Ah, summertime, time for backyard parties, swimming, fishing, camping, hiking and all the joys that warm weather, family, and friends bring. Unfortunately, with summer also comes the all too familiar battle of man against the mosquito. Depending on where you live mosquitoes can be anything from an occasional nuisance to a full-blown enemy you have declared war upon. The good news is, there are a number of safe and natural ways to keep these pesky critters away from your home and garden, and more importantly, off your skin.
Mosquitoes Carry Disease
Unfortunately, annoying buzzing and itchy bites are not the only things that make mosquitoes an unwelcome visitor. The more than 3,000 mosquito species are responsible for transporting some of humanity’s greatest diseases. Malaria is carried by the Anopheles mosquito and is reported to infect between 300 and 500 million people yearly, causing over 600,000 deaths. The Culex mosquito carries the West Nile virus, filariasis, and encephalitis. The Aedes mosquito carries yellow fever, dengue, and encephalitis.
These bloodthirsty annoyances are not just a problem in third world countries. The first case of West Nile virus in America was reported in New York City in 1999. Since this time, over 2000 people have died from the virus.
Viruses aside, mosquito bites hurt – some worse than others. A particular type of mosquito found in Florida, the Gallinipper, is the size of a quarter and can deliver a really nasty bite.
3 Factors That Make You More Attractive To Mosquitoes
Believe it or not, mosquitoes tend to be picky about their victims. Apparently, not everyone is equally tasty. In one study it was found that mosquitoes land on people who have type O blood twice as often as they landed on people with Type A blood.
Mosquitoes locate their target by smelling carbon dioxide that is released when we breathe. Not surprisingly, people who exhale more carbon dioxide, larger people, in general, get bitten more often than smaller people.
Mosquitoes also smell for lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other bodily substances to find their victims. When you exercise, lactic acid builds up and this can make you quite attractive to mosquitoes. In addition, genetic factors can influence the amount of uric acid and other substances we emit making some people tastier than others to mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes also like certain skin bacteria better than others. A study conducted in 2001 found that people with a higher abundance, but lower diversity of bacteria on the skin were more appetizing to mosquitoes. This is especially true, says, scientists, if the bacteria is focused on a particular area. The ankles are a great example because there are naturally more bacteria colonizing here than on other parts of the skin. How many times have you been bitten on your ankles by a mosquito?
Drinking Beer & Mosquitoes
Have you ever wondered why mosquitoes love backyard barbeques as much as you? If you drink just one 12 ounce beer you become like an instant mosquito magnet. Although researchers are not quite sure why people who drink beer become desirable to mosquitoes, they still seem to show up whenever a glass is poured.
Pregnancy & Mosquitoes
A number of studies have shown that pregnant women are bitten twice as much as non-pregnant women. This might be due to the fact that pregnant women exhale almost 21 percent more carbon dioxide and are also warmer than people who aren’t pregnant.
Clothing Color & Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes are attracted to certain clothing colors more than others including black, dark blue and red. Wearing light-colored clothing will help protect you from a nasty bite. In addition, wear loose fitting clothing that covers more of your skin so that mosquitoes can’t find an exposed part.
How to Keep Mosquitoes Away From Your Outdoor Living Spaces
Mosquitoes are an inevitable part of warm season months but this doesn’t have to mean an end to your summer fun. The good news is that there are several, non-toxic ways to make your favorite places in your yard and garden repulsive to mosquitoes.
1. Plant Herbs & Flowers That Repel Mosquitoes
One way to protect your outdoor gatherings from unwanted guests (mosquitoes, not your mother-in-law) is to surround your outdoor living space with plants that mosquitoes don’t like. Not only will the plants add aesthetic value to your landscape, but they will also do double duty as a natural defense screen.
Here are some top choices:
Rosemary – Rosemary is a desirable woody perennial herb that will beautify any spot in your yard. This plant contains aromatic essential oils that mosquitoes detest. Rosemary grows well in USDA plant hardiness zones 5 through 9. Just be sure to purchase the best variety for your area. Rosemary likes lots of sun, well-draining, sandy soil. Rosemary will slowly grow, maturing anywhere between 4 feet tall and 4 to 5 feet tall. I have a small gathering area in my backyard that I surrounded with rosemary – this makes a nice sheltered spot where the mosquitoes are not welcome. You can also grow rosemary in pots and in cooler regions, bring them inside for the winter.
Lavender – Lavender is another highly aromatic herb that mosquitoes are not fond of. This member of the mint family has silvery-green foliage and beautiful purple spikes from early summer into fall. Lavender makes a great addition to any landscape and is especially well suited for borders or an informal hedge. Lavender is a hardy perennial in USDA planting zones 4 through 8.
Basil – I love to adorn my backyard tables with pots of basil. Not only is basil easy to grow, but it also makes a wonderful culinary herb and mosquito deterrent. There are a number of different types of basil available. I find that cinnamon basil, lemon basil and Peruvian basil work best to keep mosquitoes at bay.
For more plants that will keep your outdoor areas mosquito free visit here.
2. Mosquito Incense
Mosquitoes are going to steer clear of any outdoor party where you are burning incense. For starters, mosquitoes are not big fans of smoke and hate aromatic smoke even more. The most effective incense sticks contain a variety of ingredients including citronella, eucalyptus, and even cloves. Look for incense products that are 100% natural such as these from Amazon.
Alternatively, save money and make your own loose incense with mosquito repelling herbs and spices. I like to use incense when I have small gatherings on my back patio or even on my screen porch where the critters seem to be able to fit through the tiniest hole in the screen.
Other Home Hacks to Get Rid of Mosquitoes
I have spent plenty of time over the years living is damp and warm climates, where mosquitoes thrive. Bound and determined not to spend the entire summer months hiding in my house, I have developed some rather strange, but effective ways to deal with mosquitoes. Yes, I have been determined not to let them steal my joy. Here are a few of my most successful hacks to a mosquito-free yard and home.
3. Coffee Grounds
I love coffee and have a lot of used grounds. To keep mosquitoes from multiplying I scatter used coffee grounds in areas of standing water (if I can’t get rid of the standing water altogether). The mosquito eggs are drawn to the surface of the water and deprived of oxygen by the grounds – thus, they don’t hatch!
4. Pinon Wood
I have always burned pinon wood in my outdoor fire pits. This wood is highly aromatic and will keep mosquitoes well away from your outdoor spaces and home. I let the embers in my fires smolder for a very long time to reap all of the benefits. Try it for yourself with this pinon firewood.
5. Use A Fan
When I have an outdoor gathering in the summer I always run a couple of oscillating fans on my patio or porch. Not only does this keep my guests cool and comfortable, but it also blows away mosquitoes.
6. Put Up Bat Houses
Bats love mosquitoes and the more bats you can attract to your yard, the fewer mosquitoes you will have. Put up bat houses throughout your yard and sit back and watch them gobble up the pesky critters at dusk.
The idea of bats eradicating mosquitoes has been slightly overdone, with some websites claiming that bats can eat 1000 mosquitoes per hour. That’s an exaggeration, but mosquitoes do make up a portion of a bat’s diet and so attracting bats is an effective way to reduce the mosquito population.
7. Create A Bird Habitat
It’s not just bats that love mosquitoes, many species of birds including purple martins, swallows and some migratory songbirds devour adult mosquitoes and also eat mosquito larvae. To encourage these birds, hang a variety of bird feeders, suet feeders and create a welcoming bird environment.
8. Build A Pond
Dragonflies and fish are also hardy mosquito eaters. Contrary to what you might think about water – a pond with an aerator or fountain and fish will draw dragonflies (AKA mosquito hawks).
How to Be Less Desirable to Mosquitoes
Swimming, hiking, riding your bike… mosquitoes always have a way of finding you when you are having fun. To make yourself less desirable to these bloodsucking mini monsters, try a few of these tried and true home tactics.
9. Use fewer beauty products when outdoors
Mosquitoes are particularly fond of most lotions, hairspray, perfume and even deodorant. If you do use lotions etc.. try using those that have a strong lavender, basil, rosemary or even eucalyptus scent.
10. Eat lots of garlic
If you consume a good amount of garlic before heading outside you may be in luck. Garlic breath may not do anything for your personal relationships, but it will mask the smell of carbon dioxide when you exhale. In addition, the sulfur compounds emitted through your skin will also make you less desirable.
11. Eat fewer bananas
If you are an avid banana eater, you might want to pause that for the summer months. When your body metabolizes the banana the scent comes out on your skin and… mosquitoes love bananas.
12. Wear light-colored long sleeve shirts and pants
If you are planning a hike or an outdoor adventure, choose clothes that will not make you a mosquito magnet. Light colors and light and loose fabrics work best – as mentioned above. A light-colored hat is also a good idea to keep mosquitoes off your face and head.
13. Take your B vitamins
People are more likely to be bitten if they have a B deficiency. Studies show that taking plenty of B1, in particular, can keep mosquitoes away. Apparently, when you take a little more vitamin B than your body needs, it can cause the excess to be sweated out through your skin. Female mosquitoes find this odor repulsive. Eat foods rich in vitamin B1, such as beef, liver, nuts, oats, oranges, pork, eggs, seeds, legumes and peas or take a vitamin B1 supplement.
14. Take a pig for a walk (Yes, really!)
I had a friend who owned a pot belly big and always brought her on walks. It seemed that whenever the pig was around I got far fewer mosquito bites. Turns out that it isn’t all in my head, pigs have a higher body temperature and mosquitoes will gravitate towards them first before biting you.
15. Spray yourself with vanilla
Vanilla is a natural mosquito repellent. Add two teaspoons of vanilla to one cup of water and put into a spritz bottle. When you are outside hiking, biking or just enjoying some fresh air, spritz yourself with vanilla. The vanilla will mask your body odor and keep mosquitoes away.
Using Essential Oils to Keep Mosquitoes Away
By now, you have probably heard about all of the dangers of using chemicals such as DEET to keep mosquitoes away. Over time, the toxic ingredients in many commercial mosquito products, build up in the body and can cause serious issues.
The good news is that many essential oils contain compounds that are as effective if not more effective than dangerous chemicals such as DEET. Many aromatic essential oils have insect–repelling properties, particularly those containing volatile substances like linalool, thujone, geraniol, citronellal, citronellol, limonene, pinene, and eucalyptol. They have been found to be effective in keeping mosquitoes at bay for a short period of 2-4 hours because of their high volatility.
Repeat applications may be necessary, but essential oils, especially the ones derived from culinary herbs, may be safer than other chemical deterrents.
Here is just a short list of a few essential oils that you should have in your anti-mosquito arsenal:
16. Clove bud oil
Clove bud oil has a warm and slightly fruity aroma but don’t let its sweet fragrance fool you, it is a powerful mosquito deterrent. In fact, one study found that just 5% of clove bud oil had a complete 100% repent action against mites – this a very promising indication of what it can do to protect you from mosquitoes.
What makes clove bud essential oil so effective is its main ingredient, eugenol. Eugenol has powerful antiseptic properties as well and is commonly used in commercial insect repellents. In addition, to be a mosquito deterrent, clove bud oil can also soothe inflammation after a bite, kill parasites, and help the skin heal. I like to mix a few drops of pure clove bud oil in some vitamin e oil and spread over my skin before heading outdoors.
17. Peppermint oil
Everyone is familiar with the fresh and sweet aroma of peppermint. While it is very pleasing to us, mosquitoes are not so fond of it. Peppermint is actually a hybrid mint between spearmint and watermint and its oil is very pungent. Besides soothing muscles, and inducing a calm and relaxed state, peppermint can also aid digestive woes and ease a headache. My favorite way to use peppermint as a mosquito repellent is to mix in a few drops of pure peppermint oil in water and place in a spray bottle. I spray my window screens in the morning and evening and this deters the pesky critters from finding their way into my home. As a bonus, my home smells fresh and sweet all day long.
18. Geranium oil
Geranium oil is another highly versatile oil that was once used widely in beauty applications in ancient Greece. It is known for its ability to calm nerves and promote healthy skin and hair. The powerful components in this oil also make it an effective insect deterrent. This is due to one of its primary components, citronellol. To keep mosquitoes from biting my head and neck, I add a few drops of Plant Therapy geranium oil to my shampoo.
Note: Be sure to test for skin sensitivity before applying any essential oils to your body. Always use a carrier oil when applying essential oil to the skin. Never ingest essential oils.
For more essential oils that keep mosquitoes away, read our full article here.
Making Your Own Mosquito Repellent Products
There are numerous products on the market designed to protect you and your home from mosquitoes. However, they cost a lot of money and often contain chemicals that are not beneficial to your health and wellbeing. The great news is that you can easily and cost-effectively make your own mosquito repellent products at home that actually work!
Here are a few of my favorite recipes that you can feel good using on yourself and your family.
19. Chemical Free Insect Home and Room Spray
I use this spray inside and out to keep insects away.
- Apple cider vinegar
- 5 drops tea tree essential oil
- 5 drops lemon essential oil
- 5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
To make: Fill a spray bottle half full of water and half full of apple cider vinegar. Add the oils. Use as a room or window screen spray.
20. Lavender “Mosquito Be Gone” Lotion
I love the light feel and fragrance of this lotion. I use it mostly when I am out in my garden.
- 12 drops lavender essential oil
- 8 drops tea tree essential oil
- 8 drops lemongrass essential oil
- 6 drops citronella essential oil
- 6 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 4 ounces fractionated coconut oil
To make: Mix all essential oils first and add them to the fractionated coconut oil. Allow the coconut oil to harden. Apply regularly before going outdoors.
21. Herb Infusion Surface Spray
I love using this spray on my countertops and outdoor tables. It cleans and disinfects while acting as an insect deterrent.
- Apple cider vinegar
- A few leaves of fresh lavender, catmint, sage, and thyme
To make: Fill a spray bottle half full of vinegar and half full of water. Add the fresh herbs and let sit overnight. Shake and use liberally on surfaces.
Bonus: Try making our herbal mosquito repellent spray. Many readers have tried it already and loved it.