Nothing ruins outdoor fun like itchy bites from these pesky little whiners, but conventional bug sprays are toxic to the environment and contain neurotoxic ingredients. Instead, try these safe, effective tips: Find out what bananas, rosemary, and bats have to do with mosquito control, learn how to prevent the eggs from hatching, make simple, fragrant repellents, and effectively relieve the itch from those nasty bites.
When West Nile virus started getting news media attention, individuals and communities ramped up their use of conventional insecticides and repellents, but these contain DEET and the organophosphate pesticide malathion, both suspected neuroxicants.
Try these methods of dealing with mosquitoes instead:
1. An Ounce of Prevention
If you think mosquitoes are strictly swamp-dwellers, think again: most likely, the bug that bit you was born and bred in your own back yard.
According to expert William Olkkowski of the Bio Integral Resource Center, flower pots, old tires, roof gutters, jars, pet dishes, bird houses, small wading pools, plastic weed coverings in gardens–any place with still, standing water–can foster mosquito hatchings. Remove the standing water from any and all such places.
2. Nontoxic Mosquito Dunks
An over-the-counter product called “Mosquito Dunks” is recommended as a least-toxic material for outdoor mosquito control by Erik Kiviat, Science Director of Hudsonia, an ecological research and consulting institute at Bard College, who has worked with health departments concerned with West Nile-like virus in New York state.
The dunks are safe for birdbaths, rain barrels, ponds, ditches, tree holes, roof gutters, unused swimming pools–anywhere water collects. Available in hardware stores, Agway, and catalogs such as Real Goods, the dunks contain Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), a bacterial mosquito larvicide. Bti is effective in waters that do not have high organic matter levels, and its effects are limited to mosquitoes, blackflies, and some other related species of flies with aquatic larvae.
Note: Bti may be allergenic to some people; avoid inhaling the dust and wear gloves to handle it. Frequent repeated use in wetlands or streams is not recommended.
3. Make Your Own Safe, Effective Repellent
Mosquito Repellent Oil
10 drops of one of these essential oils, or a mixture:
basil, eucalyptus, cloves, geranium, peppermint, rosemary, lemon balm (citronella), onions, garlic, and feverfew.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Combine the ingredients in a glass jar; stir to blend. Dab a few drops on your skin or clothing. If you don‘t want to smell like dinner, avoid the onions and garlic, and eat plenty of them instead.
Note: Pregnant women should consult with their doctor before using essential oils.
Add a cup of boiling water to a half-cup or so chopped fresh rosemary and allow to steep for about an hour. You can keep this formula in a spritz bottle in the fridge and apply as needed.
Place a bunch of fresh parsley, crushed, in a small jar of apple cider vinegar. Refrigerate for a few hours. Apply the infused vinegar to exposed skin or dip a kerchief in the mixture and wear as a hatband or around your neck.
4. Try these easy tips:
a. Grilling? Toss a bit of rosemary or sage on the coals. The pests detest the smell, but humans find it delightful.
b. Up your intake of vitamin B-1. Fisherman and other outdoorsy folks swear by it: one B-1 tablet a day during mosquito season will prevent mosquito bites.
c. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark-colored clothing; go light.
d. Lactic acid produced after eating high-potassium foods (like bananas, for instance) will attract mosquitoes. Hold off on that banana split until you plan to be indoors.
e. Fruity or floral fragrances are mosquito-attractants. Artificial fragrances contain chemical ingredients that are harmful to many, so this just gives us one more good reason to avoid them.
f. Tansy, rosemary, and basil plants repel mosquitoes. Keep pots of these herbs nearby.
g. Make friends with bats. One bat can eat thousand upon thousands of mosquitoes every night. Buy or build a bat house and encourage them to move in.
5. Buy Greener Mosquito Repellents
Health food stores now carry a wide variety of herbal bug repellents. Look for these effective herbal ingredients that repel mosquitoes: basil, eucalyptus, cloves, geranium, peppermint, rosemary, lemon balm (citronella), onions, garlic, and feverfew.
Victor Poison-Free non-poisonous mosquito spray and Victor Poison-Free Mosquito Barrier which contains garlic, water, potassium and sorbate, can be ordered online at Victor Pest.
6. Itch Relief
Apply a drop of osha root tincture to mosquito bites and the itch will magically disappear.
If you can’t find the tincture, try making a paste of water and baking soda and dab that on the bite instead.
Try rubbing a clove of raw garlic on the bite, or a little aloe vera gel.