Mosquitoes have complex methods of detecting hosts and different types of mosquitoes react to different stimuli.
It’s no secret that mosquito bites can transfer a number of diseases to humans and animals, the most common of which are malaria, dengue fever, and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Most mosquitoes are active at dawn and dusk, but there are also mosquitoes that seek hosts during the day. You can avoid being bitten by making sure you aren’t attracting mosquitoes, using attractants to lure mosquitoes elsewhere, using a repellent, and avoiding actions that diminish the effectiveness of the repellent.
Before you whip out a can of mosquito-repelling spray the next time a clan of biting insects are after your blood, you should know that many conventional brands contain DEET, a powerful pesticide that has been linked to a number of health problems such as skin rashes, dizziness, and even seizures.
Carbon Dioxide (you exhale CO2)
Lactic Acid (in perspiration fluid)
Floral or Fruity Fragrances (perfumes)
There are natural alternatives to DEET, made primarily from plant essential oils, that can protect you in less threatening circumstances. Although there is no natural repellent as effective as DEET natural repellents do help ward off mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, and fleas, and they may provide some protection against ticks.
Natural Homemade Mosquito Repellents
Citronella Grass Oil – a natural plant oil that has been registered as a natural insect repellent in the United States since 1948. The oils from the plant are used to make lotions, sprays, and candles.
Catnip – is an herb that is most commonly used to stuff in toys or feed to cats for their enjoyment. However, the oil from this plant has actually been found to be more than ten times better at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. Planting this plant near your patio or deck will help repel mosquitoes.
Fennel – A small study by researchers at Seoul National University in Korea found that a spray mosquito repellent containing 5% fennel oil was 84% effective after 90 minutes and a repellent cream with 8% fennel oil was 70% effective after 90 minutes.
Rosemary – this garden herb also has an oil that repels mosquitoes. While they are attractive plants that both repel mosquitoes and can add interest to your cooking, they are truly tropical plants that are not hardy in cold climates. You can, however, grow rosemary in a pot and take it inside in the winter.
Thyme – In one study, carvacrol and alpha-terpinene, two compounds derived from the essential oil of thyme, were found to have significantly greater repellency than a commercial DEET repellent. The researchers suggest that a spray made with 2% alpha terpinene is a promising natural mosquito repellent. However, don’t try to make a thyme oil repellent at home- it is too irritating and strong-smelling to be used at effective concentrations above 25%.
Marigolds – have a particular smell that many insects and humans find objectionable. They are a good plant for repelling mosquitoes as well as insects that can attack vegetable plants and aphids. Marigolds are annuals with bright flowers that range from lemon yellow to dark oranges and reds.
Clove oil – Two studies have found that undiluted topical clove oil is active against mosquitoes. However, like thyme oil, clove oil should not be applied undiluted to skin as a homemade repellent.
Lemongrass Oil – also a natural plant oil that has long been used in tropical and subtropical regions as a natural insect repellent.
Celery extract – A Thai study compared 15 mosquito repellents with a topical extract from celery. The researchers found that the extract did not irritate the skin or cause a burning sensation. It was found to be active against a wide range of mosquito species comparable to a 25% DEET formula.
Peppermint Oil – has also long been used as a natural bug repellent, and is particularly good for keeping mosquitoes away.
Neem oil – An extract from the tropical neem tree, neem oil has insecticidal compounds called azadirachtins.
Vanillin – not artificial vanilla, but the real stuff that we know acts as a natural bug repellent.
Vitamin B1 – Vitamin B1 is often taken to help repel mosquitos but one study suggests this remedy may be useless. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin study tested B1 with a larger sample of human subjects and found no effect of vitamin B.
Garlic – There is a long history of using garlic to get rid of many insects, from slug to mosquito. In particular garlic has a reputation for protecting people from mosquito bites – some think that this could be the origin of the belief that vampires are scared of garlic. There are a number of commercial garlic sprays on the market, these effectively coat an area and produce a natural mosquito barier.
Make Your Own Natural Insect Repellent
Combine the following essential oils to make a natural insect repellent:
1/2 ounce citronella oil
1/4 ounce lavender oil
1/8 ounce pennyroyal oil
1/8 ounce tea tree oil
1/8 ounce jojoba oil
Do not use this blend undiluted on your skin. Follow these instructions for diluting:
To make an insect repellent oil that can be used on your body, add 16 ounces of jojoba or almond oil to the base oil mixture and blend thoroughly. For an insect repellent spray, add 16 ounces of vodka to the base oil mixture, pour into a spray bottle, and shake before using.