Mosquitos are the deadliest critters on earth.
They carry yellow fever, malaria, sleeping sickness and at least 100 different viruses, including West Nile.
Boy skeeters are harmless vegetarians and feed solely on plant nectar. They don’t bite.
Girl skeeters, on the other hand, are Mother Nature’s mini vampires. They need blood meals to provide the vital protein that enables them to produce eggs.
No blood = no reproduction.
Common (and Dangerous) Repellants You’ve Been Using Since Fifth Grade Summer Camp
Although the chemical DEET (N, N diethyl-m-toluamide) has been proven an effective repellant, it’s very dangerous for human use.
DEET is considered responsible for a plethora of ugly side effects including rashes, muscle twitching, confusion, slurred speech, seizures and death. Most poison reactions to DEET probably go undetected even though nearly 5,000 DEET-related cases are reported each year to the National Centers for Poison Control.
Some commonly used U.S. brand names are:
- Backwoods Cutter
- Cutter Pleasant Protection
- Deep Woods OFF!
- Deep Woods OFF! For Sportsmen
- OFF! For Maximum Protection
- OFF! Skintastic
- OFF! Skintastic For Children
- OFF! Skintastic For Kids
- Ultra Muskol
How Do Mosquito Repellants Work?
Without getting too scientific, here’s a brief and simplified explanation of how DEET keeps mosquitos away.
1. Mosquitos posses receptors located on the antennae which allow them to zero in a blood source. They find this blood source by detecting CO2. photo source
2. All mammals give off CO2, including humans. Our skin excretes the gas, as does our breath.
3. A mosquito can detect this scent from 100 feet (30 meters) away. Quite simply, they smell you and identify you as a source of blood.
4. Commercial “repellants” don’t so much repel as confuse the mosquito. They give humans a new signature which let the sensors believe you are not a food source.
Natural Alternatives to DEET
Some plants oils contain natural chemicals which, when applied, evaporate and are carried into the air with your carbon dioxide thereby changing your signature. We are trying to confuse the bloody-thirsty mamas, remember, not kill them since they provide food for some other critter out there. The eco-system and all that.
Catnip to the Rescue
In 2004 I attended a NAHA aromatherapy conference in Virginia where I first heard about Catnip Oil from Dr. Rob Pappas, an essential oil chemist whom I deeply respect. He’s also gorgeous which makes his lectures extra fun. He did a lecture on Catnip oil and shared that researchers have found a chemical compound in Catnip called nepetalactone which is highly effective in masking the human signture. In fact, it’s 10 times more effective than DEET.
Catnip Plant (Nepeta cateria)
Rob shared stories of rubbing catnip oil on his arm then going into mosquito infested areas where the little beasts would light on his arm then immediately leave because they didn’t identify him worthy of a nibble. He even rubbed catnip oil on his young daughter and, again, they wouldn’t bite.
Unfortunately, there are downsides to Catnip oil:
* It smells terrible
* It’s expensive
* It’s hard to find
* Cats will respond to you as if you were a big catnip plant
Below is a list of easier to find, more affordable alternatives:
- Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates)
- Geranium ((Pelargonium graveolens)
- Citronella (Cymbopogen nardus)
- Lemon Eucalyptus(Eucalyptus citriodora)
- Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
- Virginia cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana)
Here’s a recipe you can make at home to help you survive skeeter season:
Liz’s Skeeter Beater Spray
Add the essential oils first, then the water. You can even toss in a bit of vodka as an emulsifier since the oils and water don’t mix.
Shake each time before spraying.
Spray on clothes and exposed areas of skin.
Reapply every 2 hours.
Note: If you make this blend without the Catnip hydrosol, it will still be effective, but there is nothing as powerful as N. cataria to keep you bite free.
And Finally, Change Your Skin Secretions
Laying off bananas, peanuts or chocolate before going into the woods may help. Seratonin is found in these foods and mosquitoes hone in on this, too. Citrus products and taking vitamin B1 (100 mg daily) tend to repel mosquitoes.
I’ve heard that taking daily doses of garlic capsules help in repelling mosquitoes, but I just want to keep away mosquitos, not my husband.