This is a guest post by Amber Bradshaw of The Coastal Homestead featuring natural mosquito repellents and mosquito control.
What’s the most dangerous creature on earth? Without question the answer is: the mosquito. Mosquitoes and the diseases they spread have been responsible for killing more people than all the wars in history. Even today, mosquitoes transmitting malaria kill 2 million to 3 million people and infect another 200 million or more every year. Tens of millions more are killed and debilitated by a host of other mosquito-borne diseases, including filariasis, yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis. With the zika virus scare, avoiding mosquito bites is in people's minds more than ever.
I have a love hate relationship with nice weather. I love being outdoors, working in my garden, playing with my animals, watching the kids run around, smelling the salt air, basking in the sun, and enjoying nature of all kinds. I hate getting bit by those pesky, good for nothing, bloodsucking, make me itch all over and miserable mosquitoes.
Here in South Carolina, we lovingly refer to them as our state bird. (Editor's note: We claim the mosquito as the Wisconsin State Bird as well. 😉 ) It breaks my heart every year when I work so hard at making my garden a place to relax, only to be kept prisoner indoors because of those blood seeking insects! I swear I emit a homing device to mosquitoes as soon as I walk out of my house. My husband on the other hand, can stand by a swamp all day and never get bit!
These strange phenomena motivated me to research what caused mosquitoes to bite me more than others and the results made sense.
4 Reasons Mosquitoes Bite Some People More than Others
According to the Smithsonian article “Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others?“, there are several different factors that cause mosquitoes to bite you and not your neighbor, a few of them are:
- You talk too much (This made my hubby laugh hysterically) – Mosquitoes are attracted to Carbon Dioxide, those who exhale (talk/breathe) more than others attract more mosquitoes (makes sense, I’m a talker).
- Blood type O (which I am) – According to a published study on “mosquito landing preferances”, Those with type O blood attract more biting insects than those with A,B, or AB Blood
- Sweating – People who sweat or with higher body temperatures send signals to mosquitoes that the buffet is now open (another great reason for me not to exercise)
- Mosquitoes Are Alcoholics – For unknown reasons, mosquitoes are attracted to those who consume alcohol more than those that don’t. If you like to have an evening cocktail, it’s best to stay indoors.
If you’re unable to do that, I do have some alternatives you can try that have worked for me throughout the years.
5 Tips to Get Rid of Mosquitoes and Avoid Getting Bit
Mosquito Beater Tip #1 – Avoid Peak Mosquito Feeding Times
The most common mosquito species feed at dawn and dusk and a few hours into the night, while some aggressive species feed all day. Avoid peak feeding times to reduce your risk of getting bit.
Mosquito Beater Tip #2 – Wear Light Clothing
Dark clothing is more attractive to mosquitoes than light outfits. Why? “Mosquitoes have problems flying in even a slight wind, and so they keep close to the ground,” Down there, mosquitoes spot hosts by comparing your silhouette to the horizon. Dark colors stand out, while light shades blend in.
Mosquito Beater Tip #3 – Reduce the Number of Mosquitoes by Removing or Treating Standing Water
Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water that is stagnant, shallow and high in organic matter. Mosquitoes complete three stages of their life cycle in the water (egg, larva and pupa) in about 4 to 14 days. As a result, standing water must remain stagnant for a minimum of 4 days in order to support the mosquito’s life cycle. Elimination of potential mosquito breeding sites is the primary control measure used to reduce mosquito populations.
- Treat water with mosquito dunks. Mosquito dunks slowly release Bacillus thuringiensis v. israelensis (BT) in water. BT is toxic for mosquitoes but considered safe for humans
- Remove any objects that may collect water
- Place screen with small holes over rain barrels
- Use a pump or fountain in ponds to aerate the water
- Replace any standing water in pools or bird baths once a week
Mosquito Beater Tip #4 – Provide Habitat for Natural Mosquito Predators
Invite guests to your home that are natural predators of mosquitoes to help reduce the population such as:
- Bats (Buy a Bat House Online.)
Hang bird feeders, build a bat house, invert broken terracotta pots to make frog houses, and add a few fish to the pond. All of these amazing creatures will help control your mosquito population.
Mosquito Beater Tip #5 – Use Herbs and Essential Oils that Repel Mosquitoes
Several herbs, and some flowers, have been known to repel mosquitoes and other biting insects. Herbs make a great addition to any yard or garden because they are visually pleasing, can be used in cooking, and repel biting insects.
Not that long ago I participated in an herb sale at a local nursery, several of the volunteers and customers were complaining all day of the biting insects and how bad they were. I realized I wasn’t getting bit (which is HIGHLY unheard of for me) and noticed I had been playing with herbs all day; rubbing them, tasting them, crushing their leaves, and brushing my hand over the top. I was in a constant state of releasing their oils and scents all day, thus protecting me.
Some of the Best Herbs for Mosquito Control
- Citronella (lemon balm, lemon grass, lemon verbena)
5 Ways to Use Herbs and Flowers for Mosquito Control
- Plant herbs in your garden anywhere and everywhere you can squeeze them in, the more the better.
- Make mosquito planter pots. Choose a couple of the plants mentioned above and create container pots to place by the entry doors, by your grill, by the pool and on the deck.
- Potpourri. Dry the herbs and place in little bowls all over outside where you hang out and randomly run your fingers through the dried herbs to release the scent when you walk by.
- In the dryer. Put a couple of drops of essential oils (any of the ones mentioned above) on an old cotton cloth and throw in the dryer with your clothes, it will give your clothes a natural insect repellent without putting anything on your skin
- Make an Herbal Insect Repellent *see below
Herbal Insect Repellent Recipes
There are two ways you can make this recipe and both are equally effective. I am giving your both recipes for two reasons; the first reason is recipe #1 includes fresh herbs (my personal choice) and there are those that do not like to use (or can’t use) essential oils. I believe it is best to use the entire herb/flower whenever possible. The second reason is I realize not everyone has a plethora of herbs growing in their garden and recipe #1 may not be feasible to all, so recipe #2 uses essential oils for those who have limited access to herbs.
You can use or include as many of the herbs and flowers mentioned above to create your own insect repellent and it will work just fine. This is a recipe that has worked for me (blood type O, excessive talking woman).
Herbal Insect Repellent Recipe Made with Varied Herbs
You will need:
- Empty, Clean Glass Jar w/Lid
- Rubbing Alcohol, Vodka or Witch Hazel (Buy Witch Hazel Online)
- Herbs: Mint, Eucalyptus, Lemon Balm and or Lemon Grass, Rosemary, Lavender, and Catnip
Coarsely chop herbs and place the herbs in your glass jar (fill as full as you can). Cover with alcohol or witch hazel, leaving ½-3/4” space at top. Seal with a secure lid. Set jar in sunny location and leave for two weeks (can leave longer if desired). Try to shake jar every once in a while. Strain herbs and transfer liquid to a spray bottle. Shake before use.
Herbal Insect Repellent Recipe Made with Essential Oils
You will need:
- Empty, Clean Spray Bottle (I used a 16oz spray bottle) (Buy a spray bottle online.)
- Rubbing Alcohol, Vodka or Witch Hazel (Buy Witch Hazel Online)
- Distilled Water
- Essential Oils:
Fill Spray bottle ¾ with alcohol or witch hazel, add your essential oil drops, and add distilled water to fill. Shake before use.
Note: For more information on safe use of essential oils, visit: National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy- Safety Information and IFPA Guidelines for Aromatherapists working with pregnant clients.
I hope these mosquito beating tips help you enjoy your time outside with minimal damage from bloodsucking insects.
Did I miss a tip that you swear by? Leave a comment and let me know! Pins and shares always much appreciated!
You may also find useful:
- Zika Virus – What You Need to Know
- Home Remedies for Bug Bites and Stings
- Use This Simple Tip to Keep Biting Flies Away from Your Head
- Goats for Sale: 6 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Goats
- 9 Tips Everyone Should Know for Keeping Your House Cool
- Small Garden, Big Yield – 10 Tips for a Great Harvest
This post is by Amber Bradshaw of The Coastal Homestead. Amber is a environmentalist, homesteader, garden and outdoor enthusiast. She is a wife and mother of three. Amber owns a contracting business with her husband. She was President of the local Herb Society for the last three years, a 4-H Leader, and runs a CSA. Amber strives to live a more sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle that fits a busy schedule and a tight budget. She and her family live on the east coast on a little over 1/4 acre and encourages others to do big things with small spaces.