Don't Let Bloodsuckers Keep You Inside: Our Best Mosquito Repellent Strategies

Don't Let Bloodsuckers Keep You Inside: Our Best Mosquito Repellent Strategies

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Shifrah Combiths
Jun 16, 2017
(Image credit: Jennifer Cascino)

I live in Florida and I know very well how bugs can ruin both special outdoor events and perfectly ordinary daily moments. Just last week our s'mores summer kickoff was cut short by suuuuuper pesky gnats that insisted on hovering near our eyelashes and noses and we've endured more than one car ride with mosquitoes buzzing around in the van while my daughter screams in fear of being eaten alive (they do seem to feast on her especially, poor thing). From personal solutions to big picture strategies aimed at longer-term control, here are some ways to keep the bloodsuckers from spoiling all the fun.

Mosquito Repelling Plants

Try planting any or all of these top five mosquito repelling plants: citronella, horsemint, marigolds, ageratum, and catnip. The plants work because they either have a strong smell that masks the smell of mosquitoes' prey (us) or because mosquitoes don't like the smell. The leaves of the ageratum and catnip can also be crushed to increase their repellent properties. Catnip can also be rubbed on your skin to repel mosquitoes. Just don't be surprised if your cat reacts as well!

The plants are a good first line of defense, but I recommend not relying solely on them keep mosquitoes at bay, For best results, use them in conjunction with some stronger measures.

Choose Clothing that Covers

If you know you'll be outdoors during mosquito feeding time, try to choose clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Easier said than done when it's hot, but a maxi skirt and a light lace cardigan or a breathable cotton shirt and long pants rather than shorts will save you from many bites.

Mosquito Repellent Spray

With the myriad of options when it comes to mosquito spray, it's important to know the ingredients that actually work. According to the CDC, people who are serious about avoiding mosquito bites should use an EPA-certified repellent containing the active ingredients DEET, picardin, OLE (oil of lemon eucalyptus, or 2-undecanone. This tool is excellent for finding a repellent that meets your particular needs.

Wearable Devices

Wearable bands like these, these, or these that repel mosquitoes can be an alternative to sprays, or can also be used as an added layer of protection.

Additional wearable devices that repel mosquitoes include small personal fans that circulate air around you to repel mosquitoes or even keychains that emit scents mosquitoes don't like. Patches are another wearable option as well.

Fan Mosquitoes Away

Not with your hands. According to the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) FAQs, electric fans can also be used to deter mosquitoes as the insects don't like to fly into the wind.

Candles and Incense

While the AMCA dismisses mosquito-repelling candles as not too useful, we think it can't hurt and some users report that they seem to make a difference. Candles and mosquito-repelling incense scented with citronella or other scents offer another potential layer of protection against mosquito bites. Both operate in the principle of emitting scents that mosquitoes don't like, usually the same scents of mosquito-repelling plants but in a presumably more concentrated form. If you don't like the look of the citronella candles at your local hardware store, know that some of your favorite spots to shop for decor (Williams Sonoma, CB2 and Terrain) carry some really nice looking options.

Address Standing Water

The first step in bigger picture mosquito control is addressing standing water, where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Eggs can hatch in as little as one inch of standing water. Females lay about 300 eggs every time they lay eggs, which occurs about three times in each female mosquito's lifespan. Any water that is sitting for more than a few days must be addressed in order to prevent them from becoming mosquito hatcheries.

Look around your yard or porch for any items that may be collecting water that sits. This includes bottle caps, children's sand box toys, or even plant saucers. Dump out any water that collects after a rainfall.

For water that you cannot remove, such as slowly draining puddles, bird baths, or koi ponds, use preventative measures like these mosquito dunks, which kill larvae.

Whole-Property Solutions

Strategies designed to prevent mosquitoes on the whole of your property include residential misting systems or, more simply, mosquito-repelling sprays. In counties with mosquito problems, you can contact your county pest control office to schedule services, often at no charge. Pest control companies also offer mosquito control services and packages.

Read the EPA's tips on mosquito bite prevention here and more about general mosquito control here.

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