Natural Mosquito Repellents: What works best?

Reclaiming Your Backyard: Reviewing the Efficacy of 20 Popular Natural Mosquito Repellents

Natural Mosquito RepellentMosquitoes can be a big problem for travelers, outdoor enthusiasts, and even homeowners. Once they get settled, they breed very quickly. Killing insects that only live for a week or two may feel like rearranging chairs on a sinking ship. However, mosquitoes are not just an annoyance. Their bites can cause significant short-term discomfort, and spread diseases that could turn into chronic conditions.

Adequate protection from mosquitoes is an important part of life during the summer in many areas, and year-round for people living in regions that do not dip below freezing. People can cut down on their exposure by wearing protective clothing and hats, but this can only be so practical in the heat. Most people turn to insect repellents as a way to enjoy the outdoors without all the bugs. Fortunately – since mosquitoes have been around for millions of years – humans have had a lot of time to test different options and see how well they work out.

Some plants have a long history as effective mosquito repellents. Sometimes it can be difficult to verify how useful they are and separate the myths from science. Looking at research helps homeowners to decide which natural repellents might be best for them. Many of the most popular known repellents feature in studies, particularly concerning the use of the essential oils. The results typically vary based on the concentration, and whether or not they are used with other oils. People who are starting to learn about essential oil benefits may want to start with tested products to ensure they achieve a safe/effective concentration and application. If you’ve just bought a waterfront home and want to find new and interesting ways to keep your backyard mosquito-free, the following plants and oils may help.

Note: Although essential oils are often marketed as totally natural and may seem to be perfectly safe, they are not appropriate for everyone. Applying undiluted oils directly to the skin can cause irritation, allergic reactions, or other significant effects. Some may choose to apply small amounts to see how their skin reacts before attempting a full application. Parents should consult with a doctor knowledgeable about these oils before using them on infants or children.

 

First Things First: DEET Has Its Place

Diethyltoluamide (DEET) is a manmade solution that has been used widely as an insecticide and repellent since the 1940s. It remains one of the most effective options people can use to protect themselves against mosquito exposure. Since its origin, people have wondered about the long-term effects of DEET exposure. This has led them to pursue natural repellents with variable results. At times, DEET may be the best option on the table. This is particularly true in areas where serious diseases run rampant and are quickly spread by mosquitoes. It may also be the best choice for older infants, children, and those who cannot use particular kinds of essential oils.

The most common side effect of DEET is skin irritation, not unlike many essential oils in higher concentrations. With prolonged or heavy exposure, DEET is associated with headaches, nausea, or dizziness. People may want to discuss the matter with their doctors to get relevant information based on their personal risk. For people who only need to minimize the annoyance of mosquitoes outside their homes for an hour or two at a time, natural repellents may be a viable alternative to try.

Citronella

Citronella Candle for Mosquito Prevention

When people look for natural mosquito protection, citronella is one of the most common choices. Citronella is a combination of oils from different types of grasses. It can repel insects in a few ways. Most typically, its strong scent masks the location of certain foods pests might seek out. Unlike many components of insecticides, it does not kill mosquitoes.

As a popular part of insect prevention, citronella comes in a variety of products. These may include:

  • candles
  • sprays
  • pellets
  • lotions (often containing sunscreen)
  • products for pets

Some homeowners grow citronella grasses in the yard (typically more successful in warmer climates). People should keep in mind that proximity is key for citronella’s use. Burning a candle or placing pellets nearby might be effective in areas with low insect activity, but less so in regions with heavy insect involvement.

The length of time citronella lasts depends on its application. In some cases, people can buy a natural repellent spray with a concentration of oil of citronella that they can apply directly to the skin. Studies suggest that putting a small amount of citronella oil on human skin can be highly effective for about 1-2 hours. It is important to follow manufacturer guidance on application. Sprays may not be appropriate for infants, young children, or other vulnerable populations.

Sources:

Comparative mosquito repellency of essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.), Anopheles dirus (Peyton and Harrison) and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say)

Repellent activity of herbal essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.) and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say.)

Essential Oil Repellents- A short Review

Clove

Cloves come from a tree that is often grown in Indonesia. The flower buds give off a scent that repels certain types of mosquitoes. Although the living plant has benefits as a natural repellent, it cannot thrive outside in any area that drops below freezing. Homeowners in moderate areas may be able to sustain it in a pot that can be brought inside for colder weather. Otherwise, the dried buds, known as whole cloves, and an oil made from them are widely available.

Clove oil is very strongly scented. Most of the time, people suspend clove oil in olive oil or coconut oil before putting it on their skin. Efficacy depends greatly on the concentration. Research suggests that clove oil is most effective as a 100 percent essential oil applied directly to the skin. This practice may act as a repellant for up to four hours. It is still highly useful at a concentration of around 50 percent, with the other half being geranium or thyme oil. One study showed that this combination lasted as long as 2.5 hours. However, people should take care of using clove oil at this level. They may find that concentrations above 25 percent could irritate the skin.

Sources:

Comparative mosquito repellency of essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.), Anopheles dirus (Peyton and Harrison) and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say)

Repellent activity of herbal essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.) and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say.)

Repellency of Essential Oils to Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae)

Lemon Grass

Getting rid of Mosquitoes with Lemon Grass

Lemongrass is an herb that many homeowners like to grow in their gardens. It can only be grown as an annual in most regions of the United States. As a plant or oil, lemongrass may be a functional way to distract mosquitoes. Lemongrass and citronella oils are closely related, coming from the same family of grasses known as Cymbopogon.

Most research covering the efficacy of lemongrass relies on oil, not the whole plant. Specifically, people typically need to place the oil on their skin in some form to receive the benefit. One study noted that lemongrass in coconut oil was effective at preventing mosquito bites for up to two hours. There is evidence to suggest that combining lemongrass oil with other essential oils known for their repellent qualities may provide the best overall protection.

As with citronella, proximity, and quantity makes a significant difference. Many homeowners in the southeastern U.S. could grow lemongrass in their yards. When planted directly into the ground, it can reach a full height of 3-6 feet and offer a natural hedge against insects in the area. Generally, experts believe that the living plant is more appropriate for culinary use than mosquito prevention.

Sources:

Comparative mosquito repellency of essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.), Anopheles dirus (Peyton and Harrison) and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say)

Repellent activity of herbal essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.) and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say.)

Lavender

Lavender is an herb that has lots of possible uses, among them fragrant, culinary, and medical. Lavender may also be an effective insect repellent. Similar to other herbs, it can grow a few feet tall. When planted heavily and strategically, lavender can provide natural protection for homeowners’ yards and patios. The plant can be grown in almost any part of the U.S., but most varieties thrive best in a low humidity environment. This means that people who live in regions with high humidity may want to keep the lavender in a pot indoors or use lavender oil instead.

As a way to block mosquitoes specifically, people might consider a combination of oils in a spray or other direct application. Lavender oil is extracted from the pale purple flowers and is widely available at a variety of concentrations. The right concentration creates a notable difference in efficacy. Some research indicates that lavender oil with a low concentration (i.e. 5-10 percent) may not be effective against mosquitoes at all. At a 100 percent concentration level, however, it could repel certain types of mosquitoes for more than an hour.

People should remember that a widely-accepted and natural ingredient of many foods and health treatments may not always be safe. Lavender oil is generally regarded as safe diluted in another oil but can be a skin irritant at high concentrations. Consumption of lavender oil could be poisonous.

Sources:

Laboratory Evaluation of Mosquito Repellents Against Aedes albopictus, Culex nigripalpus, and Ochlerotatus triseriatus (Diptera: Culicidae)

Essential Oil Repellents- A short Review

Thyme

Fresh Thyme

Thyme is another herb popular in cuisine that has certain properties to repel insects. People often plant thyme in the garden as a way to prevent specific types of insects (e.g. cabbage worms) from infesting their vegetable gardens. The thyme emits a toxic aroma that deters pests. For humans, thyme oil at a higher concentration can be very effective at repelling various species of mosquitoes.

Thyme is most useful as an oil applied to the skin. Specifically, 100 percent essential thyme oil garners the greatest benefit. Protection at this concentration could last up to four hours, depending on the type of mosquito. Homeowners might want to research the most common varieties near their homes, as this difference varies from 105-225 minutes. Using oil at less than 50 percent may not be particularly effective unless it is part of a combination of other natural repellents. Burning thyme can also provide a degree of protection nearly equal to oil, but only lasts up to 90 minutes.

Fresh thyme can be somewhat difficult to grow, especially from seeds. Homeowners may prefer to buy a plant to put in their gardens. The small shrubs can reach a maximum height of one foot. The soil temperature needs to be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the thyme to thrive, making it a seasonal or temperate climate plant.

Sources:

Repellency of Essential Oils to Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae)

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Catnip

A member of the mint family, catnip has multiple uses for humans and pets. People may be familiar with catnip as a way to attract cats. Its strong scent can also work to repel mosquitoes and cockroaches. Some research indicates that catnip can be exceptionally effective at blocking mosquitoes. However, it is more useful as a spatial repellent than a contact repellent. Evidence suggests that catnip may outpace DEET with this approach. This means that catnip may be better for homeowners to grow and use as a proximity-based repellent in their yards.

Catnip oil is widely available for people to buy. However, researchers struggle to find ways to make the oil useful as a contact repellent. The natural chemical, nepetalactone, is very good at repelling mosquitoes. In a controlled environment, the plant may minimize mosquito bites for up to eight hours. Once converted into an oil applied directly to the skin, efficacy only lasts 1-2 hours. One study noted that catnip oil could be a practical topical repellent, but only in a specific combination with other oils.

As a highly-invasive species, catnip is relatively easy to grow but can be difficult to maintain. Planting in pots may help homeowners control its growth. Catnip naturally attracts cats, so people should factor this into the placement of the plant.

Sources:

Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes

Comparison of Contact and Spatial Repellency of Catnip Oil and N,N-Diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (Deet) Against Mosquitoes

Lemon Eucalyptus

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil Mosquito Repellent

Lemon eucalyptus has a reputation for repelling mosquitoes, but in a way people might not expect. The plant itself, though technically an herb, can grow up to 60 feet tall. This growth is ideal in its native Australia. The fresh scent makes the leaf and the oil a mainstay in many cosmetic and cleaning products. Homeowners can grow it outside if they live in the southern half of the United States, or otherwise keep it as an annual. The plant can serve as an effective spatial repellent, but the byproduct of the essential oil distillation is much more useful.

People may be aware that lemon eucalyptus oil is not known as a particularly ideal preventive for mosquito bites. This is because the oil only lasts for about an hour. However, researchers discovered that the leftovers from the oil’s manufacturing were far more effective. In fact, at a 50 percent concentration, PMD (the acronym for the byproduct) can provide 100 percent protection for 6-7 hours for one type of mosquito. For other species, a topical application could last 11 hours.

Keeping the plant in the yard gives up to 75 percent protection, particularly from occasional burning of the leaves. Homeowners who want to use PMD will likely notice a greater effect. They should confirm that they are applying the byproduct and not the oil itself, which has a much lower efficacy.

Sources:

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Peppermint

Like catnip, peppermint oil seems to be more effective as a spatial repellent than a topical one. As a moderately invasive species, peppermint can thrive almost anywhere. Homeowners should take care in placing it as it can take over other plants and herbs in the same area. Some people prefer to plant it using a wood mulch to minimize its growth or put it into a pot. When planted in full sun, the living peppermint retains most of its repellent qualities.

Although peppermint oil is widely available, it is not particularly useful on its own to block mosquito bites. Part of the problem is that peppermint as a contact repellent appears to be most effective at 100 percent concentration, but most people cannot tolerate it at that strength. When applied directly to the skin at this level, the oil can cause skin irritation. In addition, peppermint only prevents mosquito contact for about 45 minutes.

Peppermint oil does pose some interesting ideas for people who want to inhibit the spread of mosquitoes where they live. Mosquitoes naturally thrive near areas with standing water. This is the spot larvae grow into adult insects. Placing a small amount of peppermint essential oil into this standing water may prevent the larvae from hatching, and stop many adult mosquitoes from breeding in the area.

Sources:

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Larvicidal and mosquito repellent action of peppermint (Mentha piperita) oil

Essential Oil Repellents- A short Review

Neem

Healthy Neem Tree

Oil from the neem tree can be particularly viable as a mosquito repellent and insecticide, but it may not be as available for planting. Neem grows naturally in India and reaches an average height of about 45-60 feet. The oil comes from the seeds and is quite bitter with a heavy scent of garlic.

Studies performed in India indicate that a low concentration of neem oil burned in a kerosene lamp can repel many types of insects. As an oil applied to the skin, it may be less effective but could last as long as four hours. Neem remains a questionable choice due to the lack of concrete evidence. People have been using neem for centuries as a natural repellent, but it has been more difficult for researchers to establish precisely how effective it is. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency allows 100 percent cold-pressed neem oil for food uses, due to its generally low toxicity. However, application to the skin in undiluted form may cause contact dermatitis.

If homeowners can locate the seeds, they may be able to grow neem trees inside or outside. Neem oil is also available for purchase. Neem trees prefer a warmer climate that does not drop below freezing for extended periods of time. It grows best in regions with moderate humidity and regular watering and can be grown indoors.

Sources:

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Essential Oil Repellents- A short Review

Basil

Basil is an American staple herb, with a variety of subspecies that look, smell, taste, and function differently from one another. The essential oil of several different kinds of basil can provide adequate or even ideal protection as a spatial or contact repellent to mosquitoes and other pests. Both the plant and the oil are reasonably accessible.

Using basil oil offers the best protection against mosquitoes. Some studies suggest that 100 percent basil oil used with vanillin can provide several hours of mosquito repellent. In other studies, a lower concentration of oil seems to block mosquitoes for 1.5-2.5 hours. People might want to consider purchasing a natural repellent product to minimize health effects from the undiluted oil. Basil oil may contain natural carcinogens that could be harmful in excess quantities.

Basil is relatively easy to grow almost anywhere in the U.S. Although it prefers a warmer climate to thrive outdoors, homeowners often can grow it indoors with a great deal of success. The fully-grown herb can reach about 24” in height, depending on the type. It needs plenty of sun and well-drained soil. In certain areas, it may regrow from one year to the next. Otherwise, people can grow it readily from seeds or cuttings.

Sources:

Comparative mosquito repellency of essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Linn.), Anopheles dirus (Peyton and Harrison) and Culex quinquefasciatus (Say)

Repellent Activities of the Essential Oils of Four Sudanese Accessions of Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) Against Anopheles Mosquito

Litsea

Evidence to establish the repellent ability of litsea is somewhat scant. As part of a combination of other oils, it may be helpful as a spatial or topical repellent. Drawn from the leaves and flowers of the litsea plant, litsea oil is widely available by itself or with other essential oils.

Research showing litsea’s effectiveness often relies on several oils, which may make it harder to discern its individual efficacy. One study noted that oil of litsea used with other oils provided 100 percent protection for up to eight hours, but was difficult to apply to the skin. Another claimed that low or moderate concentrations of litsea oil could serve as a very effective repellent placed near people.

Litsea oil comes from a shrub that can grow to be about 23’ tall. This shrub is found almost exclusively in East Asia. There is evidence to suggest that homeowners in mild climates with a sandy or loamy soil that is properly watered and drains could possibly grow litsea in their yards. It is not particular to the amount of sun required and could thrive in both full sun or part shade.

Sources:

Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes

Excito-repellency properties of essential oils from Melaleuca leucadendron L., Litsea cubeba (Lour.) Persoon, and Litsea salicifolia (Nees) on Aedes aegypti (L.) mosquitoes

Geranium

Geranium Flowers in Home Garden

Geraniums are a lovely flowering plant that many homeowners like to keep in their yards. Geranium oil has noted abilities to repel several different kinds of mosquitoes. In most cases, it is the oil that can block mosquito bites, not the plant itself. However, there are many types of geraniums. Certain kinds, such as the lemon-scented geranium, give off a citronella scent that might serve as a minimal spatial repellent.

One problem that a lot of essential oils have for repellency is how quickly they evaporate off the skin. At high concentrations, geranium oil has some staying power. One study reflected two-hour protection for geranium oil at 75 percent concentration. When combined with clove oil, other research indicates that geranium oil at 50 percent concentration could act as a repellent for 1.25-2.5 hours. Geranium oil can irritate the skin in higher quantities, but possibly less so than other oils like clove or peppermint.

Although geraniums function largely as an annual in many growing zones of the U.S., people could bring them indoors in the fall and replant outside in the spring. This is likely to serve more of a design function than as part of a broader plan to prevent insects from invading the space.

Sources:

Laboratory Evaluation of Mosquito Repellents Against Aedes albopictus, Culex nigripalpus, and Ochlerotatus triseriatus (Diptera: Culicidae)

Repellency of Essential Oils to Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae)

Cajeput

Anyone who is familiar with the strong scent of tea tree oil can appreciate the benefits of a close relative, the cajeput tree. Cajeput trees are natives to Australia and come from the Meleleuca genus. The essential oil is made from the twigs and leaves of the tree and is known to have numerous health properties. Cajeput oil is similar to niaouli oil because they come from the same genus, but they are not the same. People looking to buy these oils should confirm that they understand the difference between tea tree, cajeput, and niaouli oils.

Many mosquitoes are simply a nuisance, but others carry diseases that could harm or even kill humans. One study considered different oil combinations’ ability to repel mosquitoes carrying yellow fever, malaria, and encephalitis. Cajeput oil was one of the most effective and could last about eight hours if properly placed on the skin.

Although the oil may be useful for preventing mosquitoes from establishing a home in the yard or biting humans, evidence of the tree’s use as a spatial repellent is limited. Those who live in dry, desert conditions could possibly grow the cajeput tree. It features a spongy bark that comes off in sheets and may be considered an invasive species in parts of the U.S. Cajeput reaches an adult height of 20’-40’ and will grow quickly in almost any kind of soil.

Sources:

Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes

Niaouli (Paper Bark Tea Tree)

Many people who were irritated when using tea tree oil to treat a sore or insect bite might want to try its gentler cousin, niaouli. Niaouli oil comes from the paperbark tea tree, from the Meleleuca genus that also includes tea trees and cajeput trees. This oil is fairly easily accessible and has some promising effects in the prevention of mosquito bites.

Since oils from Meleleuca trees are so closely related, studies often look at them together for efficacy. One study showed that niaouli oil ranked one of the highest in long-term mosquito repellent. Another compared a variety of related oils at a lower concentration, around 5-10 percent. When first applied or used as a spatial repellent, the oils were almost 100 percent effective. However, the benefits wore off rapidly after the first hour, as the oils evaporated. This may indicate that the method of topical application makes a significant difference in its overall usefulness. Since Meleleuca is a common allergen, people may want to test their reaction to it before planting it or using the oil regularly.

Originally found in Australia, the paperbark tea tree also grows very well in Florida. There, it is considered an invasive species. The paperbark tea tree can thrive in many parts of the southern U.S. It grows best in moist regions where homeowners can achieve a good balance of watering. Planted in full sun, it can grow over 40 feet.

Sources:

Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes

Development of Melaleuca oils as effective natural‐based personal insect repellents

Violet

Using Violets as Mosquito Repellent

Essential oil derived from the violet flowering plant may be a useful mosquito repellent, but the plant itself might not. Some evidence suggests that the plant acts as a ground cover providing necessary protection for mosquitoes to thrive. As such, homeowners may want to take care when planting violets outside in large quantities.

Violet oil is easy to locate and buy in the U.S., but its repellent qualities have not been studied very heavily. A 2006 study showed that violet oil was one of the most effective essential oils used as a contact repellent, providing 100 percent efficacy for about eight hours. The oil may offer adequate protection, particularly when used in conjunction with other oils. This use may require a higher concentration, which could irritate the skin. Homeowners may want to seek out a skilled aromatherapist or ask their doctor about violet oil.

There are dozens of varieties of violets, and some may be more attractive to mosquitoes than others. Homeowners often like to grow violets indoors, largely because they need warm soil in which to thrive. Violets prefer lower or indirect lighting, making them ideal for an indoor or shady area.

Sources:

Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes

Patchouli

When people think of patchouli, they may already have a memory of its unique scent. For centuries, cultures have used patchouli as incense, perfume, and an effective insect repellent. The strong, earthy smell is unlike any other and goes a long way. Using patchouli oil may be the most practical application, but the plant is also known to discourage mosquitoes from lingering.

Undiluted, patchouli oil alone may provide up to two hours of mosquito protection when applied to the skin. When compared to lower concentrations such as 10 percent or 50 percent, the 100 percent concentration lasted much longer. One study yielded a result longer than five hours for patchouli mixed with turmeric and Zanthoxylum limonella oils. However, patchouli even in very small quantities can be overwhelming. People should take care when putting it on, as the scent will carry some distance.

Fortunately, patchouli as a flowering herb can also function partly as a spatial insect repellent. Native to East Asia, it can grow to 2-3 feet with fuzzy leaves and violet-colored flowers. A member of the mint family, it needs plenty of space to spread out. It can thrive in a pot or anywhere in the garden that receives partial sun exposure.

Sources:

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites.

Synergistic mosquito-repellent activity of Curcuma longa, Pogostemon heyneanus and Zanthoxylum limonella essential oils.

Palmarosa

The technical classification of palmarosa is Cymbopogon martinii, making it a close relative of lemongrass and citronella. As such, it may not be surprising that palmarosa is useful as a mosquito repellent like its cousins. Its sweet, rosy scent makes it an ideal perfume or spray. The oil from the plant offers the best protection against mosquitoes.

Research is beginning to show that palmarosa can be effective against mosquitoes for hours longer than most oils or oil blends. One study resulted in 100 percent protection for up to 12 hours, far exceeding many other options. The efficacy seems to rely on a 100 percent concentration. This situates the lemon grasses as the most complete and longest-running protection that homeowners can use as an oil or spray. Some research indicates that palmarosa may be safer for human use at a higher concentration than other grass oils, and most essential oils in general.

Growing palmarosa at home may not be much more difficult than growing other types of lemongrass. It needs a mild, humid climate, but can thrive in a variety of soil types. Homeowners might like to grow palmarosa along with other grasses to act as a privacy screen or protection against insect infestation.

Sources:

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Zanthoxylum Limonella (Makaen)

Makaen Trees for Mosquito Repelling Oil

Zanthoxylum limonella, more commonly known as makaen, is a tree that grows in various parts of Southeast Asia. Trees from this genus have many uses, among them spices and oils. Essential oil from the makaen tree could provide useful protection against certain kinds of mosquitoes for moderate periods of time.

Studies show that Zanthoxylum limonella oil can block mosquitoes for a variable amount of time, depending on its concentration and combination with other oils. For example, one study indicated that the undiluted oil provided 100 percent protection for almost three hours. Another study established complete protection at 20 percent concentration for about an hour and a half. When combined with turmeric and patchouli oils, it lasted more than five hours.

It is difficult to prove the effectiveness of the makaen tree’s efficacy as an insect repellent. However, it is a pleasing shrub that is relatively simple to grow inside or outside in a mild climate. Many people keep it indoors as a small shrub. The essential oil comes from the seeds. The berries can be dried and crushed to create the popular Sichuan pepper spice.

Sources:

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites.

Synergistic mosquito-repellent activity of Curcuma longa, Pogostemon heyneanus and Zanthoxylum limonella essential oils.

Vanillin

It makes sense that vanillin is a major component of vanilla extract. It is only one component and can be somewhat difficult to derive from the vanilla bean. When used as a conveyance for essential oils known to function as a mosquito repellent, vanillin can make the effects last hours longer.

The major problem with a lot of essential oils that repel insects is that they do not tend to last very long. Once applied to the skin, they evaporate relatively quickly, leaving the wearer unprotected. In addition, undiluted essential oils pose a host of potential health risks, especially for people who are not very skilled or knowledgeable about safe applications. Vanillin can provide a viable solution. The size of the vanillin molecules requires longer to break down, allowing the solution to release the potent oils over a longer period of time. Depending on the oil used, vanillin can increase an oil’s efficacy from less than two hours to more than eight hours.

The availability and price of products containing vanillin tend to wax and wane based on demand for the vanilla bean. Vanilla beans are difficult to harvest and take years to cultivate. Recent shortages have driven vanilla prices up, affecting vanillin as well. As such, homeowners may not have a difficult time locating natural mosquito repellents using vanillin as a carrier, but they may have to pay more for it.

Sources:

Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing

Coffee Grounds

Coffee Grounds for Preventing Mosquitoes

Coffee can act a little like a sneak attack for mosquitoes. The brownish water looks somewhat like a leaf infusion, which can attract female mosquitoes looking to lay eggs. However, in strong quantities, coffee extract in water could actually repel mosquitoes or make the larvae less likely to develop. Burning coffee grounds could also work as a simple spatial insect repellent.

One study looked at coffee’s effects on mosquitoes that often carry dengue fever. Water sources that contained higher concentrations of coffee were less attractive to the female mosquitoes, and they were less likely to lay eggs there. Since coffee generates a significant amount of waste, this might pose possible solutions for people living in regions where mosquito breeding could spread serious or fatal diseases.

Homeowners looking for a way to discourage mosquitoes or other insects from building homes in the yard might consider placing coffee grounds around the garden. Coffee grounds are a natural byproduct of the coffee-making process, so they are usually easy to obtain for those who drink it. Using the grounds as a topping for the garden is safe for many plants. It creates a strong scent that discourages mosquitoes, ants, and slugs. Burning the coffee grounds should be done with care, but may also be effective. The smoke acts as its own repellent to mosquitoes, flies, and wasps. Burning increases the strength and the duration of the scent, which may keep insects at bay while people are enjoying time outside.

Sources:

Coffee and its waste repel gravid Aedes albopictus females and inhibit the development of their embryos

Other Helpful Tips for Reducing Mosquito Populations Around the Home

Dealing with mosquitoes is a common problem for many homeowners, especially during the warmer months of the year. It may be less of an issue for some condo owners, but – even then – this knowledge can come in handy at some point in the future. Many mosquitoes are little more than a nuisance, but it is difficult to tell the difference between a mosquito carrying nothing and one carrying Zika or malaria. A few extra precautions can make a big improvement.

Homeowners should know that mosquitoes breed in standing water. Standing water means water that is not moving or filtered in some way. This means that people should try to avoid leaving standing water on their properties, especially in the summer. Standing water might include:

  • ponds without an effective filtration system
  • puddles after a rainstorm
  • wading pools and children’s water toys
  • open rain barrels
  • buckets used for watering or washing

Residents may not be able to eliminate these sources entirely, but they can minimize them. People can tightly seal water containers that they need to use on a regular basis.

Once the mosquitoes have established themselves in an area, homeowners might have to work a little harder to get rid of them. Most insect repellents operate by discouraging mosquitoes from coming near. Few natural options also function as an insecticide. Cinnamon oil may hold some promise to kill mosquito larvae before they hatch, but can be toxic at a high concentration. Products marketed as insecticides often contain artificial ingredients and poisons that could be harmful to humans as well as insects. People should take care when handling and applying them, especially around surfaces they use regularly.

Keeping mosquitoes outside mostly calls for attention to the home’s openings. Making sure there are no air gaps around doors and windows makes it harder for insects to sneak inside. Closing doors and windows allow the home’s cooling system to work more effectively. When windows and doors must be kept open for a time, homeowners can reduce their exposure by confirming that screens are in good condition.

As people explore the vast quantities of research out there about natural insect repellents, they may discover many more options not included on this list. Some claims may be harder to substantiate, even if certain cultures have been using them to prevent mosquitoes for thousands of years. As such, homeowners should take care to do their own research before assuming that any suggestions are either safe or particularly useful. Some of the most popular options to use as natural repellents, such as clove oil, require a concentration high enough that they could cause problems if applied incorrectly.

Products on the market can make it seem easy to use undiluted essential oils for a variety of purposes. However, people need to be wary of the way they use oils. Some options that are safe for humans may repel pets as well as insects. Others are only appropriate for uses that do not require direct contact with human skin. By gaining necessary information about the various oils’ efficacy and benefits, homeowners can find multiple possible routes they can take to cut down on mosquito bites and keep the pests off their properties.

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