What works for repelling mosquitos?
April 16, 2005 12:08 AM   Subscribe

What works for repelling mosquitos, indoors and outdoors? I'm going to spend this summer in Vermont, where the mosquitos aren't full of deadly diseases, but extremely annoying and numerous nonetheless. What options have people tried with some degree of success?

I'm aware of DEET, and used it to decent effect last summer. However, I'm a little uncomfortable spraying it all over myself when I go to sleep at night. I imagine DEET isn't particularly good for you, particularly sleeping in it (Granted, I can't recall why I have this belief, but I have a feeling I read it somewhere). Also, for hiking trips in the area, even tons of DEET wasn't effective. There were simply *so* many mosquitos, that the only pseudo-effective tactic was running erratically and brushing every body part with ones hands as quickly as possible (looking awfully silly in the process)

Any of those sound-producing devices work? Something like the wing-beating of a female dragonfly or something?
posted by sirion to Science & Nature (19 answers total)
Any of those sound-producing devices work?

Why are you worried about when you sleep? A barrier, such as house or tent screens works better than chemicals. As for repellants that are not DEET, Avon's Skin So Soft seems to provide mild repellency as do citronella candles. Neither seems to work, at least for me, when the bugs are bad. There is also some new clothing that mosquitos can not penetrate thus avoiding the need to put DEET on the areas covered by it. Since DEET melts certain polymers, including waterproofing on tents and clothing and eyeglass coatings, it can not be good. However, it works really well.
posted by caddis at 12:42 AM on April 16, 2005

Never tried creams or sprays. Always used mosquito coils, both outdoors and indoors (with windows open). They work, if you're staying in the same area you've placed them in.
But the best method as far as I know is with electrical repellents, with fluorescent or ultra-violet light tubes, like this (see them a lot in the open areas of restaurants or bars in the summer). They attract and kill all the little buggers, including flies and moths.
posted by funambulist at 4:04 AM on April 16, 2005

mosquitos are attracted to CO2. One trick I've heard is to buy a block of dry ice, put it in a bucket and put it far enough away that moquitos won't go to you and close enough that the mosquitos that might go to you would prefer the CO2.
posted by plinth at 5:08 AM on April 16, 2005

I agree, the sound devices don't work. And I have the bites to prove it.

One small tip: mosquitos are most active at dawn and dusk. So stay inside during those times. Also, if there is standing water close by, dump it if possible. Of course, in Vermont that won't make much difference but it's a small thing you can do.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 5:23 AM on April 16, 2005

Unless you're near a festering body of water, the mosquitos here aren't any worse than any other rural area. I also concur that the main way to keep them off you while you sleep is to go indoors, either your house or a tent. If you can't, sleep in one of those little bug canopies. They really work. If you're in a house, get a big fan and position it so that it blows air over you, mosquitos can't get through it.

I have used a combination of DEET bug spray with some citronella oil mixed with water which is also a pretty good bug repellent although you have to reapply it often if you're sweating a lot or swimming. You can also put it in a spray bottle and spray it on tents, clothes, etc. The more major hassle out here is black flies but if you're here mostly in the summer, you'll miss a lot of them.
posted by jessamyn at 5:48 AM on April 16, 2005

Some people who don't like slathering themselves in nasty chemicals find Tea Tree Oil effective. I've only used it for limited trips - seemed to work for me, but coulda just been light on the skeeters that weekend, kinda thing. Also, I like the smell, but ymmv on that, too.
posted by mdn at 6:35 AM on April 16, 2005

A nice ceiling fan keeps them off while you sleep, and if you can rig one up on your porch over the swing, well you're in heaven.
posted by jmgorman at 6:36 AM on April 16, 2005

DEET works hands down. You shouldn't need anything more than 27% unless you're doing some serious deepwoods action. I wouldn't go drinking it but if you apply it lightly it will work and lasts for a while. You can safely apply it to your face but avoid the lips and inside of your hands.

Cintronella is a crock of shit. I tried it on a field exercise with the military and it was the biggest regret I had for a while. If it does work it doesn't last longer than a few minutes and that lemon smell isn't as "pleasant" as they try to pass it of as being.
posted by furtive at 7:15 AM on April 16, 2005

DEET works. At night, you use mosquito netting.

Note: 100% DEET does not mix with nylon, or many other manmade fibers. I don't use it at all -- the ~20% forumlations are much easier and safer to work with.

The other way to beat the skeet is cover. Wear long clothing and a mosquito hood. Of course, if it's hot and humid, this will suck for other reasons.

Finally, hope for a couple of really hot days in a row. The reason the south doesn't get mosquitos is it gets too hot, and kills them off. Of course, they get chiggers, so one wonders.

I live in Missouri. We have both. Go Us!
posted by eriko at 7:56 AM on April 16, 2005

I just got back from a trip to the Amazon, and learned to my dismay that long clothing is only really helpful if it's light colored. The mosquitos swarmed around me in my dark blue and gray clothing, and bit me whenever they could get through the layers or find exposed skin. However, my roommate's long white clothing seemed to attract orders of magnitude fewer mosquitos.

I accidentally proved DEET's effectiveness when I failed to apply it to one area and got dozens of bites there and very few elsewhere. It doesn't get rid of the cloud of mosquitos, but it does discourage them from biting. But I have no information about the health effects of using a lot of it.
posted by aneel at 8:24 AM on April 16, 2005

Consumer Reports and other reputable agencies have tested the (relatively new) devices that produce CO2 to attract mosquitos and then vacuums them in. They aren't cheap (here's one for around $500, for example) , but they are effective. The larger the unit (the more area that is protected), the more expensive, of course.

The older (different technology) attract-most-insects-and-fry-them machines, by contrast, kill indiscriminately (including good insects) and aren't particularly effective for mosquitos.
posted by WestCoaster at 8:27 AM on April 16, 2005

Response by poster: caddis: I worry about mosquitos when I sleep because that "....bzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZ----- (imagined sucking noises)" sound they make can easily keep me up an entire night.

The fan idea is fantastic. How strong a flow is required if a cieling fan can do the job? With the coils, what are they made of, and is that also something one probably shouldn't be inhaling every day for 7 weeks?

Great answers, everyone
posted by sirion at 10:45 AM on April 16, 2005

Diet and DEET. Diet because there are some foods that seem to attract mosquitoes, DEET because it's the only thing that actually does work. And, yes, it's dangerous when over-used.

My solution to that is two-fold:
1. I put DEET on cotton fabric, not my skin.
2. I got bit so bloody much during one DEETless excursion that I no longer have an immune reaction to mosquito bites. I assume I still get bit, but I don't itch.

If I am where the mosquitos are as thick as water, I wear netting. Check www.mec.ca and you'll find that there are whole-body-suits of the stuff.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 AM on April 16, 2005

The good coils are made with pythrium (sp?), which in turn is made from African Daisies, IIRC.

It isn't healthy for you.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:50 AM on April 16, 2005

I work outside all day long with lots of bugs around. I never use bug repellent because I hate slathering the stuff on every 3 or 4 hours. I wear long sleeves, pants, sunglasses and a hat and I keep moving. If you pick the right clothes (i.e. that breathe well) this could work very well for hiking. While camping in buggy areas I make a smokey fire which keeps the bugs out. Other than that I've heard about a substance called Neem that's supposed to work as well as Deet. It's plant based and way less toxic.

I've read that bug zappers and CO2 traps only attract more bugs to the area and aren't very effective.
posted by recurve at 10:57 AM on April 16, 2005

Another choice is getting clothing that has insect repellent built into the material. Ex Officio makes a line of clothes with permethrin bonded to the material.

It's a bit more pricey than the normal Ex Officio stuff (about $10-$15 more) but if you're not into covering your entire body in strange chemicals, it works quite nicely.
posted by ordu at 11:44 AM on April 16, 2005

I've read that bug zappers and CO2 traps only attract more bugs to the area and aren't very effective.

Of course, it's possible that there's an external reason that I don't know about, but a CO2 trap appears to have drastically reduced the number of mosquitos in my folks' backyard in Maine. I would have no qualms recommending one for anyone who has a mosquito problem.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:56 PM on April 16, 2005

DEET won't help with the buzzing of bugs that you hear at night, at least not much. They will still buzz around the room and around your head; they just won't bite. To stop the buzz keep them away with screens. They really shouldn't be getting into your house if you do not leave the screens open. Raid works to kill any that might get in (more a problem with flies than with mosquitos) but who wants that sprayed in the house. Mosquitos are slow; swat 'em.
posted by caddis at 5:06 AM on April 17, 2005

sirion, in case you are still reading this, it looks like there are some viable alternatives to DEET.

From this CNN article:

However, recent studies prompted CDC officials to broaden the recommendations. The CDC says picaridin is "often comparable with DEET products of similar concentration" and oil of lemon eucalyptus provides protection time "similar to low-concentration DEET products in two recent studies."

Consumers tend to like picaridin repellents because they are more pleasant to the skin and don't have the odor that DEET repellents have. And oil of lemon eucalyptus is a natural ingredient, which appeals to those who don't like the thought of putting chemicals on their skin, said Angela Proctor, a product manager for the Cutter line of insect repellents by Spectrum Brands.

posted by caddis at 6:44 AM on April 29, 2005

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