The Buzz On Avoiding Mosquitoes

Every spring, I receive numerous requests for information on how to avoid mosquitoes. With that in mind, I'm reprinting a previously published article I wrote about avoiding mosquito bites. I have included additional tips at the end of this article that, when used in combination with my other suggestions, will increase the effectiveness of a natural, less chemically harmful approach to mosquito defense.


Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance--their bites can cause serious complications including the transmission of diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and West Nile virus (WN) to humans and animals.

Mosquitoes belong to the Diptera order, otherwise known as the True Flies. There are over 2,500 different species of mosquitoes throughout the world with about 200 species in the United States. There are 77 species in Florida alone, and a new species, Anopheles grabhamii, was reported in the Florida Keys in 2001.

While there are many ways to deter mosquitoes from biting you, some are more toxic than others. The following suggestions give you easy ways to repel these pests. Not all of these suggestions may work for you. So, I've included a number of additional tips in the hopes of helping my readers find ideas that fit their personal needs.

-- Supplement with one vitamin B-1 tablet a day from April through October. Add 100 mg of B-1 to a B-100 Complex daily during the mosquito season.

-- Don't eat bananas during mosquito season--mosquitoes love bananas! There is something about how your body processes the banana oil that attracts these female sugar-loving insects. However, rubbing the inside of a banana peel on an insect bite can reduce itching and swelling.

-- One of the best natural insect repellents is Vick's Vaporub®.

-- Planting marigolds around your yard works great as a bug repellent because the flowers give off a fragrance bugs do not like. This is a great way to ward off mosquitoes without using chemical insecticides.

-- Campers agree that the very best mosquito repellant is Avon Skin-So-Soft® bath oil mixed half and half with rubbing alcohol.

-- One of the best natural insect repellants we use in Texas is made from the clear liquid vanilla that is sold in Mexico. It is reported to work great for mosquitoes and ticks, and spreading a little vanilla mixed with olive oil on your skin smells great.

-- Commercial mosquito dunks will kill mosquito larvae before they become mosquitoes. They are fairly environmentally sound biological mosquito controls containing no toxic chemicals. Each dunk affectively treats up to 100 square feet of surface water regardless of depth for about 30 days. Dunks may be broken into smaller pieces to treat small areas. Unused and dried out dunks retain their potency indefinitely, so you can store extras for the long summer season. Put them in fountains, ponds, rain gutters, flowerpot trays, and anywhere water may pool.

-- Citronella soap is a product that started in the Bahamas and Belize. The soaps are made with olive oil for moisture and have a great lather. Use Aloe Vera to soothe the skin and citronella oil to repel mosquitoes. For high intensity protection you can burn citronella incense. Mosquitoes avoid citronella and they hate the smoke.

-- Citronella essential oil (Java Citronella) is considered to be the highest quality citronella on the market. The best quality is steam distilled from the grass giving it a fresh, sweet woody aroma. It blends well with geranium, cedar wood and other citrus oils. It is 100 percent pure essential oil--no additives, no diluters, no adulteration; just safe mosquito repellent.

-- Electronic repellents utilize one to two sound frequencies to simulate dragonflies and other male mosquitoes, creating a competitive environment for the blood-sucking female. These devices come with Velcro bands for wearing on your wrist or ankle, or on your pocket or belt. This makes for a versatile, compact unit that you can take anywhere for protection. Some units even have a built-in red flashlight for nighttime use.

Additional tips:

-- Avoid wearing floral and fruity fragrances found in perfumes, body lotions, and detergents.
-- Avoid wearing dark clothing; mosquitoes are attracted to darker colors.
-- Dawn and dusk are times of peak mosquito activity, so try to avoid outdoor activities during these times.
-- Avoid exercising outdoors during peak mosquito times. Exercise creates more lactic acid, and your body will give off carbon dioxide. Mosquitoes are attracted to both of these scents. Sweat also attracts mosquitoes by creating a humid environment around your body.
-- Don't allow water to gather in your yard or campground.
-- Burn citronella candles or incense outdoors.
-- Eat more garlic. Garlic repels mosquitoes and can be found in some mosquito repellents.
-- Catnip repels mosquitoes. Keep some in your pocket or rub it on exposed areas. (Your cat will love you.)
-- Try rubbing parsley on any exposed extremities, such as your neck, arms, and legs.

The following is a list of ingredients which help repel mosquitoes. Because different ingredients repel different types of mosquitoes, a combination of these oils is the most effective in repelling a variety of mosquitoes. Look for these ingredients at your local market or try creating your own as an ointment or spray.

Note: before using these oils, make sure you or your family has no history of allergic reactions to the oils listed. And remember that natural ingredients are more easily absorbed into the skin and are more easily diluted in water (sweat) than harsh chemical repellents, so reapply regularly.

-- Citronella Oil
-- Castor Oil
-- Rosemary Oil
-- Lemongrass Oil
-- Cedar Oil
-- Peppermint Oil
-- Clove Oil
-- Geranium Oil

Other less effective options include oils from Verbena, Pennyroyal, Lavender, Pine, Cajuput, Cinnamon, Basil, Thyme, Allspice, Soybean, and Garlic.

-- Most commercial insect repellants contain a chemical known as DEET® and should be used with caution, if at all. --

Many studies have found DEET to have harmful health effects. One study resulted in diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats. Researchers suggest humans may experience memory loss, headache, weakness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, tremors and shortness of breath after heavy exposure to DEET.

Combined with other chemicals or medications, the chemicals in DEET have been shown to cause brain deficits in vulnerable populations, such as infants. Children are particularly at risk for subtle brain changes because their skin more readily absorbs chemicals in the environment, and harmful chemicals more potently affect their developing nervous systems.

In the event you choose to use DEET products, which I do not recommend, do not use the products on infants and avoid using them on children, making sure the products for children contain 15 percent or less DEET. The following precautions were issued by the New York State Department of Health concerning repellents containing DEET:

-- Store repellent bottle out of the reach of children and read all instructions on the label before applying.
-- Do not let children apply DEET themselves because they may put the product in their mouths or touch their eyes.
-- Avoid prolonged and excessive use of DEET. Use sparingly to cover exposed skin only; do not treat unexposed skin.
-- Do not apply repellents in enclosed areas. This is especially important when using sprays or aerosols.
-- Do not apply directly on face.
-- DEET can be applied to clothing, but may damage some synthetic fabrics and plastics.
-- Wash treated skin and clothing after returning indoors.
-- If you believe you are having an adverse reaction to a repellent containing DEET, wash the treated area immediately and call your physician.

When using natural mosquito repellents, remember to adopt an integrative approach by working on your environment and body while focusing on both repelling mosquitoes and avoiding attraction. Carefully pick an approach that works best for you and your family.

-- When all else fails--get a frog!

Posted May 2006 | Permanent Link

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