How to Repel Mosquitoes Naturally
By: Rita Stadler
Mosquitoes are dangerous insects because of their ability to rapidly spread disease. They are widespread around the world affecting urban, suburban, and rural populations.
Zika is an example of a virus that can be transmitted to people through mosquito bites. In 2015 and 2016, a large outbreak of the Zika virus caused a national public health concern. States from Florida to Texas and US territories near the Caribbean were seeing many cases and it was partially being transmitted through mosquito bites. Although the spread of the virus has slowed down significantly since then, it’s still important to defend your home from these insects as Zika is not the only disease that they spread.
Protecting your family from these pests doesn’t mean you have to bring harmful chemicals and pesticides into your home. We’ve sorted out the DIY tactics and natural remedies to better inform you with what works, what doesn’t, and how you can get rid of them naturally.
3 Ways to Help Prevent Mosquitoes & Protect Yourself
The American Mosquito Control Association recommends three key ways you can protect yourself from mosquitoes and the diseases they spread:
- Drain: Mosquito eggs can only hatch in standing water. If there’s no water, there will be fewer of them. Eggs hatch in 7-10 days, so make sure to change the water in pet dishes, birdbaths, and kiddie pools frequently. Don’t overlook small puddles either, mosquitoes can hatch eggs in as little water as is held in a bottle cap! If you have a pool in your backyard, there are other prevention tips to consider.
- Dress: Covering your skin can mean fewer infected mosquito bites, so wear long sleeves and long pants whenever possible. Light colors are less attractive to them and will help you stay cool and comfortable.
- Defend: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends choosing an insect repellent that has been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These repellents have been studied and tested to ensure safety and efficacy. Look for bug spray with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, or IR3535.
Other tips to consider for preventing these pests around your home include:
- Clearing rain gutters to remove any leaves or debris that could create a block will lead to stagnant water.
- Using screens on windows, doors, and outdoor spaces whenever possible and repairing any holes.
- Repairing leaky outdoor faucets.
- Reducing vegetation near your house and regularly mowing your lawn.
How to Repel Mosquitoes
Use an EPA Registered Repellent
Stay Away® Mosquitoes is an EPA Registered mosquito repellent made with Picaridin that’s skin-friendly, unscented, and provides up to 14 hours of protection.
Use Certain Plants or Oils
Some fragrant plants and herbs have been found effective, but results have been inconsistent. There’s no harm in incorporating rose-scented geraniums, lemon balm, basil, lemon thyme, and lemongrass into your yard or garden, but don’t rely on these plants alone to prevent mosquitoes.
Similarly, go ahead and indulge in a little aromatherapy by rubbing richly scented body oils on your skin. Herbal scents like mint, rosemary, lavender, and eucalyptus are unpleasant to them. Just remember that as the fragrance wears off over time, they will be attracted to you once again.
Mask Your Carbon Trail
Mosquitoes ‘hunt’ their next meal using their sense of smell. They can detect the carbon dioxide people exhale, and use it to zero in on their target. They can also see movement and sense body heat to help them find targets. Citronella candles or torches work by obscuring the C02 you create while breathing, but they are only effective if there is little to no wind and you are close to the source.
Create a Breeze
An easy answer to getting rid of insects outdoors — a box or oscillating fan! Mosquitoes and other flying insects will be greatly reduced in areas with a steady breeze.
Raise Chickens Nearby
While they can feed on both people and animals, mosquitoes avoid chickens. The reason they don’t like chickens and their accompanying odor is still being studied, however, the effect has been proven. If you have the opportunity to raise backyard chickens, you may enjoy fewer mosquitoes along with fresh eggs!
Sit by the Fire
You may also enjoy spending a little more time by the fire. The smoke from burning wood, especially fragrant varieties like pine, will send them searching for a breath of fresh air.
Why Prevention is Important
Mosquitoes, as mentioned above, can be a serious health risk. At best, mosquitoes are a nuisance when they bite you, leaving an itchy, red bump behind. At their worst, they can transmit a variety of diseases. At times this can be life-threatening to people. The diseases vary from Malaria to Yellow Fever and encephalitis.
Fortunately, many of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes are well controlled in the U.S., but there are a few you should be aware of:
- Dengue — a virus that can be transmitted to people after being bitten by an infected mosquito; most common in tropical areas; can be fatal if untreated but has a low mortality rate with good medical management. Symptoms include fever, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain.
- Chikungunya — a virus that can be transmitted to people after being bitten by an infected mosquito; low mortality rate. Symptoms include fever and joint pain.
- West Nile — a widespread virus with flu-like symptoms that can be transmitted to people, birds, and horses after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
- Zika — a virus that can be transmitted to people through mosquito bites, sexual contact, or passed from a pregnant woman to her unborn child. Symptoms are usually mild and people may not even know they are infected, but Zika has been linked to severe fetal brain defects.
Some mosquitoes are daytime feeders; some are nighttime biters. Others are most active at dawn and dusk. There are many different kinds of mosquitoes, but to prevent disease and protect your family, you need to be concerned about the Aedes and Culex groups.
Aedes mosquitoes, such as the Asian tiger (Aedes albopictus) or the Yellow Fever (Aedes aegypti), can transmit dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and other viruses in the United States. They are most active during the day. They may be found all over the country, but are most common along the east coast and southern states.
Culex mosquitoes, commonly referred to as house mosquitoes, can transmit the West Nile virus. They usually rest during the day and are most likely to bite at dusk and after dark. They can be found all across America.
Keep these tips in mind as you savor the days of summer, and take comfort knowing that the most natural form of mosquito control will kick in as soon as the seasons change!