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It was the perfect morning for a hike. After a string of hot days, the weather had cooled considerably. Humidity was low, and there was not a cloud in the cool morning sky.
My kids and I were ready for the adventure of a new hiking trail. We had snacks, plenty of water and other supplies in our daypacks, and we hit the trail with enthusiasm. Before long, however, my daughter and I were swatting our necks and arms. Soon, we realized we were being badly bitten.
Mosquitoes! They can ruin a hike, a camping trip, a picnic or even a lazy afternoon in your backyard. Scientists estimate that about one out of every five people is especially susceptible to mosquito bites – which explains why my son was relatively unscathed that day. Your blood type, metabolism, diet, general scent and even the color of your clothing play a role in why mosquitoes bite certain people more than others.
Not only are mosquito bites painful and itchy, but mosquitoes can carry dangerous diseases such as the West Nile Virus and malaria. If, like me, you prefer to avoid toxic commercial insect repellents, there are some alternative measures for repelling mosquitoes.
Here are eight all-natural ways to keep mosquitoes from ruining your summer outdoor fun.
1. Garlic. Mosquitoes dislike the smell of garlic. You can repel mosquitoes by eating garlic before you spend time outdoors, since the garlic oil is slowly released through the pores of your skin.
You also can keep mosquitoes away by rubbing garlic juice on your skin. Simply pinch a fresh clove or two in order to get the juice flowing and apply it to your exposed skin. Another option is to consume garlic capsules.
2. Herbs. You can keep mosquitoes at bay with certain herbs, including lemongrass, mint, rosemary, lavender and basil. Simply rub the leaves onto your exposed skin before going outdoors.
To keep mosquitoes away from your home and garden, try planting these herbs in your garden, especially near your doors and windows. Planning a barbecue? Throw a few springs of rosemary on your charcoal grill to repel the biting insects.
3. Vitamin B1. Studies dating back 50 years indicate that taking vitamin B1 (thiamine) can deter mosquitoes and other flying insects from biting. Scientists theorize that vitamin B1 produces a skin odor that female mosquitoes, which are more likely to bite than male mosquitoes, find offensive.
Vitamin B1 is water-soluble. Try taking one 100 mg tablet each day (with a meal) during mosquito season.
4. Natural oils. Certain natural oils work well as natural mosquito repellants. You can create your own natural repellent by mixing a few drops of oil with a carrier liquid such as olive oil or sunflower oil. A 10 to 1 ratio often is a good formula. (Please note that researchers caution against using natural oils on children younger than three years old.)
Here are some natural oils that repel mosquitoes.
- Eucalyptus oil
- Lavender oil
- Tea Tree oil
- Lemon oil
5. Homemade citronella candles.
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Citronella is a time-honored insect repellent. Here is a recipe for making homemade citronella candles.
What you need:
- One-half pound raw, settled beeswax
- Citronella and one or more of these essential oils: rosemary, geranium, lavender
- Pan of boiling water and metal bowl (to use as double boiler)
- Tea light wicks (available from crafts store)
- 10 candle holders
- Wooden chopsticks or similar small sticks for stirring
Use the knife to break the beeswax into small pieces. Place the pieces in the metal bowl over the pan of hot water and stir continuously while it melts. Use the thermometer to test the water temperature. When it reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit, start adding several drops of the essential oils, stirring well after each addition.
Pour the mixture into the candleholders. (If you are using glass, reduce the chance of breakage by pouring in a small amount of wax and letting it cool a little before adding more.) Once the mixture has cooled and a slight skin has formed on the top of the wax, add the wicks.
If the wicks are not already primed, pre-dip them in the wax for longer burning time. Next, place the primed wicks into the wax. The candles will be ready to use when the wax has completely hardened.
6. Apple cider vinegar. Insects, including mosquitoes, will avoid the strong smell of apple cider vinegar. You can make a natural mosquito repellent with organic apple cider vinegar and the essential oil of your choice. Add 25 drops of essential oil (such as lavender) to one-quarter cup of apple cider vinegar in a glass jar with a lid. Shake well to blend. Apply to skin.
7. Bats. Did you know that one small brown bat can eat more than 1,000 mosquitoes in one night? Attracting bats to your yard can therefore be an efficient and easy method of mosquito control.
Get tips on building a bat house here.
Finally, pay attention to the time when you are outdoors. Mosquitoes are most active early in the morning and at dusk. If you venture outside at these times, cover up with lightweight long sleeves and with long pants. Wear light colors, as dark colors tend to attract the annoying insects.
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