June 7, 2012

How to Keep Mosquitoes Away

Mosquito Biting Skin

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 looking for a variety of strategies to help keep the bugs at bay. This season, I am particularly fond of insect repellents that use essential oils.

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