(Mostly) natural and easy ways to repel or get rid of mosquitoes

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The mosquito situation has improved greatly now that I'm back home in the United States, but that doesn't mean it hasn't been a problem at all this summer. American mosquitoes seem to mostly stay out of the house, but every time I spend any time in my garden, I am met by at least one thirsty bloodsucker.

Here are some solutions I've learned about since my last post on the subject. I haven't tested most of these, but you can bet if the situation gets worse, I will.

1. Vanilla
Apparently mosquitoes don't like the scent of vanilla, so if you have a body spray that has vanilla in it, spray it over exposed skin. I haven't personally tried this, as I don't own any vanilla-scented body products, but I have been using Bath and Body Works' White Tea & Ginger body spray, and that's seemed to work just as well. I would think that dabbing a little bit of vanilla extract on a couple of points on either your skin or clothing (beware of staining) would work just as well, or maybe adding a few drops of vanilla extract to an ounce or so of water and spraying it over exposed skin like a body spray.

2. A strong fan
If you're not moving around outside, but just sitting on your patio enjoying a cup of lemonade and a good book, look into placing a strong oscillating fan nearby. According to this New York Times article, most mosquitoes are not strong flyers and will stay away from any strong air current. This has as much to do with the current as it has to do with the dissemination of human chemistry that mosquitos pick up on, but we don't really need to know the hows and whys, just that it works.

3. Lemongrass or Eucalyptus
Both of these are scents that mosquitoes -- and some human beings -- are disgusted by. But they are readily available in fragrance form, and you can get your hands on the appropriate essential oils if you do a quick search of the internet. Like the vanilla extract above, I'd caution against applying either of these oils directly onto the skin ... mixing with a lightly scented body lotion or adding it a small amount of rubbing alcohol, mixing, and spraying would work. You can also mix with a bit of carrier oil (jojoba, olive, almond, etc.) and use as an oil spray onto your skin (the scent will probably also last longer this way). Citronella oil should also work, but it smells too close to floor cleaner for me, personally.

4. Cinnamon
It seems that like ants, mosquitoes are not huge fans of cinnamon. If you have a very realistic smelling cinnamon fragrance lying around, by all means give that a shot, but I think you'd be better off purchasing a small vial of cinnamon oil from your local health food store and applying it as you would with the other essential oils mentioned above. If you're willing to try rubbing cinnamon bark or ground cinnamon all over your skin before facing the bloodsuckers, more power to ya. Let me know how it goes.

Numbers 5 and 6: I'm just reiterating the efficacy of some of the gadgets I used while in Taiwan ...

5. Repellent vapor fan (not natural)
Those repellent vapor fans that look so dorky in those Off! commercials work. Or should work, if it runs the same way as the brand I bought in Taiwan. Here, you can clip them onto your belt loop if you're working outside, and I'm assuming you can also set it down on your nightstand if you have unwelcome nighttime visitors ... of the insect kind. The Off! fan seems pretty lame in that it only runs for 12 hours at a time before you have to replace the refill, but this is America ... what can you really expect? For health reasons, I'd only use this in well-ventilated areas.

5a. Repellent diffuser
I did a little research, and a company called Bug Band makes a diffuser that spreads Geraniol over a 200-300 square foot area for up to 120 hours. Geraniol is some sort of mixture of rose, palmarosa and citronella oils and supposedly smells "rose-like." (I was told palmarosa smelled similar to roses, but I own palmarosa essential oil and cannot attest to that claim.) Anyway, this IS an all-natural product and seems to have a longer life than the Off! clip-on fans, so if toxicity is a major concern for you, I'd look into this product. It's only $7-$10 more than the Off! product and lasts longer. However, Geraniol is thought to potentially attract bees too. Nothing in life comes for free or even easily ...

6. Mosquito racquet swapper thingy
I love this thing. It's cheap, it's effective, it's chemical-free, it's rechargeable, and it helps me get in some forehand and backhand reps. You can now buy these at Home Depot. I repeat: you can now buy these at Home Depot. If you somehow live closer to a 99 Cent Store or Asian grocery store than a Home Depot, you might be able to find one there, too. No guarantees on the quality, though. I'd actually spend the extra $3 or $4 and buy the more expensive, hard one. It makes a huge difference.

Let me know if you've tried any of these ideas and how they've worked out for you, or if you have any other nifty ways of getting rid of mosquitoes! Bon chance.

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