoke. Be warned that they have a strong smell and might not go down too well with your meal!

— Whatever you choose, particularly with regard to the bedroom where I would suggest only the use of the little electrical contraption, you can keep the windows closed in your absence, but before going to bed, turn off the unit, and with the lights out, leave the window open for about 20 minutes at least so that air can circulate. Mine is only a suggestion, but the packaging on the specific product will give you the directions for its proper use of course.

— Keep a repellent to hand in your bag or backpack as you move around during the day. You will only be likely to need to use it if you are visiting areas with lots of trees or wetlands such as some of the smaller islands — Torcello, Sant’Erasmo, San Francesco for instance — or if you are sitting in a restaurant garden too. It will also come in useful if you decide to eat out somewhere in the evening — a quick spray before sitting down to eat will help ensure that you are not bothered by the presence of mozzies. Just make sure you do the spraying some distance from the other clients, and remember your ankles which are always a vulnerable spot. As said before, I prefer to use the natural oil products available. They are not as efficient as a chemical repellent, but in many situations I find them to be enough.

— And if all else fails, make sure that when you get yourself a repellent, you also buy an ‘after-sting’ to soothe the itching!

— In our home we have an old-fashioned, ‘Casablanca’ style mosquito net hanging over our bed. Very inexpensive, they can be purchased in various places — I think we got ours in Ikea actually — and very effective. Just flap around inside the hanging net a few times before closing it to make sure you have no mosquitoes already inside! Also make sure there are no areas around the edges where they can enter, and do your best to avoid snagging the net as the mosquitoes will find a way in through even those little holes.

— Make sure all potted plants on your balconies (and those of your neighbours) do not have an accumulation of water in the little dishes or trays underneath as this is a sure way to encourage breeding. I am told that it is sufficient to drop a couple of pieces of copper wire in these dishes to discourage breeding — must be some kind of chemical reaction which doesn’t suit the development of the eggs I imagine.

Reading back through all this it would seem that we can hardly move for mosquitoes! Not that drastic at all, though knowing how to deal with them can make life a lot more comfortable — particularly ‘holiday’ life. I had one buzzing around my head here in my little office yesterday, but since the temperatures outside have dropped again, the mozzie activity seems to have stopped for now. However, it won’t be long before we have to get out our net again I’m sure, and by April, through until at least the beginning of November, it is likely to be a full-time feature of our bedroom décor!

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