Did you know that mosquitoes are responsible for more human deaths than any other living creature? Besides leaving people itching and scratching, mosquitoes can transmit a host of diseases such as malaria, encephalitis, and dengue fever, just to name a few.
One way to prevent mosquito bites is to cover up. But, we all know it isn't fun to play outside with every inch of your body covered up. This is why repellents are commonly used to keep mosquitoes away. However, a lot of repellents on the market today contain toxic chemicals such as DEET, a neurotoxin.
Like many people, the thought of spraying such a toxic chemical on my skin disturbs me, not only because I have sensitive skin but also due to the dangers associated with neurotoxins. Fortunately, there are safer alternatives that are as effective as chemical-based repellants. Natural mosquito repellents based on oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and catnip oil are my favorite alternatives.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) works well in repelling mosquitoes. It provides protection similar to low concentrations of DEET.
OLE can be distilled from the leaves of the Eucalyptus citriodora tree (lemon eucalyptus tree). However, the CDC recommends using synthetic OLE (made in the lab) as mosquito repellent instead of the "pure" oil. The synthetic OLE is EPA-registered while the "pure" oil isn't. This means that the synthetic version has been reviewed and approved by the EPA as being effective and safe for human use (on skin and clothing). The "pure" oil has not undergone such safety and efficacy evaluations.
OLE has a protection time of up to 6 hours  and should not be used on children less than 3 years old.
While cats are irresistibly drawn to catnip, mosquitoes hate it. Catnip oil is extracted from catnip plant through distillation. Researchers from the Iowa State University found the active compound (Nepetalactone) in catnip oil to be several times more effective than DEET .
Catnip oil is registered by the EPA for protection from mosquito bites. According to the EPA registration data, some mosquito repellents that use catnip oil as an active ingredient are highly effective and can offer up to 15 hours of protection against mosquito bites .
Each repellent has a different protection time. Generally, the higher the concentration of the active ingredient, the higher the protection time. It is therefore important to check the label of your repellent to make sure you reapply accordingly.
That said, there are other factors that can influence the result or protection time of repellents. These include temperature, sweating and water exposure. Plus, some people just turn out to be more palatable to bugs than others.
Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipe
Contrary to popular belief, most anti-mosquito plants or oils have only very little effect against mosquitoes. However, there are a few that are as potent as some chemical-based repellents. So why not try making your own homemade mosquito repellent?
When making your own mosquito spray, be sure to choose the active ingredient carefully. If you know what to do, you can quickly and easily make your own natural mosquito repellent using an essential oil that works well. The video below demonstrates this using citronella oil. A carrier or base oil is used to dilute the essential oils.
Citronella oil offers protection only for a short period of time. So be sure to reapply every 30 to 60 minutes to keep mosquitoes at bay while you enjoy your tea party outdoors. I use my homemade spray just before going out for a short walk.
5 Reasons to Use Natural Mosquito Repellants
- No worries about toxins and allergies from chemicals
- More comfortable on the skin than chemical-based repellents
- Eco-friendlier and minimizes your impact on the environment
- Smells better, it usually contains aromatic ingredients
- Safer for your outdoor gear—DEET is known to dissolve plastic and paint
Pick the Right Natural Mosquito Repellent
There are a few natural repellents that can provide long-lasting protection against mosquito bites. Repellents based on OLE and Catnip oil have protection-times ranging from 6 hours to 15 hours.
Pick a repellent that is safe and effective, so that you can enjoy the outdoors knowing that you are protected from mosquitoes and the diseases they may transmit.
Keep in mind that like all repellents, you have to reapply accordingly. If it wears off and you fail to reapply, you know what will happen. Be sure to follow all precautions and directions on the label of your product.
Tips to Control Mosquito Population
Warmer temperatures, more rainfall, and standing water often mean more mosquitoes. You can not rely on spray alone to effectively combat mosquito-borne diseases. You have to take additional precautions to protection yourself and your family.
- One of the best ways is to reduce the mosquito population in your area. Get rid of standing water around your house. Stagnant water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. Remove old tires, aluminum cans, toys, plastic covers, flower pots, garbage and any containers that can collect water. Be sure to change the water in bird baths and rain barrel at least once a week. Treat swimming pools and keep them circulating.
- Control of mosquito larvae can be accomplished in several ways – You can try adding some live mosquitofish in your pond. A mosquitofish, commonly known as gambezi (scientific name: Gambusia affinis) can feed on one hundred mosquito larvae in a single day. Imagine what a few gambezis would do.
- While you treat or remove mosquito habitats and breeding grounds, ask your neighbors to do the same.
Tips to Avoid Mosquito Bites
- Cover up wisely. If you are going to an area with a lot of mosquitoes, make sure you wear long pants and long sleeves. Minimize the amount of exposed body parts as much as possible.
- Make your house mosquito proof. Install screens to prevent mosquitoes from entering. Fix damaged screens as soon as possible to minimize the chance of mosquitoes entering your house.
- Use only repellents that are EPA-registered. Make sure you read the labels and follow the instructions in order to use them safely and effectively.
- Avoid going outdoors from dusk to dawn when mosquitoes are most active. Especially when there is a warning on mosquito-borne diseases.
- Replace your outdoor lights with yellow ‘bug’ lights – these lights are not repellents, they have been found to attract fewer mosquitoes and hence reduce the biting.
- Mosquitoes, Ticks & Other Arthropods
- Find the Repellent that is Right for You
- Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively Than DEET
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Edmund Custers (author) on November 07, 2013:
FullofLovesites, I am glad you find this page helpful. Thanks!
DREAM ON on November 07, 2013:
I have always used different kinds of off and insect repellents .If I can have the same protection without harmful chemicals I am healthier and happier. Thank you for tips.
FullOfLoveSites from United States on November 07, 2013:
I live in a hot and humid climate where mosquitoes exist. I found out too that wearing dark clothing also attracts them.
Thanks for your tips, they're very helpful. I need a natural way to repel mosquitoes so as to make my skin safe as well (compared to most commercial anti-mosquito lotions which could possibly contain harmful chemicals)
timtalkstech on June 18, 2013:
Thanks for sharing this. I've been worried about the chemicals I've been spraying on myself to keep the bugs away.
Edmund Custers (author) on June 17, 2013:
I have heard that mosquitoes are one of bat’s favorite meals. Several of these bats can make quite a dinner on your insect population. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. I appreciate it.
Cynthia Lyerly from Georgia on June 16, 2013:
Bat boxes are another great way to cut down on mosquitoes. It's amazing how a blind creature can catch something so small. Nice blog!