Reduce the annoying pesky mosquito problem at your next party by using topicals for the skin, using fans, mosquito zappers, burning citronella candles or repellent coils, planting specific plants, and preventing potential breeding ground; let’s look at some options.
Home is where your stagnant water is if you’re a mosquito.
Mosquitos begin life in water; usually, it’s stagnant and has accumulated in any item that will hold a little water.
Around the home, a mosquito’s first home could be an old bucket, old tire, birdbath, or a cup that somebody left from the last year’s New Year’s Eve party; anything that can hold stagnant water, the next thing you know, you’ve got a mosquito population.
Eliminating water sources is an important step in keeping up a good fight when fighting back against the uninvited guests in your outdoor space.
Getting rid of standing water is among the first of good choices when trying to win the battle with these guys; unfortunately, it can be a real challenge if you live near swampy areas.
So the first line of defense in reducing the pesky insects around the patio/yard should be eliminating any situation that a mosquito might find an attractive place to set up shop.
The E.P.A. has approved the use of ‘DUNKS®’; outside of a drinking cup, they say that this product is used to irradicate mosquito larvae in just about any conceivable situation. Read more here.
Mosquitos and Virus
Here in the U.S., we have two major players when it comes to Mosquitos that can spread virus and disease, the Culex and the Aedes species.
It’s not just the buzzing and the bite, mosquitos carry some of the world’s most deadly diseases.
Over one million deaths occur globally attributed to disease spread by mosquito bites.
West Nile Virus, and the Zika Virus viruses can cause fever, headache, and joint pain.
Infection of West Nile Virus (WNV) will go unnoticed by approximately 80% of individuals infected.
The other 20% that get infected with WNV can experience symptoms mentioned above along with nausea, vomiting, skin rash, swollen lymph glands, sounds like no holiday.
Extreme cases of illness ( West Nile Encephalitis or Meningitis) also known as Neuroinvasive disease affect about one in one-hundred-fifty persons that are infected with the virus; severe symptoms can include all of the above including higher fever, stupor, disorientation, convulsions, and paralysis.
It seems to be a toss-up on which one of these main ingredients in many commercial repellents is the most effective, let’s start with Deet.
Deet was introduced by The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture in 1944 for use by The U.S.Military during World War Two and approved for use by civilians in 1957.
Joe Conlon, an entomologist with the American Mosquito Control Association, a trade group, said that area repellents—products that claim to create an insect-free bubble around the user—could be particularly problematic.
“They have limitations,” he says. The AMCA advises consumers to stick with Environmental Protection Agency-registered products and says that no product is more effective than DEET.
Known by the term “bug juice,” the original formula was Deet and Ethyl-alcohol and would evaporate reasonably quickly and would have to be re-applied in a short manner of time.
In 1991 The EPA approved a new formula that contains polymers the USDA and Army developed.
Due to its polymers, the new formula extends the release time of the Deet; the evaporation time is extended over a long period of time and allows for fewer applications.
I tried Deet quite a few years ago while fishing; I was not impressed with its smell, but it seemed to be one of the best mosquito repellents I had used.
Deet works as a mask to the body’s odors, sweat, which contains the smell of lactic acid which attracts the mosquito, making the user less attractive to the pest.
Female mosquitoes can carry viruses such as the West Nile virus; they are attracted to people from the carbon dioxide which we exhale.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that “Severe cases of Mosquito-borne cases can cause death.”
The concentration of Deet in spray-on and lotions
Products containing Deet range from 10% to almost 100% concentration and are available in lotion or spray-on with a concentration of 10-30% recommended for infants and small children.
The higher percentage of Deet in the product correlates with the period of time of its effectiveness, with twelve hours seeming to be the most prolonged period of usefulness.
There has been much controversy with the use of Deet over the years, some claiming that it caused cancer.
According to The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there is not enough research to suggest that Deet is not a human carcinogen.
In their 1998 Re-Registration Eligibility Decision (RED), the E.P.A. determined that fourteen to forty-six cases of seizures and four deaths were likely related to Deet toxicity.
It is widely stated that you should not use this product under clothing, only on exposed skin.
Deet is known to damage or destroy certain synthetic fabrics and plastics, it may also leave an oily residue on natural fabrics such as cotton and wool.
It is estimated that 10-20% of Deet applied to the skin will be absorbed into the body
A synthetic compound introduced in the 1980s, Picaridin-based mosquito repellents have taken the lead over Deet.
Made to resemble the naturally occurring compound Piperine found in the Piper nigrum (black pepper) plant,
picaridin had been in use in Europe and Australia prior to becoming available to U.S. consumers in 2005.
Picaridin does not leave an oily residue, or eat plastic objects therefore can be used/sprayed on clothing.
While a mosquito may land on you, they are not likely to bite skin treated with a picaridin lotion/spray.
Tests revealed that less than 6% of Picaridin was absorbed into the human body after application, with that being excreted through urine in a twenty-four-hour period.
The E.P.A. did not find any evidence to suggest that Picaridin was a cancer-causing substance.
Picaridin and the Environment
When studied, Picaridin was found in water samples entering treatment facilities, but not in the water after treatment.
Though thought to be non-toxic to birds, Picaridin was found to be moderately toxic to fish.
A word about these bracelets and patches, I wish I could say that they work; some say they’re excellent. “Don’t waste your money” – (Consumer Reports.)
The bracelets can either be of the type where you replenish the repellent cartridges or repellent pads that contain such ingredients as Citronella, and oil of lemon eucalyptus as their active ingredients.
Ingredients of the patches are usually Vitamin B1-based which mosquitos are supposedly not fond of either.
In my research of these products, I have found claims that they have limited effectiveness with no more than a few inches beyond the patch or bracelet.
If they work for you without having to cover yourself in lotion and or sprays, great, and some people claim they are the best bug repellents, and they work as expected.
Homemade Mosquito Repellent
Essential oils such as Lemon Eucalyptus Oil are marketed as a mosquito repellant as a natural way and natural solution to the ages-old problem related to biting insect pests.
Lavender Oil, Catnip Oil, Citronella Oil, Rosemary Oil, and Tea Tree Oil along with the two aforementioned are essential oils used in some homemade repellents.
Here is a list of potential recipes for you to try, creative mix and matching are allowed.
As always, try a little of the concoction on a small area of your skin before slathering your whole body up.
Witch Hazel is also known as White Hazel is a natural astringent sourced from the deciduous shrub Hamamelis and is regulated in The United States as an over-the-counter drug for topical use.
With its present qualities, it makes a fine base for homemade repellents.
For use as an astringent, Witch Hazel is diluted with one part Witch Hazel, to three parts boiled water; it makes an excellent base to add essential oils.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, is found in many commercial mosquito repellents and has been used topically since the 1940s.
Recipe: ⅓ cup diluted Witch Hazel, forty (40) drops of oil.
Shake vigorously prior to application.
Citronella Oil, used in commercial products in topicals for the skin, as well as in candles and mosquito coils.
Recipe: ⅓ cup diluted Witch Hazel, forty-five (45) drops of oil.
Shake vigorously prior to application.
Rosemary Oil, used in many cooking recipes, this evergreen plant is also a good mosquito repellent.
Recipe: ⅓ cup Witch Hazel, 35-40 drops of Rosemary oil.
Shake vigorously prior to applying.
Lavender Oil, not just for soap anymore; with its antiseptic, analgesic, and anti-fungal properties, Lavender makes a great repellent too.
Recipe: ⅓ cup Witch hazel, 20-30 drops of oil.
Shake vigorously prior to application.
These natural repellent recipes are but just a few choices, one may work better for you than another, experiment!
Testing on a small area of the skin prior to coating one’s entire exposed body with any lotion/spray of commercial or homemade variety is advised.
Mosquitos are not fans of the Citronella or Lemon Grass plants.
Both Citronella and Lemon Grass are attractive ornamental grasses, they add a touch of color, and are said to drive off a mosquito or two;
they grow readily in a pot, making it a great way to move them around the patio area to a spot where they will be most effective.
A planter of at least 18″ diameter should be used, so it’s not so typsy when a big gust comes up.
Both of these plants can also be planted in the ground alongside your patio in warmer geographical regions.
Though very similar, the reddish-colored pseudostems differentiate actual Citronella from Lemongrass, which is all green.
The Citronella plant can reach a height of six feet and six feet wide, which could also serve as part of your patio privacy.
If you live in a warmer climate with a longer growing season than I do, Citronella and or Lemongrass may be the ideal plant(s) for your patio and or garden to help ward off the pesky mosquito.
Check with your local Nursery, they are usually aware as to what does well in your local area.
Pictured above are Citronella grass on the left and Lemongrass on the right; as one can see, they appear very similar.
Harvested Lemongrass is pictured below.
Annuals such as Marigolds (pictured below) and Geraniums are a great choice as mosquitos aren’t fans of these plants either, and they make an attractive addition to the garden or flower pot on the patio.
Citrosa geranium (pictured below), often marketed as “Citronella plants,” is actually of the scented geranium family.
According to the Gardening Know-How website, there is no citronella in the geraniums.
Lavender, Rosemary, Oregano, Peppermint, and Thyme are more plants that mosquitoes stay away from; they are perennials and do well in most climates; the plants grow well in pots and, or planted directly in the soil.
Basil, Sage, Savory, Lemon-balm, Sweet Marjoram, and those mentioned above are all in the Mint family, and mosquitos, fortunately, are not a fan of them; they can all look great potted up or planted in a planting strip or garden.
Citronella oil is derived from Cymbopogon nardus, a perennial grass native to tropical Asia.
Citronella oil is obtained by the steam distillation of two varieties of Citronella grasses, Sri Lankan and Java, and is the main ingredient in many mosquito repelling products.
Is Citronella Toxic to Humans?
In some cases, Citronella can cause inflammation on the skin, but “Possibly Safe for most people when applied to the skin as an insect repellent,” it has been reported to cause lung damage when inhaled according to WebMD.
According to the website, Health line Citronella may have additional benefits such as an antifungal and promote faster-wound healing and have antibacterial properties.
Citronella’s Oil is on the E.P.A.’s list of minimum risk of pesticides, though it should not be applied to children of six months or less.
John Conlon of the American Mosquito Control Association says that he prefers the use of fans to reduce the flying pest as they are weak fliers and have trouble navigating the breeze.
The wind also helps reduce human odor and carbon dioxide that the mosquito hones in on to find their potential victim.
Citronella Candles and Citronella Mosquito Coils
According to John Conlon in an AARP article “Citronella candles are not very effective, and they have about the same effect on mosquitoes as a plain candle would.”
Better Homes and Gardens reports that there are two types of coils, one that contains insecticides that will kill or at least knockdown mosquitos in an area of about six square feet, and those that have the aroma of Citronella or other scents that will drive off the mosquito and reduce the likelihood of them biting.
Citronella Tiki Torches seem pretty popular, but their effectiveness is limited to about to an area with a six-foot radius.
They are a good great option and one of the best ways to add just enough light as it’s a subtle light setting the mood, and people seem to like them. As with any open flame, use with caution, ensure there is nothing above or around that can be set afire such as limbs of trees, patio curtains, or possibly temporary ground covering such as straw.
There are many types of Mosquito traps on the market; googling the term Mosquito trap will give a person plenty of options to fit their needs.
If you have a huge problem with Mosquitos, these bug zappers work great, and you can tell they’re working every time you hear “Zap.” Family-owned since 1920, Flowtron has been making “Mosquito Zappers” since 1974 here in the United States., and they stand behind their product. https://www.mosquitozapper.com/
Don’t let mosquitos spoil the good time at your patio party.
As we come into the warmer months and as the warm weather and longer days arrive, the mosquitos will be just about everywhere, and they’re pesky bugs.
If you’re having a problem with them, or anticipate you might, it’s a good idea to get the jump on them for best results and don’t allow them to ruin your next outdoor party.
Try to take the simple steps and not give them the added benefit of anywhere to breed.
Remember a strong fan can be an effective way and simple solution to knocking down the mosquito numbers on your patio.
Apply some lotion and think about purchasing a Mosquito zapper or possibly some mosquito traps.
I’ve got a handy 2021 Mosquito Forecast link that has some very informative information. From New York to California and including all points in between (like your area) they can tell you when to expect to have the pesky insects arrive in your neighborhood.
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