There it is again. That constant hum by our ears as we gather for an evening in the back yard. It’s a point of pride for many Minnesotans, even as we complain and compare bite marks as if they were battle scars.

Mosquitoes are worthy adversaries, often striking before being detected, their saliva numbing the skin before biting. They’re greedy, capable of drinking twice their weight in blood. And they’re great breeders — one mosquito lays hundreds of eggs at a time.

Ish.

But the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District is on the front lines, destroying larvae before the babies can grow into adulthood. This offensive typically cuts down the metro’s mosquito population by 75 percent, said Mike McLean, a spokesman for the district. Still, a soggy early summer has produced a bumper crop.

We enlisted the help of McLean and vector ecologist Kirk Johnson to gauge our knowledge of this common foe. From mosquito behavior to skeeter defense to bite remedies, take our myth-busting quiz to better arm yourself this summer. Check the answers on the next page.

TRUE OR FALSE?

1. Mosquito season ends in July.

2. Mosquitoes find some people tastier than others.

3. Mosquitoes have a specific appetite for beer drinkers.

4. Both male and female mosquitoes like to bite.

5. Pressing down on a bite with your fingernail to make an “X” will stop the itching.

6. To avoid getting bitten, run away as fast as you can.

7. Mosquitoes are morning people.

8. Mosquitoes can’t fly very far.

9. Mosquitoes tend to swarm their victims.

10. Minnesota is home to only a few species of mosquitoes.

11. Wearing light-colored clothes is a sure way to attract mosquitoes.

12. A mosquito bite can be fatal.

13. Like vampires, garlic keeps these little bloodsuckers away.

14. A dollop of toothpaste takes the itch out of a bite.

15. Rubbing the inside of a banana peel on a bite relieves the itch.

16. Mosquito-repellent clothes don’t work.

17. Bug zappers kill mosquitoes.

18. Rubbing basil on your skin works both to repel mosquitoes and soothe a bite.

19. Handheld electronic anti-itch devices work.

20. Mosquitoes only live a few days.

ANSWERS

1. Mosquito season ends in July.

FALSE. Yes, the most annoying part of the season has probably peaked. But mosquitoes that carry the dangerous West Nile virus thrive in hot, dry weather (i.e. August). “For mosquito-borne disease, we’re just getting into the elevated-risk time of year,” said Johnson. Minnesota mosquitoes don’t really go away until the first hard frost.

2. Mosquitoes find some people tastier than others.

TRUE. “When a person says ‘They fly right past me to get to my brother-in-law,’ [he or she is] not imagining things,” McLean said. “Mosquitoes have a really, really great sense of smell.” The little vampires even like some blood types more than others. They’re also drawn to perspiration on our skin and carbon dioxide from our breath.

3. Mosquitoes have a specific appetite for beer drinkers.

TRUE. Drinking beer raises your body temperature, increasing the odds you’ll perspire more. The ethanol in beer also may attract mosquitoes, McLean said.

4. Both male and female mosquitoes like to bite.

FALSE. Only females bite because they need blood to lay their eggs. So what are the males doing besides mating? Probably hanging out in their mosquito man caves.

5. Pressing down on a bite with your fingernail to make an “X” will stop the itching.

TRUE. The itch is a histamine reaction. Sometimes just the heat of your fingertip will help break down the substances causing inflammation, McLean said. The “X” itself probably works because it’s a distraction. (Also: The cooling from an ice chip might help dispel the itch.)

6. To avoid getting bitten, run away as fast as you can.

FALSE. The more active you are, the more carbon dioxide you’ll emit, attracting them. (Sweat attracts them, too.) “Mosquitoes can sense your breath from a couple hundred feet. They’ll drift back and forth and zero in on the scent,” McLean said. Two minutes is all it takes for them to find you.

7. Mosquitoes are morning people.

TRUE. They like low sunlight. Another fave time: dusk. The air is usually calmer during these times.

8. Mosquitoes can’t fly far.

FALSE. Some mosquitoes have been known to travel up to 10 miles in their lifetime.

9. Mosquitoes tend to swarm their victims.

FALSE. “They don’t really have a hive mentality. They don’t really hunt in groups,” McLean said. It’s every mosquito for herself.

10. Minnesota is home to only a few species of mosquitoes.

FALSE. There are more than 50 different species here. The latest addition is Aedes Japonicus, commonly known as the Japanese Rockpool Mosquito. An invasive species, it originates from the northern part of Japan and the Korean peninsula. It was discovered here a few years ago and has since become quite common.

11. Wearing light-colored clothes is a sure way to attract mosquitoes.

FALSE. Generally, mosquitoes look for dark shapes. Like other insects, they don’t have eyeballs or eye sockets. Instead, they have hundreds of little eyes trying to detect movement. “If you wear something light-colored, it might take them a little while longer to find you,” McLean said. “[But] they’ll still find you.”

12. A mosquito bite can be fatal.

TRUE. The bite itself isn’t poisonous, but you can die from a disease transmitted by a mosquito. In some countries, mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria are a major public health concern. “In this part of the world, we can make light of mosquitoes, but in some parts they’re a much more serious issue,” McLean said.

13. Like vampires, garlic keeps these little bloodsuckers away.

TRUE. “For some people that seems to do the trick,” McLean said. “Eating garlic will change your body chemistry.” But it might backfire: Depending on your skin chemistry, it might make you more attractive to mosquitoes.

14. A dollop of toothpaste takes the itch out of a bite.

TRUE. Our experts were unfamiliar with this treatment, but plenty of people (including TV’s Dr. Oz) swear by it. Especially mint toothpaste, which contains menthol and provides a cooling effect to relieve itching.

15. Rubbing the inside of a banana peel on a bite relieves the itch.

FALSE. This home remedy has a lot of fans, but our experts said they can’t vouch for it. There also is evidence that the sweet smell of bananas might attract the critters.

16. Mosquito-repellent clothes don’t work.

FALSE. Clothes treated with a chemical called permanone are powerful defense weapons. It’s the same chemical used in a dog’s flea and tick collar. You can buy pre-treated clothes or else spray it directly on your clothing and tents. McLean recommends permanone to those who spend a lot of time in the woods.

17. Bug zappers kill mosquitoes.

FALSE. Once a popular albeit annoying back-yard staple, electronic bug zappers were designed to draw skeeters to a fluorescent light and then fry them. “They killed a lot of moths, but not mosquitoes,” Johnson said.

18. Rubbing basil on your skin works both to repel mosquitoes and soothe bites.

TRUE. This home remedy has a lot of advocates, but our experts say they’re not really sure if it works. Many herbs have essential oils that may be effective as a repellent, McLean said. “I always tell people if it works for you, go for it,” he added.

19. Handheld electronic anti-itch devices work.

TRUE. But with some caveats. Some of these devices, such as the Therapik, claim to relieve itching by zapping the wound with heat and a mild electric charge. McLean says proceed with caution. Could it be that the sting from the zap is just a distraction from the itch?

20. Mosquitoes only live a few days.

FALSE. Most mosquitoes have a life span that ranges from a couple of weeks to three months. However, some species will hatch in late summer and then find a way to hide out indoors during the winter. That’s right: house guests.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488