What You Can Do to Repel Mosquitoes (And Why They Bite Some of Us More Than Others)

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Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

Ah, summer. The days of puffy red bumps dotting your arms and legs. The cardiovascular campfire exercises also known as swatting mosquitoes. The pink calamine lotion designs splotched onto itchy kids everywhere.

The more outdoorsy you are, the more likely you are to suffer this summer malady. However, some folks get bitten more often than others, no matter what they do to repel mosquitoes. Everyone has a favorite remedy for this. Personally, I’ve been a fan of Avon Skin So Soft bath oil for years for our family’s outdoorsy pursuits, but with the uptick in mosquito-borne illnesses, we should all be a bit more vigilant.

Here’s the research on who is the most vulnerable to getting bitten and what you can do to protect yourself.

Have you ever wondered why certain people are just mosquito magnets?

There are several reasons.

The first ones are genetic, and you can’t do anything about them.

  • Bacteria: We all have a different cocktail of bacteria on our skin and some of these mixes are more appealing to mosquitoes than others. The smellier the bacteria, the happier the mosquito. This may explain why mosquitoes are so drawn to places like your feet and ankles. Mosquitoes find bacteria like Staphylococcus and Variovorax quite delicious. Pseudomonas, Delftia, and Actinobacteria make a person less enticing.
  • Blood Type: Just like humans and ice cream, mosquitoes have favorite flavors, too. Experiments have shown that they greatly prefer Type O blood but don’t really care for Type A blood. What’s more, 85% of people secrete a chemical that signals to the little flying vampires what blood type they are. The other 15% who do not secrete that chemical are less likely to be bitten.
  • Carbon Dioxide: The more you exhale, the more mosquitoes are drawn to you. This means that if you’ve been exerting yourself, if you are overweight, or if you are pregnant, you may be getting more than your fair share of bites.
  • Sweat: Sweat is the byproduct of exertion, so if you are outdoors exercising or working, mosquitoes may want to come and help you along. The delightful aromas of lactic acid, uric acid, and ammonia, all present in perspiration, draw them like humans to fresh baked cookies.
  • Warmth: Some people run a little hotter than others. Mosquitoes tend to be drawn to the warmth. This makes pregnant women, people with a high metabolism, and heavier people tend to be more attractive.

There are a couple of mosquito-luring qualities you can do something about.

  • Beer: Mosquitoes love beer. Drinking just one 12-ounce bottle of brew makes humans more enticing to mosquitoes. (source) This is not true of other types of alcohol consumption – just beer drinkers.
  • Clothes: The color of your clothing can make you more of a target. Mosquitoes tend to find their victims visually and if you’re wearing dark colors like navy, dark brown, or black, as well as very bright colors like red, you’ll be seen by them more easily.

(Need more information on how to make it without AC? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to surviving a summer power outage.)

What can you do to repel mosquitoes?

There are all sorts of natural methods that are, unfortunately, old wives tales that don’t stand up to scientific investigation. You can douse yourself in these things until the cows come home while feeling good about your natural remedies, but chances are, you’ll still be polka-dotted with bites the next day.

Here are the things that are proven by science to repel the skeeters.

You must weigh the risks before using some of these. For some, fear of the diseases carried by mosquitoes may outweigh the risk of putting pesticides on their skin.

  • DEET: Now, unless I was in a malaria-Zika-Chikungunya infested jungle, I probably wouldn’t spray this on myself or my children but it has to be included. Sprays containing N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide do keep mosquitoes at bay, but there have been some serious health side effects from using it.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus: This is refined into a product called Citriodiol or p-menthane-3,8-diol. It has lower levels of toxicity but it is recommended NOT to be used on children younger than 3. The effects don’t last as long as those of more toxic sprays and it must be reapplied every 2 hours to maintain it’s effectiveness. It is the primary ingredient in OFF Familycare Botanicals and Repel Natural. (I just ordered some Repel – it has pretty good reviews.)
  • Picaridin: This is a repellent ingredient that is fairly new to the market. Although it’s a pesticide, the EPA says it’s safe to use on your skin. Sawyer makes a product that is 20% picaridin. Take this for what it’s worth and do your own research before using it. Here’s a fact sheet on picaridin.
  • Citronella torches, candles, and coils: The smoke from these can be confusing to mosquitoes and may offer a modicum of protection if there is no breeze. However, reports of breathing issues and toxicity to the lungs make these not really worth the risk for the nominal protection provided.  One study found that the burning a single mosquito coil would release the same large particulates as 100 cigarettes and as much formaldehyde as 51 cigarettes.
  • Essential oils: Sorry, but they don’t work for more than a few minutes according to the New England Journal of Medicine. (source)
  • Wristband repellents: Nope, the same source says that these offer zero protection.
  • Skin So Soft bath oil: A lot of people swear by Skin So Soft bath oil, by Avon. Heck, I use it myself before going out in the evening, and although I don’t really care for commercial bath products, it seems safer to me than spraying pesticide on myself and my children. Some studies cited by Consumer Reports say it offers a minimal 2-hour protection and that it is far from the best choice, also noting that Avon says it was not designed to be an insect repellent.  But a study in the BC Journal of Medicine said that Skin So Soft, while it needed to be applied more frequently, was an effective alternative to DEET.

Do you have a favorite method to repel mosquitoes?

Share it in the comments section below. However, my friends, keep in mind that the comments section is not vetted – please do your own research before opting to use a remedy that some guy on the internet said worked for him. Also, feel free to double check my conclusions, too. If you disagree, cite your sources so that we can all learn more about it.

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About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

What You Can Do to Repel Mosquitoes (And Why They Bite Some of Us More Than Others)
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • The studies you’re using about the effectiveness of eo’s is quite mistaken and there are other studies proving quite the opposite, that eo’s can be as effective as deet!

  • Lemon Eucalyptus oil works great! I saw a news report a few years ago at the start of the bug season and an expert claimed studies showed it as effective if not MORE effective than DEET. It’s certainly less toxic and smells better. I also bought the OFF version, but I did find it was no longer good the next year. We have a friend who’s daughter is allergic to mosquito bites…everywhere she gets one it swells up like a baseball and sometimes is black and blue! LE oil is by far the most effective thing they have used and they’ve tried it all! This year I bought the LE essential oil, which has seemed to work so far when I’ve used it, but you have to mix it with a carrier oil. I’ll go back to OFF LE oil if I find it isn’t lasting long enough, but shelf life should be better and it’s more compact 🙂

  • I’m one of the unfortunate people mosquitoes seem to love, and have tried many alternative repellants. What works for me was discovered accidentally. I started wearing lavender oil on my skin vs the other oils I usually used as perfume. I don’t get completely left alone by the little buggers, but the difference is huge for me. My mom stuffs fabric softener sheets in her pockets, says they work for her, but they don’t for me. I’ve also read that certain supplements help, such as vitamin B and garlic, by changing your scent, but haven’t tried that. Skin so soft doesn’t provide any relief for me, but I’ve seen it work for others. I think because they are attracted to, and repelled by different things, it’s a matter of trial and error to get the most relief for yourself.

  • i make my own kombucha plenty of bioavalable Bvitamins although they are outside this summer i have not been bitten.

    Extra Thiamine May Make Mosquitoes Think You Stink
    A study back in the 1960s indicated that taking vitamin B1 (thiamine) may be effective in discouraging mosquitoes from biting. However, studies since then have been inconclusive.18 The theory is, taking more vitamin B1 than your body requires causes the excess to be excreted through your urine, skin, and sweat. Vitamin B1 produces a skin odor that female mosquitoes seem to find offensive.

    This vitamin is water-soluble, and there is no danger of toxicity—even at high doses—so it is a safe measure to try. Dr. Janet Starr Hull recommends taking one vitamin B1 tablet a day from April through October, and then adding 100 mg of B1 to a B100 Complex daily during the mosquito season to make you less attractive to mosquitoes. You may also want to forgo bananas during mosquito season, as something about how they are metabolized appears attract mosquitoes. Research also suggests that regularly consuming garlic or garlic capsules may help protect against both mosquito and tick bites.

  • Daisy you are the Best! Wish I would have had some AVON Skin So Soft Bath Oil for my recent trip on Hiway 20 outside of Grass Valley! I looked on Amazon and could not find a listing of their ingredients so is it possible I may know these ingredients!? You have a truly valuable website of sanity I have been following for a few years now!
    SIncere thanx-Jeff

  • I use vitamin B1 for my bug repellent, not just for mosquitoes. I take 3/day in the summer and 2/day for the rest of the year. Others may not need this amount, but this is what it take for my body mass. There is no danger of toxicity, as it is water soluble and passes through your body in your urine. This is the vitamin that make your all-purpose daily vitamin smell like a vitamin. When you take enough, it will subtly change the smell in your blood and sweat, which the bugs of all stripes don’t seem to like. Apparently, the mosquitoes will land, suck out your blood, and then behind their venom, which makes you itch. But because they don’t like the taste of your B1 blood, they don’t suck it out or leave their venom behind. And if your sweat smells enough like the B1, they may not even bother to land or get a taste test of your blood. I’ve been doing this for 36 years now.

    This was first recommended to me back in 1981. My husband worked for a dairy and we lived on the property. The dairy had flea infestation and it carried over to our yard and house. Even though the dairy, houses and yards were sprayed, I was pregnant at the time and didn’t want to use sprays on my body, so I was getting bitten all over. The bites between my toes and fingers were the worst. My doctor was alarmed and recommended taking the B1, as it wouldn’t harm the baby. The B1 did the trick then and ever since. I wake up with maybe 2 or 3 bites a year, and I think those are spiders that have gotten into my bedding. Other than that, no problems.

  • Mosquitoes and gnats LOVE me, but they don’t love Whup-a-Bug. Try it out. It’s the only way I can go outdoors.

  • I want to weigh in on the use of Essential Oils to mitigate mosquito bites (or anything else for that matter).

    From what I can ascertain, much of the so-called research on the use or EOs appears to be done by MLM companies or firms they hire and/or control. Not credible in my opinion. Much of the research done by universities seems to pan out okay as does the published works of Valerie Worwood and other well-known aromatherapists. The best research of all is anecdotal, heard first hand from people I know and trust.

    That said, for all of the reasons you state above in “the first ones are genetic, and you can’t do anything about them” apply to essential oils as well. What works well for one person, may be a bomb for someone else.

    Before trying a new EO recipe, consider the source. Be expected to experiment a bit and remember, less is more when it comes to essential oils.

    • My wife and I use Bounce Dry Sheets during our travels to Ecuador, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica – when in mosquito areas, we wipe our exposed skin with them and put the used sheets in our pockets or inside our shirts… At night we place a sheet under our pillows… so far so good…

  • Sorry, but the recommendation of the EPA does nothing to ease my mind. I use EOs & take my vitamins but also wear long-sleeved light shirts & long pants or skirts if I’m outside in the evening. Sometimes they are like allergens; you just have to avoid the places where they are. 🙁

  • Personally, I recommend DEET. Using a 10% concentration is low enough that it doesn’t seem dangerous, and you can get them with essential oils too, which don’t do much to repel mosquitoes, but they do smell nice. And then the 10% DEET comes and protects. Say what you want to, but I think it’s safe.

  • My dog and I were diagnosed at the same time with Lyme Disease 2 summers ago.
    We caught it early, got treated and now we’re all better.

    Where I currently live (PA) has the greatest number of confirmed Lyme Disease cases in the whole country.
    I hate harmful chemicals. Before I discovered this natural tick repellent, we’ve been pulling a minimum of 3 to 4 ticks off my dog each day and usually one to two on me. I put a drop of Rose Geranium Oil in between my dogs shoulder blades and a drop at the base of his tail each day before we go outside. That’s it. I also put a drop on the insides of my wrist and a drop behind my ears. We did our daily hike and creek swim in the woods. We came back. No ticks. “What, no ticks?! I thought this is too good to be true.
    To this day, I have not pulled one single tick off my dog or me. We went from pulling 3 to 4 ticks a day off him to NONE. Zip. Zero. Nada. (*update 3/22/14 – it’s been going on over 8 months now and no ticks!!!!!!! To this day, I have not pulled one single tick off my dog or me. We went from pulling 3 to 4 ticks a day off him to NONE. Zip. Zero. Nada. (*update 3/22/14 – it’s been going on over 8 months now and no ticks!!!!!!!)

    http://www.primallyinspired.com/easy-natural-tick-repellent-that-really-works-essential-oils/#

  • Have you heard Scent of Samadhi? I bought it for the smell for a natural deodorant and incense. The vendor told me that it’s used in India in shipping crates to keep the buggies out. I read up on it and found even more info. We were camping last yr. and a were swormed by mosquitos. Went into our tent and slathered (I Lil goes a long long way & its powder form) it on. Done!! They came close enough so that we could hear them and we cld also hear them leave us. It’s been a staple since. I am now on the hunt for the ing. bc I’d love love love to make my own.

  • Castor oil works great for me. It’s a little greasy, but I mix it with witch hazel and spray it on. Sometimes, I add other essential oils to it especially if going in the woods. However, mosquitoes absolutely hate castor oil. However, you may need to reapply a couple of times if you’re really working up a sweat outside.

  • Having a fan blow on you while you sleep may be helpful because it blows away the CO2 that attracts mosquitoes, and they also may have difficulty flying in the breeze from the fan.

  • I use a spray that I make that contains Tea Tree, and Lemon Grass essential oils, mixed with Witch Hazel, and Glycerin.

    Keeps the little Vampires away from me for hours.

  • Hi I’m the preffered mosquito meal type ????
    I’ve tried various things but don’t get any bites at all using ‘incognito’ moisturising cream , spray, and they even do a shampoo…it’s all organic, might just help someone …

  • We live in northern coastal Maine, in a small clearing in a large (and wet) forest. We (and most everyone else around here) wear headnets (which you can buy online from LL Bean), long sleeved shirts – pinned tightly around the wrists – gloves, long pants tucked into socks (and shoes of course). It’s easier to stay in! I spray DEET on the collar of my shirt, on the wrists of the shirt, and on the ankles of my pants. I spray the DEET on the outside of those clothing areas, and hope for the best. A family of flycatchers nests in one of our sheds each year and helps as much as they can – and they are VERY fast birds. Zoom, zoom – another mosquito gone!

  • I have found that eating garlic – yes, that old remedy against traditional horror movie style blood suckers – offers decent protection. But, you have to eat a lot of it. One summer I was taking concentrated non-deodorized garlic oil capsules and I barely got bitten at all even without using any bug repellent. Apparently the little biters didn’t like the stench of garlic emanating from my every pore. And I am type O and I sweat a lot when it’s warm, so I am normally a mosquito magnet. The only problem with garlic is that you may end up driving other people away along with the mosquitoes!

  • I find that lemon eucalyptus works well. Where I live we have black flies that bite a chuck out of you as well as mosquitos and ticks.
    I saw a video where a guy rode around on a lawn mower in black fly season and wore a bright blue hard hat with gooey stuff on it (I think it was called tanglefoot_. It was covered with black flies as they seem to be attracted to blue.
    Mosquitos are also attracted to estrogen and they seem to bite women more than men. I find as I’m older they bite me less.
    If you would like to make your own bug dope with essential oils, Healing Harvest Homestead has a recipe.
    After black fly and mosquitos and ticks we also have deer flies with stripes on their wings and they like to get you from behind biting a chuck out of your elbows. A liitle vicks vaporub takes care of that.

  • Mosquitoes carry some dangerous diseases. I contracted dengue fever on a mission trip to Haiti several years ago. It was an awful experience that I would never wish on anyone.

  • Pyrethrin spray is said to be very effective against ticks which are even more dangerous than mosquitoes.
    Suspect it works well against mosquitoes as most repellants work with most insects to the same degree.
    It can be sprayed on clothes and once dry can stay through several washes. It is a pesticide but in low dose sprays is said to be non toxic to adults. Works great against ticks. Far as I know only on line. Maybe in some stores now. There is clothing on market treated with it and is recommended for those outside all the time, surveyors etc.

  • When I lived in Denver a group of us used to go to the mountains to camp, all my friends got eaten alive by mosquitoes but I didn’t. I found that I was taking a Vitamin B12 tablet on a regular basis (for energy) and they weren’t. Now when I have a friend who is prone to get bitten I just tell them to add Vitamin B12 to their supplements and they are mosquito proof. It’s worth a try.
    And if it works for you. you don’t have to put anything on your body to repel them, YOU repel them. Try it! Kind Regards, Victoria.

  • I used to eat garlic cloves to ward off the little buggers and it worked although I had to eat quite a bit of it for it to be effective. The garlic had another beneficial effect also as it levels out any insulin spikes from excessive sugar consumption.
    I wanted to comment on the use of dryer sheets use because they cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin people especially kids.
    I’m very glad to have found out about vitamin B1 and will be using that soon!

  • Using chemical permethrin, soak clothes on outside layer and use a thermal cell (propane version). There are clip on versions and lantern type for camps.

    Be aware that permethrin before it sets in clothes is toxic and needs to be handled with care once set its fine. Military treats it’s clothes with it. It last for several washes after application, for me around 3 times and a re treat it.

    Best places to buy permethrin is on alibaba, cheaper and in consentrate add to water and soak clothes the wring dry and hang to set it… you need to dress like you are on a fishing boat in a storm as you don’t want it to touch your skin at this phase. Wash the rain gear after doing the wash while still in it.

    The lemon eucalyptus is marginal. I use it as a mix in the homemade soap for summer.

  • In addition to repellents, encouraging bats to live in your local environment by building/buying a bat house or two and placing them in good locations so bats find and occupy them will help a lot. Small Brown Bats eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes and other flying insects per hour. As an added bonus they also feed on many common garden pests! Bat Conservancy International/ Murlin Tuttle have several good books on the subject available on their website batcon.org. Also via Amazon.

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