Repelling Mosquitoes Naturally | Seventh Generation
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Repelling Mosquitoes Naturally

Author: the Inkslinger

The first spring harvest is in, and it's a bumper crop...of mosquitoes. Here in Vermont we've had buckets of rain for months now (ugh), and the first droning wave of tiny winged demons has begun its bloodthirsty quest and sent us all screaming for the bug juice.

In my case, that means leaving chemical repellents on the shelf in favor of products made with ingredients found in nature. In this season of my mosquito-infested discontent, what natural products will do the job?

According to the CDC, the answer appears to be lemon eucalyptus oil, which the agency recently declared to be as effective as products with low concentrations of DEET, a chemical insect repellent.

Look for a repellent whose active ingredient is oil of lemon eucalyptus or p-menthane 3,8-diol, the compound in the oil that does all the repelling, and follow all instructions -- especially those regarding the product's use on infants and toddlers.

There are also things we can do to minimize our exposures to mosquitoes in the first place. These strategies are a good idea because ultimately the best repellent is not needing one at all:

  • Wear loose fitting long-sleeved clothes and long pants that retain less mosquito-attracting heat while keeping you covered.
  • Mosquitoes find us partly through contrasting colors, so choose clothes that blend in with your background. If you'll be moving around, choose light-colored stuff that's harder for them to see.
  • Set up some netting if you'll be in one spot. Or use netting around your head if you're on the go.
  • Avoid perfumes, colognes, and scented personal care products that can attract biting bugs.
  • Minimize outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when the beasties are most voracious.
  • Remove any standing water near your home and get rid of anything collecting rainwater like clogged gutters, old tires, etc. These are all prime mosquito breeding spots.
  • Don't use bug zappers, which kill beneficial insects without doing much about mosquitoes.

Photo: indiepopclub


SafePetHaven picture
Thank you to previous folks who left comments regarding the seriousness of MCS, formerly coined "environmental illness"-- decades ago, when my wrong diagnoses of MS & Lupus & others -- based solely on symptoms alone, were finally correctly tested & diagnosed as what it truly was -- Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. I doubt this will ever make "other" uninformed commenter(s) fully aware of the ramifications of this far reaching disability and all it entails. Although I'd never be mean spirited (as they were) enough to wish them a day in our shoes, sometimes that's the only thing that would actually get through to them what it's all about, and what it feels like. Even then I doubt any degree of compassion would ever pass that impermeable membrane of theirs. As for the comments here from one person in particular, I have been at this life-altering journey since 1981 when I was referred by my "classical allergist" to a world-reknowned physician team in Dallas who saved my life by correctly diagnosing my conditions via DOUBLE-BLIND TESTING. Unfortunately there isn't much in the way of actual treatment other than avoidance, except to bolster the immune system in general. At times I wish they'd have let me go then, had I known what the next 30+ years would be. But here I am, in spite of it all, through multiple unexplainable miracles. No I'd not wish MCS on the most evil person in the world (and I've met many, even had a couple of them in my step-family). Maybe I've survived while my coworkers didn't, just to help spread the word/education to avert even one more person to have to suffer this debilitation condition, and that's by letting them know that they can prevent many of their potential exposures by the daily choices they make at least within their own homes. Again, I wouldn't wish this on anyone, and if those still unaffected to the point of permanently damaged health can follow our wary-canary warnings, maybe they can live the full life that I was supposed to have had and sacrificed so much for, only to be cut short in my late teens/early 20's. I'll stop now as my soap box just tipped over.
SafePetHaven picture
Some day there will be someone who finds a mosquito repeller that actually works and that doesn't make me ill in the process. Just because something is derived from a plant source does not mean it is safe for every human, even at miniscule levels. And why, on a separate note from just mosquito-related products, must every product have a fragrance associated with it? Even if it is derived from a botanical source does not mean that many of us do not want to go around smelling like limonene or lavender either for that matter. Why not just the wonderful fragrance of -- nothing? Having been seriously chemically poisoned, and coming very close to death many times because of that legacy, it would be wonderful to be able to regularly enjoy the best smell of all, and that is the smell of no fragrance at all.
k.rocco82 picture
Dear Weatherlight, As someone who gets migraines from strong fragrances as well as have a mother her has asthma set off by fragrances it does not mean that we just "dont like" the smells. It affects our every day lives. Maybe you have never actually seen someone have an asthma attack or a migraine due to the fragrances. Maybe you have not actually ever had a migraine. I hope you do not ever have because they are dibilitating and horrible. Seeing first hand someone have an asthma attack from fragrances is a wake up call. At first it starts with a little bit of coughing then goes into the bronchial tubes actually closing causing the person to not be able to breathe. Next time you want to "bash" someone for what you wrongly think is them "not liking" something read some literature, take a minute and think what that person actually goes through.
KDohermann picture
Very interesting suggestions. Of course I have to add my two cents. I am a big fan of bats. Sure they aren't traditionally cute but knowing they are eating their weight in mosquitos makes them all the more attractive. Also I read an article that mosquitos are not strong flyers so adding a fan, perhaps the circulating kind, to your sitting area is adequate.
bugletti picture
I have used this bug spray for the last three summers, and it is amazing: It's all natural, and it smells really good--not like chemicals like many bug repellents do. She also makes a soap that my ex-boyfriend swore by when he went to Costa Rica.
AnnaLeeW picture
I have heard taking garlic pills or eating garlic, but I also know of ones that have a high garlic diet and they still have bites. I find that what works best for me is a daily dose of Super B Complex. Works for the entire family. :)
canyonsprite picture
Dear Weatherlight; I am going to try to be kind about your ignorance regarding chemical sensitivity. it is not the same as "not liking" something. here's an example. do you just "not like" standing directly (6 inches) from diesel exhaust blowing in your face? this is what it is like for a chemically sensitive person to be exposed to perfume or any other chemical which is noxious to them. it is nothing at all like your experience of perfume. we really honestly CANNOT INHALE in the presence of these chemicals. we can smell things that you cannot. I can smell residual hair conditioner on my kids' babysitter and after she is in my house for an hour I will get a migraine from it. I can smell your deodorant. you would not like it either if you could smell everything and it made you sick. or maybe you "like" being sick? and our physiological reaction is very different from yours. I had a functional MRI scan that proved that when I am exposed to Febreze, my brain activates in a very abnormal way, completely unlike a normal person, who does not show any brain activation in comparison. This is a neurological problem. it is nothing at all like your dislike of olives, etc. please do not post insulting things about us online. we have a very real disability. I am receiving social security for mine as I am unable to be around people or in any work environment because of the exposures. this means the government recognizes this as a disability. would you throw taunts at a person in a wheelchair, telling them they are just faking it? you could be sued for that. please tread carefully. thanks.
AlineClick picture
Aveeno Stress Relief Moisturizing Lotion with Lavender works to repel mosquitoes for me. I figured this out by complete accident. I have always been a mosquito magnet but one day I was sitting next to my husband at a softball game and the mosquitoes were swarming him and not one was bothering me. This happened over and over until I figured out why. I use the lotion every morning after I shower and again before bed. It works, and it is safe and not greasy.
kitteny picture
I do make my own natural insect spray that works quite well, but the other thing that I also find that works is taking extra vitamin B1. I find when I do that (especially before and during camping trips), I get less bites and the bites I do get have less of a red, itchy reaction.
blueapplesoap picture
I've been making my own insect repellent for a few years now with essential oils and high proof alcohol. I shake a few drops of lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass and citronella into 100 proof vodka. It works fabulously as long as you don't miss a spot when applying it.
BKNature picture
Essential Oils can disrupt the Larval Cycle? Essential oils can work as a larvicidal. A larvicidal is an insecticide that kills larval pests. Studies have shown that these oils kill mosquito larvae effectively: Peppermint Essential Oil - Thyme Essential Oil I hand make my own lotion for Repelling mosquitoes, I use: Lavender:Eucalyptus:Peppermint. What attracts the female pest? Carbon dioxide is just one of the many chemical messages that we send out to mosquitoes. Lactic acid is another chemical that influences whether a mosquito will choose to dine on you. Lactic acid is found within sour milk products, some fruits and fermented foods. It is also a by-product produced by the muscles during specific exercise conditions and can be found in varying degrees within our blood, on our skin, and within our sweat. Outside your home: Plant plants that are very good for repelling mosquitoes: Catnip, Citronella grass, Clove, Cedar, Eucalyptus, Garlic, Lavender, Lemon balm, Marigolds, Peppermint, and Rosemary. Hope this helps some of ya'll. :)
wvwoman picture
safepethaven and emilie---I know this is about "natural" repellants, but I haven't found anything natural that I'm not sensitive to and/or that keeps me from getting bitten. And because of the fragrance, I can't use the regular Avon Skin-so-soft, which many folks have been touting as a great bug repellent for years. But here's a product that I've found I can use, surprisingly: Unscented Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray. It's not fragrance-free, but it doesn't have the added perfumes or "masking fragrance" that bother me. It does have an odor, but it dissipates pretty quickly. To spray myself, I always walk a little ways away from where I plan on hanging out and I hold my breath while doing it. That way I can walk away from the "cloud" I've created--that's a key point. (It would be great if these came in "towelette" form, but no...only the scented ones do. They also only have the scented ones in a pump spray--go figure!) It's pricey if you don't get in on the half-price sales, but it's great to find something tolerable that works.
amendtom picture
Skip the Zappers and Bug sprays and invest in cedar housing units that you put up like bird houses. The cedar attracts the Bats for a place to call home.Bats are insectivores, which means that their diet consists of insects.Bats can eat between 500 to 1000 mosquitoes in an hours time.Most bats DO NOT Bother Humans.
connie Ferguson picture
connie Ferguson
I have a friend that swears by using skin so soft from avon keeps mosquitoes off of you. picture
Thanks wvwoman, as a highly "sensitive" person I agree with your assessment, and I also use the word "allergic" in order to make people understand that it will cause a bad, physical reaction, as people who do not suffer from this, even my own husband, do not seem to understand the gravity of there use of certain products and how it effects/affects (I always mix those up) me ;) thanks 4 the article as I was thinking what to do for my son & myself for next wks trip to grandma/grandpas house in the "woods" 1 mi from the beach
wvwoman picture
Weatherlight, you're right about clothing not always working---it certainly helps make it not as easy for the little fellers to bite, but determined ones manage to get me right thru jeans and long sleeves. Your offhand comments to safepethaven, however, are troubling. I also have an extreme "case" of chemical/fragrance sensitivities, and it's not just about likes and dislikes, it's about one's health, causing many things from headaches to severe breathing problems, etc. As safepethaven probably knows, doctors cannot help, except to help treat the illnesses once you're sick. You're right, sensitivity and allergy are different---for one thing, allergies can be treated; with sensitivities, avoidance is the only solution, and in this society of fragranced everything, that's VERY difficult. (Because most folks don't know the difference between allergies and sensitivities, it often gets the 'idea' across easier to use the word "allergic," as safepethaven did in her comment.) People often say they're allergic to tobacco smoke, but that's actually a sensitivity---you can't take an allergy pill or a shot that will help. And it's the pits when you have to stop hugging people because they'll probably transfer a fragrance onto your face, neck and/or clothing...which can then give you severe problems. Unless you, or someone in your circle, have problems with sensitivities, you probably have no idea how your lovely-smelling products are affecting others, even if they're supposedly "natural" fragrances, so please consider using fragrance-free products. And thank you, seventh generation, for making these products available when I couldn't find them anywhere else.
lvanboven picture
I use the Listerine gold mouthwash, put it in a spray bottle, spritz it on and the bugs hate it! Any mouthwash will do, but it has to be the gold kind.
Weatherlight picture
Sensitivity is not the same as allergy. Thus, SafePetHaven, I'd be shocked if your body actually produced tons of IgE in response to 1) eucalyptus 2) tea tree 3) neem 4) citronella 5) synthetic fragrance #1 6) synthetic fragrance #2 7) synthetic fragrance #3 8) synthetic fragrance #4 9) synthetic fragrance #5 10) synthetic fragrance #6 etc Saying you DISLIKE something is different from being allergic to it. I mean, by that logic, I'm allergic to olives, raw broccoli, parsley, heat above 82F, humidity, sticky keyboard keys, ball mouses, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, skunk spray, animal abuse, recyclables in black garbage bags, feral cats in my garden, and people who make stupid posts about how disliking something equals an allergy. Wow I sure have a lot of allergies; I wonder if my doctor can confirm it with, say, a test for vacuum cleaner allergy? And if you're severely sensitive to half of everything in the world, you probably see your doctor (maybe a specialist) about that. --- More on topic, I don't like murdering sentient or likely-sentient beings for being pests. That includes 2-year-old toddlers, mosquitoes, feral cats, slugs/snails, and my spouse :P The bugs around here are among the most stubborn I've ever seen, though. For example, ants that walk over double-sided tape, vinegar, super hot pepper powder (once the powder lines were a couple hours old or so, and I can't buy huge amounts and reapply it every 4 hours), cinnamon, you name it. In the end, commercial products made from citrus or garlic worked great, we just had to be careful to not spray it directly on the ants (these repellents can kill). Of course, sealing cracks in the doorframes, cleaning up crumbs, etc works best... I tried a zillion things for the mosquitoes too, but the only that worked to keep them from landing on me was Buzz Away Extreme (the regular version wasn't enough). They would "bite" through clothing, including thick sturdy jeans and multiple layers. Cleaning gutters and finding other sources of standing water, doing some major weeding and thinning, etc helped, but even after all that, they really loved our back fence. Solution: put down a very thick layer of pine mulch, buy a gigantic bottle (for farmers) of Garlic Barrier concentrate, mix it up and spray all over the fencing (wooden) and ground. They stayed away :)
kristinwestlake2 picture
Take a garlic pill everyday during mosquito season & you won't get bit. I was in the Philippines for 3 months in 1983 & I was the only person on the team who didn't get bitten.
SafePetHaven picture
None of these recommendations has ever helped from getting chewed up by our Texas sized mosquitoes; ours start appearing around March and continue through Nov. What to do if one is highly allergic even to "natural" ingredients? This includes such recommendations as eucalyptus in any form, tea tree oil, neem, citronella, synthetic fragrances of any kind or amount, etc. The only thing that works is to stay indoors but the mosquitoes even get indoors with every opportunity, even just the rare opening/immediate closing of the primary entrance/exit door [garage]. And for me, the reactions to more than a couple of bites is severe, not just annoying or uncomfortable for a brief time. When I was a kid my dad would apply calamine lotion to my bites or witch hazel to calm the inflammation; but the current formulation of calamine does nothing for me, and witch hazel gives me a headache, probably from the isopropyl.
lroffler picture
Actually, I have to disagree with the comment on bug zappers. My in-laws recently accidentally left a window open in their home, letting in hundreds of mosquitoes. Believe it or not, the only solution that worked was to pull out the old bug zapper and plug set it up in the living room. It roached every last skeeter in the house, no problem. L
awakenedwellness picture
Thanks for the great tips! I never knew that the electric bug zappers weren't effective on mosquitoes. Although we don't have one, I will remember and be sure not to get one in the future. I had been thinking about it for our patio. I use Burt's Bees herbal insect repellent and have found it to work really well. I will check out one that has lemon eucalyptus oil the next time I buy. Interestingly, the one I use has lemongrass oil and eucalyptus oil - I wonder if the effects are similar?