Mosquitoes are a constant annoyance associated with Japanese summers. The biggest problem is that in recent years Japan has seen a particularly unwelcome one: the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus).
The Asian tiger mosquito, originally from Southeast Asia, is an invasive species in many countries around the world, and it can transmit many viral pathogens including dengue fever, yellow fever, and Chikungunya fever. One of the reasons that the Asian tiger mosquito was able to become a very successful invasive species is the way it adapts to cooler climates. The Asian tiger mosquito can hibernate during winter under temperatures that would kill other mosquito species. Additionally, due to climate change, their range has been expanding. As a result, the Asian tiger mosquito can be found now in almost all Japan. In fact, this infamous mosquito was responsible for the closure of Yoyogi Park for nearly two months in 2014 after Tokyo experienced a rare dengue fever outbreak.
This article, however, is not about the dangers caused by this particular mosquito, but rather how to prevent their presence and that of other annoying mosquitoes that could disturb one’s sleep. After all, I’m one of those individuals who wakes up immediately after a mosquito passes by their ears; and trust me, I won’t go back to sleep until I kill it.
As a result, we are going to list some of the most common products in Japan one can buy and different measures one can take to keep mosquitoes away.
The first step is prevention. If there are no mosquitoes near your home, then there won’t be any mosquitoes getting in.
Asian tiger mosquitoes and other types of mosquitoes like to lay eggs in areas with stagnant water, so be in the lookout for any place around your neighborhood that mosquitoes could comfortably call their home. Even the smallest puddle can be a great place for one of these mosquitoes to lay their eggs, and since the rainy season takes place between June and July, and the typhoons and tropical storms start hitting until the start of fall, ensuring that water is not accumulating somewhere around your neighborhood is of the utmost importance.
Some of the easiest places where water becomes stagnant are pots, so if you are someone who likes to have plants and flowers outside your home, make sure that water is able to filter through the soil. Additionally, people tend to place saucers below the pots. If you do so, dispose of the excess water on the same day you water your plants.
Some neighbors also leave pet bottles outside since they believe that the reflection they make sunlight hits them keeps feral cats away. If these pet bottles don’t have their caps, then mosquitoes can get in. To make things worse, when there are many pet bottles together, rain water can become stagnant.
Just as is the case with pet bottles, keep your recyclables like glass bottles, jars, and cans in a dry area.
Other things that can accumulate water include bamboo shoots, tires, empty pots and buckets, kids toys like shovels that were left outside, and clogged gutters.
There Are Mosquitoes Inside My Home. Now What?
So you’ve done everything to prevent mosquito larvae. Good for you! However, there are still mosquitoes coming into your home. This is actually very common, so just think that the situation would be even worse had you not taken the necessary steps to remove or avoid stagnant water.
Fortunately, there are many products that are great if you want to kill mosquitoes:
Bug zappers are amazing. They really work, and are excellent for getting rid of annoying insects like mosquitoes and flies. However, not all bug zappers are made equal, and usually the cheaper, smaller ones are not as effective.
In my case, I bought one of these smaller bug zappers that were advertised as “mosquito killers,” but it has not done much to kill these intruders. However, it has been great at killing fruit flies, so, there’s that.
The bigger bug zappers, now, those are a beauty. However, they can take too much space, and let’s not forget that Japanese homes are not famous for being spacious.
The problem with some of the smaller bug zappers is that, when reading the fineprint, they might state that in order to be effective there should be no people inside the room. That completely defeats the purpose, especially since there are many Japanese homes that have no doors to separate rooms (think of those 1D, 1K, 1DK, 1LDK, and maisonette apartments).
Therefore, make sure you check official reviews if considering buying a bug zapper. If people are content with the effects of the product, then the chances of purchasing a useless bug zapper will decrease.
Mosquito coils are very popular not only in Japan, but also in many countries around the world. Mosquito coils are repellents, keeping mosquitoes away from rooms. However, before you consider buying them, make sure that your home can handle them.
Mosquito coils can permeate fabrics, making their smell linger; and they are particularly bad for concrete homes. So if you live in a concrete house or apartment, do not get mosquito coils.
Mosquito coils can also be a fire hazard, and depending on where they are made, they can create as much smoke as cigarettes.
If you do decide to use mosquito coils, keep your room well-ventilated (though we know this can be difficult at night when having the A/C on beats the not-so-cool natural summer breeze); and when opening windows make sure they have mosquito screens.
Japan sells many types of mosquito repellents you can spray or apply on your skin; and some of them are specifically marketed to children and families, meaning that the smell won’t be too strong and off-putting.
Mosquito repellents can be a great option not only for residents, but also for travelers; and are particularly helpful if one is staying near a wooded area or going for hikes. We all know the last thing someone wants is to enjoy the natural wonders Japan can offer just to return with mosquito bites covering their arms and legs.
However, remember to follow directions so you don’t use more than you should.
When going to areas that have a lot of mosquitoes, wear long sleeve shirts and pants so that your skin is covered and protected. When choosing shirts, make sure that the fabric is thick enough to actually protect you.
Afraid of spiders? You shouldn’t be! There are at least 48,200 types of spiders around the world and only an insignificant number of them have toxins that could be considered dangerous to humans. What’s more, of the very small number of “dangerous” spiders, most of them prefer to flee or display their fangs instead of biting. As a result, most spider bites around the world would cause similar effects to mosquito bites or bee stings. Ergo, they are not something to truly worry about.
In Japan, spiders will be your best tenants, especially the adorable jumping spiders. They will eat flies, roaches, bed bugs, and all other insects that could actually bring harm to you and your family.
I know that seeing a spider usually raises an alarm within us, but you have to trust me on this one: let the spider live and do its job inside your home. I’m not kidding when I say they are the best tenants you’ll ever have.
Sadly, there are only two jumping spiders that truly eat mosquitoes, and none of them live in Japan (Paracyrba wanlessi lives in Malaysia, while Evarcha culicivora lives in Kenya). So while jumping spiders won’t help you kill a mosquito that’s not letting you sleep, they will consume other insects you don’t want at home.
There might be many instances that we simply can’t control. Think of puddles that stay there for days after a big storm, or items that have accumulated water but which do not belong to us. In such cases, it is best to contact City Hall or your ward.