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The 10 Most Effective Ways to Get Rid of Mosquitos Without Bug Spray

Family enjoying their vacation

November 28, 2023

There’s nothing more annoying than being swarmed by mosquitoes at a summer bonfire. But while itchy mosquito bites and skin irritation are typically a mere nuisance, mosquitoes can actually be very dangerous. Some carry deadly diseases like malaria, Zika, West Nile virus, and dengue virus. 

Tens of millions of mosquitoes (of about 200 species) carry mosquito-borne diseases in the United States, and while malaria has been eradicated in the U.S., risks like encephalitis and meningitis are still a threat.

The best way to protect yourself from these diseases is to reduce your exposure to mosquitoes as much as possible, particularly on summer nights. Read on to learn how to keep mosquitoes away without using traditional insect repellent spray or DEET.

Key Takeaways

  • Mosquitoes are a nuisance that cause itchy bites at best, and some may carry dangerous diseases.
  • If you don’t want to use chemical repellents or bug sprays, there are DIY natural ways to keep mosquitoes out of your yard such as plants, essential oils, candles, and fans.
  • If mosquitoes become a serious problem in your yard this summer, consider calling a pest control professional.

1. Citronella Candles

Citronella candles, made from an essential oil derived from lemongrass (citronella oil), are a classic natural mosquito repellent. The scent of citronella blocks the chemical receptors through which mosquitoes interpret their surroundings and drives them away. 

Beware, however—citronella may not be 100% effective on its own. This is because it doesn’t quite act as an invisible shield; rather, citronella smoke must come between you and a mosquito consistently in order to effectively keep the bug away.

2. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Lemon eucalyptus oil is a lemon-scented essential oil that’s often used to repel insects. You can try diffusing lemon eucalyptus essential oil, or purchase a natural bug spray that has lemon eucalyptus oil as the natural ingredient. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) is the only natural ingredient that’s CDC-approved as insect repellent (on par with DEET).

3. Neem Oil

2% neem oil, especially when mixed with coconut oil, has been found to be 96-100% effective at repelling certain species of mosquitoes. This naturally occurring pesticide is found in the seeds of the neem tree

Not only does its garlic/sulfur scent repel insects, neem oil also hinders mosquitoes ability to eat and acts as hormonal insect birth control. It can be sprayed or applied on skin.

4. Cinnamon Oil

The scent of cinnamon repels mosquitoes, and in high doses, cinnamon oil can even act as mosquito birth control and kill mosquito eggs. Extracted from cinnamon bark, this essential oil is especially effective against the Asian tiger mosquito. 

5. Lavender Oil

The scent of crushed lavender flowers, found in lavender oil, has been proven to repel mosquitoes. You can diffuse lavender oil, spray it with a spray bottle, or apply it to your skin to reap the antifungal, analgesic, and antiseptic benefits (plus, the scent is calming and pleasant to humans).

6. Thyme Oil

Thyme oil is proven to provide 1 ½-3 ½ hours of protection against mosquitoes, and can be up to 91% effective. You can spray or diffuse thyme oil or burn thyme leaves (which you may already have in your spice collection)---it’s 85% effective.

7. Use Fans

Increasing ventilation and airflow is one of the easiest ways to effectively repel mosquitoes. You can use any old fan, but there are special mosquito fans on the market (some reflect light to annoy and confuse bugs; some are infused with mosquito repellent).

8. Wear Long, Thick Clothing

One way to prevent mosquito bites is to simply deny mosquitoes access to your skin by wearing long, thick clothing. If the weather allows, try to cover up with long pants and a shirt with long sleeves. 

You can even purchase mosquito-resistant clothing (i.e. camouflage sets, shirts infused with mosquito repellent, hats with drop-down mesh to cover your face).

9. Plant Mosquito-Repelling Plants

Filling your yard or garden with mosquito-repelling plants in flowerpots may help create a fortress for outdoor gatherings. Marigolds, catnip, allium bulbs, witch hazel, and bee balm are common choices. 

Other pungent herbs like basil, rosemary, mint, and sage will also do the trick. You can even plant lavender, lemongrass, or citronella (scented geraniums) rather than (or in addition to) diffusing their oils. 

Some of these plants are colorful and bright, which can serve as a means to confuse and drive away mosquitoes (they’re attracted to darker colors), and all of them offer mosquito-repellent scents.

10. Avoid Sweet and Fruity Fragrances

Mosquitoes are known to be attracted to sweet and fruity scents. If you find yourself becoming a mosquito buffet, consider the perfume, cologne, or lotion that may be lingering on your skin. 

Even soaps and body washes with fruity or floral scents can leave you much more vulnerable than, say, a coconut-scented soap (which may actually be a natural repellent). Scents in soaps and perfumes interact with our own natural scents and the bacteria on our skin, producing an enticing aroma for mosquitoes that humans may not even detect. 

So if you’re attending a summer barbecue, consider avoiding fruity or floral fragrances and opt for coconut when possible.

Who Attracts the Most Mosquitoes?

Perhaps you or someone you know seems to be a mosquito magnet. When bugs seem to “love you” compared to everyone else at an outdoor gathering, it can be frustrating. But there may be steps you can take to detract from your attractive effect. Even if the root cause is something you can’t change, being aware of it means you can take extra preventative measures

Scientific studies have proven the following factors make people more attractive to mosquitoes:

  • People who emit more carbon dioxide (i.e. pregnant, exercising, drinking alcohol)
  • Those with unlucky genetics (DNA accounts for nearly 67% of mosquito attraction (Pfizer))
  • People with type O or type AB blood
  • People wearing floral or fruity fragrances
  • Those with high body temperatures
  • People who are sweating or sweaty
  • People eating potassium-rich foods like bananas, or very sweet, salty, or spicy foods
  • People wearing darker colors like dark green and black

Keep these risk factors in mind the next time you’re at risk for encountering mosquitoes.

Eliminating Mosquitoes at the Source

One way to make sure mosquitoes know they’re not invited to your next summer party is to eliminate sources of standing water. Mosquitoes love standing water—it’s where they lay their eggs, and they can lay hundreds of eggs at a time in just ¼” of water. Below is a list of common standing water sources that may become mosquito hangouts in your yard:

  • Anything designed to hold water (i.e. birdbaths, kiddie pools, planter trays)
  • Anything designed to catch water (i..e rain gutters, buckets near leaks)
  • Anything that might fill with rain water (i.e. tires, bottle caps)
  • Low spots in your yard/landscaping
  • Poorly drained soil

If you’ve noticed a lot of mosquitoes in your yard or are simply taking preventative measures, make sure to dump standing water sources near your home wherever possible.

Professional Mosquito Control Services

If you’ve noticed a particularly high number of mosquitoes in your yard or are simply looking to take preventative measures for peace of mind, a professional pest control company can help. 

A professional exterminator can diagnose the cause of the problem and use the most effective methods (i.e. insecticides, mosquito traps) to keep mosquitoes away for good. When in doubt, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to these pesky critters.

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