How those pesky summer pests get in – and how to keep them out!
No one likes mosquito bites, but for some, they’re brutal. Personally, mine swell up to several times the typical size, which means location is everything. The most memorable one I ever got was on my eyelid when I was a kid; I couldn’t even open my eye the next day!
For this reason, in my adulthood, I’m vigilant about making sure my window screen is on tight before going to bed on summer nights. Despite my best efforts, sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night to the sound of a pesky buzz, and see that, yet again, a mosquito has snuck in. This has brought me to a question I’m sure many of us have had:
Can mosquitoes come through window screens? Mosquitoes aren’t known for crawling around on screens but they will bounce on and off. If a hole is large enough, they will absolutely enter through the screen, especially if something on the inside smells good.
Let’s learn how they’re getting in!
Mosquitos to the Screen: Size Matters
To start, mosquitoes are tiny: The typical length of an adult mosquito is between 3 and 6 millimeters. Meanwhile, the standard window screen mesh size is 18 by 16, meaning that each inch of window screen is 18 by 16 strands.
The thin strands themselves also take up a bit of space, meaning that the typical hole size is just about 1 millimeter – much smaller than the size of your average mosquito. Based on size alone, this means that most of the time that a mosquito is flying in through your window screen, it’s because there is a hole or another problem with the screen.
Show me the Research
In 2018, researchers at the University of Central Florida did a project investigating how mosquitos seek out these holes in a window screen, and if certain factors are more attractive than others.
One interesting tidbit they determined was that most mosquitoes won’t go through a hole smaller than 10 millimeters, or 1 centimeter, in length – even if the mosquito itself is much smaller!
This discovery makes it pretty unlikely that mosquitoes are flying into your bedroom from the most miniscule holes, but if the hole is noticeable to the keen eye, a mosquito may see it as a welcome invitation.
Mosquito Flying Habits
However, “see” isn’t quite the operative verb. The UCF research team also learned that mosquitoes don’t use sight to find an appropriately-sized gap. Instead, they tend to fly into the screen, re-position themselves, and fly back again until they’ve found a big enough hole.
Sometimes they’ll only re-position once or twice before starting over, but other times they’ll be more persistent. Less commonly, they will crawl around and use their legs to feel out the holes, but according to the insect experts, they prefer flying to crawling.
Does Screen Quality Matter When it Comes to Mosquitos?
Nott all window screens are created equal. The quality of your screen is also a factor. Mesh screens are best, especially if you can have it fitted specifically to your window. This makes it less likely that there will be any gaps between the window frame and the screen itself.
However, if you do notice gaps after fitting your screen, you can fill them in with silicone caulk or a similar material.
What Attracts Mosquitoes to Windows in the First Place
Of course, mosquitoes aren’t just going to come through any window or screen hole. Although it varies by species, objects with certain traits are most attractive to mosquitoes.
Like many insects, they are attracted to light, heat, and humidity. These attributes can be found in surroundings, such as with a lamp or a cup of iced tea left out on a warm day.
The Usual Suspects
Some common household items to watch out for are those with high moisture, like potted plants, and those with standing water, like fish tanks. It’s probably best to keep both of those a bit away from the window screen during mosquito season.
Unfortunately, another attractant for mosquitoes are human bodies themselves. Mosquitoes are drawn toward carbon dioxide and sweat – two things people can’t control much, especially on hot summer days.
Both have the unique combination of heat and humidity that mosquitoes find so appealing. Strangely enough, body odor can also play a role. Lactic acid and ammonia are two of the compounds that can be found in people’s body odor, and are more prominent in some people’s body chemistry than in others.
Yet this all begs the question: How can we stop a mosquito before it even makes it through that tiny gap in the window?
Things You Can Do to Prevent Mosquito Entry
There are also plenty of do-it-yourself fixes for smaller tears, and different methods work best for different materials.
Clear nail polish is a great sealant for vinyl or fiberglass screens. Silicone adhesive is better for metal screens.
Metal screens can also be darned using a spare strand of metal screening and a traditional sewing needle. Another option is to darn a small tear using a spare strand of metal screening and a traditional sewing needle.
For a more significant hole, you can purchase a screen patch kit at most hardware stores, or patch it up yourself with similar material using glue. If you do this, though, it’s important to ensure that you have a piece of material at least an inch bigger than the hole on each side; the last thing you’d want is to leave another opportunity for a mosquito to slide back in!
Start Early, Before Mosquitoes Hatch
I’ll certainly be keeping these tips in mind as summer approaches and I’m on the lookout for those pesky pests again. Springtime a great time to find and patch up any holes from last year before your windows are open wide open again.
Best of luck!