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Mosquito Repellents

Summary: There are lots of choices of mosquito repellents, but choose wisely because some mosquito repellents can be toxic to children and sensitive individuals.

The most common, annoying and health-threatening pest problem we face is the 167 species of mosquitoes in America. Not only can they ruin our enjoyment of the outdoors and make us itch for days, they are known to carry West Nile virus, St. Louis and equine encephalitis, malaria and dengue fever. Naturally, you'll want to do all you can to protect your family and gain full enjoyment of your back yard.

  • First, take these easy and sensible steps to reduce mosquitoes in your yard.
  • Empty standing water in buckets, old tires, birdbaths and other containers weekly to destroy larvae habitats.
  • Clean out rain gutters and ditches regularly.
  • Mow frequently, as mosquitoes love weedy, brushy areas.

In areas where standing water cannot be completely eliminated, pouring a thin film of cooking oil, lemon eucalyptus oil or neem oil (from India and containing azadirachtins) can be helpful. I really like using Altosid Pro G granules to treat standing water. It's a larvacide that kills mosquito larvae before they become biting adults. It can be applied to any body of standing water including bird baths, gutters, rain barrels, pool covers and more. It won't harm animals.

In small ponds or ditches, you may consider stocking goldfish or guppies, easily-maintained mosquito larvae predators. Planting marigolds, catnip, rosemary and other œsmelly but attractive plants in key areas of your yard can also be helpful. The leaves of these plants can also be crushed and infused in alcohol to create a yard spray without harmful chemicals.

If all this fails, Mosquito Sentry advertises a misting system using 100% natural materials made from plant oils. You can purchase the product that goes into the device from the manufacturer. All ingredients are non-toxic.

No evidence can be found to support the use of electronic repellent devices.
In personal repellents, myths and home remedies abound. Some of these may be valid, such as Avon's Skin So Soft, which had a folklore reputation until it was scientifically proven to work. However, at least one study showed its protection was not as long-lasting as products containing DEET. Bounce dryer sheets, both hung in affected areas and rubbed on the skin and hair of children, are widely discussed, as is the use of Listerine (spray), Vicks Vapo-Rub and clear Mexican vanilla. They may work, but try them at your own risk.

Many common oils, such as cinnamon, clove, lavender, garlic and geranium oil are recommended by web sources, but of these, only lemon eucalyptus oil, containing a compound called PMD, has been scientifically confirmed by a reputable source (Center for Disease Control (CDC)). The œNew England Journal of Medicine" , July 2002, notes herbal oils are not as effective as DEET, and a University of Florida study confirms this.

Many other bits of folklore, such as eating garlic, bananas or vitamin B1, have been actively disclaimed by the CDC, Rutgers University and the University of Florida as having no supporting evidence. And, smelling strongly of garlic can repel much more than mosquitoes.

The CDC recommends only repellents that use DEET, picaridin, which œhas a low potential for toxicity, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, noting that œProducts containing these active ingredients typically provide longer-lasting protection than others. The most well known repellents, like Off and Cutter, contain DEET, and Cutters is marketing a brand that uses picaridin as an effective alternative. The CDC recommends that you always use a personal repellent when outdoors in mosquito season and notes that sunscreen, wind, rain, swimming and perspiration can undermine repellents and require you to re-apply more frequently.

Clothing can be treated with permethrin to repel mosquitoes, but should never be applied to skin. Treated clothing should be allowed to dry before donning  and should not be used when the safer chemicals listed above are available.

To avoid annoyance and keep your family safe from mosquito-borne disease, start with small steps like good property maintenance, mosquito avoidance and safe, effective personal repellents. Try some of the simpler, more natural solutions to decrease the mosquito population and move on to the safe, efficient and mostly economical chemical solutions available today if your yard remains infested.

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