Why do I always get bitten and natural ways to deal with bites

We’ve all said this at one time or other.  Why do I always get bitten when my wife/husband/mum/dad/brother/sister etc never get bitten at all.  Well believe it or not there are so many factors which determine whether that mosquito or biting fly will choose you.  And there are natural ways to deal with bites if you do get bitten.

Scientists in the field of insects have discovered that it all begins with how we smell to those insects.  There are proteins found in mosquitoes’ antennae and heads that literally work in conjunction with the natural odours we omit from our skin.  The odours act like ‘markers’ to bugs like mosquitos and biting flies which share similar genes – and the markers will help them to find us and bite us.  Our odours, as they bind with certain chemicals in the air, will literally act like beacons to those insects and guide them towards those they intend to bite. But we all smell different to our biting friends and some scientists suggest that it’s certain characteristics in our bodies making some of us more desirable to bite than others.  Many things contribute to this theory – pregnancy, body temperature, alcohol levels and even how much carbon dioxide we have in our breath. 

To a biting bug even our blood type will determine whether they will bite or not.  Someone with AB blood will release a different odour marker than someone with blood type B.  One study has actually shown that those with blood type O will get bitten more than others literally because they emit more odourant markers.

Once a bug has bitten you it will release a anticoagulant in its saliva.  In response to the bite our bodies will naturally produce histamine at the site of the bite. Histamine is the protein used by our bodies to initiate immune responses, which include irritation and itching.  It’s this that will make that bite itch! For those who don’t want to resort to anti-histamine based creams and pills once we’ve been bitten here are some great natural and organic ways to deal with bites:

Dip a cloth in hot water and hold it against the bite until you feel the bite tingle. Repeat once or twice. Your nerves will become confused and the itching will vanish for hours. The heat causes all the histamine in the skin surrounding the bite to be released at once.  You should get a good few hours of temporary relief.

Dab some toothpaste over the bite area. This can help to relieve itching. Regular flavoured toothpaste works best.  Don’t use gel toothpaste as it won’t work.  Dollop it onto the bite and leave it on overnight. Wash it off on the morning with cold water and a mild soap or body wash cream. The toothpaste will have dried out the bite and stopped the irritation.

Use your fingernail to press an “X” into the bite. This simple action disperses the protein in your body and stops the itch for a while.

Apply ice cubes to the bite.  For some, a simple ice cube will alleviate itching.

Cut a slice of raw potato and place on the bite. Rub the open side of the potato on the bite. The sap of the potato will dry over the bite and help alleviate the itching.

Cut a lemon or lime and rub gently on the bite. Alternatively splash a little juice on the bite.  Citric acid has itch-relieving properties.

Use cooled tea. It can work wonders when applied to insect bites.  Moisten some cotton wool in the cooled tea and apply to the bite.

Use Lavender Oil. Dab a little Lavender Oil directly onto the bite. Lavender Oil can relieve the itching quickly.

Apply Aloe Vera gel to the bite area. For some Aloe Vera can relieve itching.

Peel a banana and rub the inside of the banana skin onto the bite to stop the itch.

Apply honey to the bite area to alleviate itching.

Witch Hazel has anti-itch properties and works very well on itchy bites.  Apply with cotton wool and use directly on the bite.  You can also add a few drops of  Lavender Oil to it which will help minimize itchiness and the chance of infection. For many, Witch Hazel gives instant relief.

Whatever method  works for you remember one thing.  Don’t scratch that bite!  The more you scratch the more it will itch!

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The success of ants

As insects go, the success of ants is pretty impressive and they are possibly the most successful insects when it comes to distribution.  With the exception of Antarctica, the Artic and a couple of islands, ants have spread to just about every piece of land on earth and have literally conquered the globe.

Scientists in the field of insects have estimated that there are at least 1.5 million ants on the planet for every human being.  Now that’s success.  Over 12,000 species of the ant are currently known to exist and many live in tropical regions.  To put their true numbers into perspective one single acre of Amazon rainforest is likely to house a colony of 3.5 million ants.

Ants generally live in colonies of huge numbers but not all ants build nests.  Some ants are literally homeless.  There are 200 known species, often referred to as army ants, who have two phases in their life – nomad and stationary.  During the nomad phase, ants are on the move all day, targeting other ant colonies for food.  At night the nomad ants will build a temporary nest but will continue travelling during daylight.  When the time comes for the Queen of the colony to lay her eggs, the ants will cease travelling and enter a stationary phase as the ants wait for the eggs to hatch.  During this time, ants use their own bodies to make a nest around the Queen, to protect her, their food and her eggs.

Ants know how to bargain.  Ants will shelter within plants and shrubbery and in exchange for that shelter the ants will defend and shield the very plant they are hiding within.  They will guard it from other insects or herbivorous mammals and will even prune away any parasitic weeds that may be attempting to grow on their host plant.  In other words, ants will use their host plant to their own advantage by protecting it as they use it.

Ants have also learned that being social really does pay off.  They divide jobs within the colony amongst all the different ants so that each ant knows specifically what it’s doing.  All the ants working within a colony are female. The male ants do not work – they are literally redundant and are only required to mate with the Queen of the colony.  The Queen does not work either as her only job is to lay eggs.

In fact ants are so clever that one species has even found a way to reproduce without the need for the male ant at all.  Researches in the field of insects discovered that a species of ant found in Central America has the ability to reproduce sexually so that all the ant offspring are clones of the Queen herself.

We cannot underestimate the success of the ant.  Their huge distribution globally is only rivaled by that of humans.  Whilst some ants live in natural crevices and openings in small numbers, the average ant colony contains thousands.  There are also super colonies which can be found around the world including the USA, Australia and Southern Europe containing more than 300 million individual ants.

Next time you see a trail of ants in your kitchen spare a few seconds to marvel at the success of this humble insect.

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Clever ants and how to control them

Whilst the cockroach remains possibly the hardiest survivor of the insect world, the ant must surely be the smartest.  There are over 12,000 known types of ant and the total worldwide weight of the ant species would amount to the same, if not more, than that of the entire human race.   Ants have colonized almost every landmass on earth except for Antarctica (like the cockroach).  These tiny astute insects have the ability to conduct their intricate lives based entirely on body language and pheromones (the chemicals in their bodies).   An ant does not have a nose or ears.  Instead an ant “hears” by feeling vibrations in the ground through their feet and they smell using their antenae.  They send messages out through their pheromones and organise entire colonies in this way. Some specific ant species are so smart that they do not even require any males and rely on cloning themselves for survival.

Ants use their pheromones for making trails.  Ever wondered how ants find those crumbs of food on the floor so fast?  A single ‘scouter’ ant will come across it and send out pheromone messages to the other ants in its colony that it has found a food source.  They will be nearby and will use the scouter’s pheromone trail to follow it to the food.  Before you know it there are hundreds of ants swarming at the crumbs on the floor.

Ants can even use their pheromones to confuse enemy ants – causing the enemy ant to fight their own colony.  And a crushed ant emits an ‘alarm’ pheromone that sends nearby ants into ‘attack’ frenzy and this in turn will attract more ants from further away to amass.  So try to resist crushing an ant when you see one – you are only attracting more, possibly hundreds, to the scene.

Ants are busy creatures although interestingly, nearly all the ants that you see are female – that includes workers, scouters, soldiers and, obviously, queens.  Male ants are called drones and actually they do no work in the colony at all.  They live for only a few months, don’t look like ants, and their only job is to fertilize the females.  The ant is the longest living of all insects and can live for up to 30 years.  However after the male drone ant fertilizes the female, his life is finished, and he dies.

Ants can be very hard to eliminate from your home and cause a lot of trouble.  Whilst poisonous ant powder and pesticide does the job in killing the ants directly, they are extremely toxic to humans and pets, and do not control the route of the problem.  However there are various every-day items you have in your home right now that will do the job effectively and organically.

  1. Spray ants with vinegar water – the low pH kills them without damaging most furniture.  If you can follow the ant trails back to their source you can  attack the route of the problem head-on.
  2. Feed them corn meal – the ants take  it back to their nest and feast on it, but since they can’t digest it, it eventually kills them. Corn meal won’t harm children or pets.  If you don’t have corn meal, wheat flour and dried rice also work. Like corn meal, it expands in their stomach and they die.
  3. Boiled water – if you have followed an ant trail and know where the ants are coming out from, pour boiling water directly onto the area to eleminate the nest.
  4. Ants do not like the  smell of citrus fruits.  Examples are lemon juice and orange peels.    Squirt lemon juice along areas where ants are rife.  Alternatively, a lemon-based washing up  liquid, like eco-friendly Ecover, does the trick well. Mix it with water and keep it in a handy spray bottle, ready for use.
  5. Sprinkle salt on flat surfaces  –  ants do not like salt.
  6. Ants don’t like chalk.   Draw a chalk line ‘barrier’.  Ants don’t like the calcium carbonate in chalk and will steer clear of it.
  7.  Sprinkle cayenne pepper – out of the reach of animals. Spreading pepper along cracks and crevices will keep ants at bay, but be sure your pets won’t be able to lick or sniff it.
  8.  Smear petroleum jelly along edges. This is a great way to keep ants out of pet bowls.

Believe it or not, the ant’s worst enemy is not us.  It’s other ants!

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