New Study Explores Mosquito Prevalence to Childhood Obesity

Group of five happy children jumping outdoors.

Photo credit: Lighttruth on Flickr

We here at Mosquito Squad know that menacing mosquitoes can make it hard for your kids to comfortably play outdoors. Scientists were wondering if environmental factors like high mosquito populations could be linked to obesity in children, by reducing outdoor play time. A recent study by the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences explored the link between mosquito prevalence in outdoor physical activity to childhood obesity. The study, “Mosquito Abatement and Increased Outdoor Physical Activity,” was conducted by John Worobey, professor of nutritional sciences, and colleagues Dina Fonseca and Randy Gaugler of the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology. Funding support was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Active Living Research program and USDA- Agricultural Research Service.

Obesity in children has reached alarmingly high levels in the US, and obesity rates have almost tripled to 20% over the last three decades. Besides over-eating, childhood obesity is associated with reduced physical activity. With cut backs in physical education in schools and more time spent indoors watching tv, playing video games and related activities, researchers wanted to know if environmental factors such as presence of bees or mosquitoes might be at fault for children desiring to not play outdoors. Due to summer being prime time for children’s outdoor play, scientists at Rutgers University tested their hypothesis that day-biting mosquitoes might indirectly contribute to child obesity by reducing the amount of summer outdoor play.

Researchers compared the prevalence of the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus on child outdoor physical activity in two matched suburban communities in Monmouth County, NJ. One was treated for mosquito abatement and one was left untreated. In the summer of 2009, they selected 1,000 contiguous private resident yards in Cliffwood Beach to be the intervention site, and an equivalent number of private resident yards were selected in Union Beach, to be left untreated for comparison analysis. In 2011, intervention and untreated communities were reversed.

Scientists first looked at the effect of the mosquitoes’ prevalence on adult outdoor activity. Their findings: Adults reported spending 7.3 hours outside over a summer’s week in barbecuing and eating outdoors, compared to 10.2 hours they would have spent outdoors if mosquitoes were not a problem. That was a difference of 2.9 hours instead spent in indoors. The parents shared that their children, aged 8-12 years old, would spend approximately 63% less time playing outdoors due to the mosquito prevalence.

“Not surprisingly, our findings suggest that in the locations where there was systematic abatement efforts, the children spent more time outdoors playing,” said Worobey.

One important discovery from this study was that homeowners informed through outreach education by mosquito control programs can significantly decrease the presence of adult Asian Tiger Mosquitoes in their backyards. Here at Mosquito Squad, we recommend the 5 T’s to decrease mosquitoes:

Here at Mosquito Squad, we recommend 5 strategies for mosquito control, including:

  1. TIP. Reduce standing water to eliminate mosquito threats, including those in children’s sandboxes, wagons or plastic toys; underneath and around downspouts, in plant saucers and dog bowls.  Other hot spots include gutters, flat roofs and low lying ground under decks and porches.
  2. TOSS.  Remove excess grass, leaves, firewood and clippings from yards.  Lawn debris can create places for water to accumulate.
  3. Turn over larger yard items that could hold water like children’s portable sandboxes or plastic toys.
  4. REMOVE TARPS. If tarps stretched over firewood piles, boats or sports equipment and grills aren’t taut, they’re holding water.  Remember to shake out tarps immediately following a rain storm.
  5. TREAT. Utilize a mosquito elimination barrier treatment around the home and yard. Using a barrier treatment at home reduces the need for using DEET-containing bug spray on the body. Mosquito Squad’s eliminates up to 90% of the mosquitoes and ticks on a property.

Mosquito Squad of Howard County & Montgomery County is a locally-owned niche pest-control company that helps you take back your backyard and enjoy your outdoor living space! We offer solutions to rid your property of mosquitoes, stink bugs and ticks, including our barrier spray service, automatic misting systems, and special event sprays. Call us at 301-926-3001 to get a quote and find out how you can enjoy the outdoors and protect your family & pets from the nuisance of mosquitoes, ticks and diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease.

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