- Get rid of mosquito breeding sites around the home. These include old tires, bird baths, buckets, pot plant bases, tin cans and plastic containers, water gardens and decorative ponds (without fish), untended swimming pools, recycling bins, trash can lids, wheelbarrows and even hollow plant stems and flowers like bromeliads. Anything that holds water is a potential mosquito nursery!
- Keep grass mown, bushes trimmed and debris out of the gutters throughout the mosquito season. These measures will eliminate some of the most popular mosquito roosting places so you can reclaim your yard!
- Eliminate standing water in low spots, ditches and other areas.
- Light colored clothing is less attractive to some mosquito species and if tightly woven, can give some protection against biting. Wearing long sleeves and long pants during the hours when mosquitoes are most active will give added defense.
- Use screens and mosquito netting to provide skeeter-free zones in and around the home.
- Use insect repellents. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the most effective repellents to use contain one of the following EPA registered active ingredients: DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide), Picaridin (KBR3023) IR3535 and Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (p-menthane 3,8-diol).
Insect repellents do not kill mosquitoes but are designed to ward them off and provide protection from mosquito bites. The best mosquito repellents will provide many hours of protection with a single application. They should be evenly applied on all exposed areas of the skin as mosquitoes easily detect the areas where repellent is not applied. Despite rumors and anecdotes of everything from Listerine and banana peel warding off mosquitoes, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends only those products containing the following active ingredients:
- DEET is still considered one of the most effective mosquito repellents around and one of the oldest. It was first developed for use by the U.S. Army in 1946, and became available to the public in 1957. Many other products have hit the market since then, but few compare to DEET. However, it should not be used too heavily or on infants under 2 months.
- CUTTER ADVANCED (Picaridin) is odorless, colorless and has proven to be as effective as DEET. Although fairly new to the U.S. this repellent has been used worldwide since 1998 and received CDC endorsement in 2005.
- OLE Oil of lemon eucalyptus (marketed as REPEL) offers protection similar to low concentrations of DEET. Derived from the Eucalyptus Citriodora tree it is the only CDC recommended plant-based repellent. OLE is the preferred option for those who want a natural product.
- IR3535 This repellent (3-[N-butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid) is available exclusively through the Avon Corporation as Skin-So-Soft™ Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Active Insect Repellent (7.5%) or Skin-So-Soft™ Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Expedition Insect Repellent (15-20%).
In the latest Consumer Reports survey (May 2015) the IR3535 products didn’t make their list of top sprays. Some of the plant-oil products couldn’t ward off the Aedes mosquitoes for even half an hour. Aedes mosquitoes are aggressive daytime biters and are known to transmit Zika virus, dengue fever and Chikungunya.
Table 1. Protection Times of Tested Mosquito Repellents
|Sawyer Premium||20% Picaridin||8 hours|
|OFF! Deep Woods||23.8% DEET||5 hours|
|Sawyer Controlled Release||20% DEET||4 hours|
|OFF! Skintastic||6.65% DEET||2 hours|
|Repel Oil Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent||Oil of lemon eucalyptus; p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)||2 hours|
|Bite Blocker for Kids||2% Soybean Oil||1.5 hours|
|OFF! Skintastic for Kids||4.75% DEET||1.5 hours|
|Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus||7.5% IR3535||23 minutes|
|Natrapel||10% Citronella||20 minutes|
|Herbal Armor||12% Citronella; 2.5% peppermint oil; 2% cedar oil; 1% lemongrass oil; 0.05% geranium oil||19 minutes|
|Green Ban for People||10% Citronella; 2% peppermint oil||14 minutes|
|Buzz Away||5% Citronella||14 minutes|
|Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard||0.1% Citronella||10 minutes|
|Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil||Active Ingredient not known||10 minutes|
|Skin-So-Soft Moisturizing Suncare||0.05% Citronella||3 minutes|
|Gone Original Wristband||9.5% DEET||0|
|Repello Wristband||9.5% DEET||0|
|Gone Plus Repelling Wristband||25% Citronella||0|
Products containing lower concentrations of DEET are just as effective as those with higher concentrations but for shorter periods of time.
Another natural and extremely effective repellent, Geraniol, is extracted from geranium oil through a unique refining process and is available in a range of products sold under the BugBand brand. BugBand, which has undergone tests by the University of Florida, is marketed as THE Deet-free insect repellent. It comes in a variety of products designed to protect against a wide range of biting insects including; mosquitoes, house flies, stable flies, horn flies, cockroaches, fire ants, fleas, gnats, dog ticks, lone star ticks, and no-see-ums.
Anyone with small children knows what a battle it is to get kids ready for the outdoors. A combination product would simplify that task right? While products that contain a combination of sunscreen and the insect repellent DEET may save time, they may also increase certain risks, according to new research. The study showed that combining sunscreen with DEET caused the skin to absorb the insect repellent more than three times faster than when used alone, potentially increasing toxicity, especially in children.
The problem is compounded by the contrary application requirements. Sunscreens should be applied generously and frequently: a full ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen should be applied directly to the entire body, including a small dollop to the face, at least every two hours. Insect repellents (DEET), on the contrary, should be applied no more frequently than every two to six hours, depending on the concentration, and you should avoid applying it to the face.
The CDC doesn’t recommend the use a single product that combines sunscreen and insect repellent containing DEET. However they do endorse the use of individual products, and in general the recommendation is to apply sunscreen first, followed by repellent.