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Do Natural Mosquito Repellants Really Work?

July 21, 2019

We're in the thick of mosquito season (around May through October in Ohio and Kentucky). If you’re struggling with these annoying, biting insects, you’re not alone.

At this point, you’re probably ready to just get rid of them. If you’ve been searching online, you’ve likely found a lot of "home remedies" and "DIY mosquito repellants"—but do any of them work?

We've talked before about DIY and natural remedies for ants, bed bugs, and termites. Today, we're talking about natural mosquito repellants. What works? What is a waste of time and money?

Mosquito "Remedies" You Can Skip

Pure Essential Oils

The effectiveness of essential oils in repelling mosquitoes is still under debate. That’s because studies have shown mixed results. This makes essential oils a poor method to rely on if you live in an area with mosquito-borne disease (like Ohio).

The problem with using essential oils is twofold. First, some essential oils are not that effective or have not been thoroughly evaluated for safety. Second, essential oils can "wear off" quicker than proven mosquito repellants. The effectiveness of essential oil-based repellants can vary wildly between products, based on the formula and concentration of the oil.

Citronella Candles

Citronella candles are widely sold in the market. They often promise to repel mosquitoes from an entire area (so you can barbecue in peace). However, some studies have shown they reduce bites by only 50 percent. That’s ok, but it could be better. It would be more helpful to just keep a bottle of mosquito repellant spray out for you and your guests to use.

Mosquito Traps

Mosquito traps are good in theory, but they often don’t live up to their claims. Manufacturers often promise that traps will significantly reduce the mosquito population in an area. But they don’t always reduce the mosquitoes or the biting. Don’t rely on this method alone: use mosquito repellants to protect yourself.

Tried-and-True Mosquito Repellants You Can Trust

Here are the most effective, proven mosquito repellants we recommend.

DEET

DEET has been used for more than 50 years and is a very effective mosquito repellant. It has been reviewed by the EPA and is considered safe by the Centers for Disease Control and other health agencies. As long as it is used according to package instructions, it is very unlikely to cause any adverse skin or eye reactions.

Picaridin

Picaridin is extremely effective as a mosquito repellant. (It also repels ticks.) Picaridin has been registered by the EPA and found to be safe to use, even for young children. (Of course, it’s important to use according to the package directions.) Picaridin is as effective as DEET when used at the same levels, and has fewer unpleasant side effects than DEET (like odor and a greasy feeling on the skin).

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) is another effective mosquito and tick repellant. It is considered the most effective natural repellant on the market. (When the synthetic version of OLE is used, it will appear in the ingredient list as "PMD.") OLE is safe for use, though the CDC does not recommend it for use on children under 3. (That’s because OLE has been tested in young children as thoroughly as DEET or picaridin has.)

It’s also important to note one thing: Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is not the same thing as lemon eucalyptus oil (see above). If you want to use a natural repellant, look for OLE and not lemon eucalyptus oil.

Permethrin

Permethrin should not be used on the skin, but it can be used on clothes. It has been evaluated by the EPA. Permethrin is a very good second line of defense against mosquitoes and ticks. If you go hiking or will be spending a lot of time outdoors, it is a good idea to apply it to outerwear, shoes, pants, etc.

Why You Need to Avoid Ineffective Methods

Of course, the first and most obvious reason to skip ineffective mosquito repellants is that they’re a waste of time and money.

But there’s another big reason to take mosquito elimination seriously: the health and safety risks of using untested products and of exposing yourself to mosquito-borne diseases.

"Natural" and DIY mosquito repellants are not evaluated by the EPA. That means the companies that make these products aren’t required to prove to the EPA that they work. (And, as we talked about above, they often don’t.)

The ingredients in natural mosquito repellants are often assumed to be safe because they are natural. In fact, it’s important to be cautious even around "natural" ingredients. Essential oils and other natural ingredients contain known allergens. Allergic reactions can cause redness, itchy skin, burning, pain, rashes, hives—and in some cases, serious reactions like anaphylaxis. In addition, the essential oils in natural products can be toxic to pets.

If you use ineffective natural mosquito repellants, you also open yourself up to mosquito bites and illness.

Serious mosquito-borne diseases include West Nile Virus and Zika. The type of mosquito that primarily spreads the Zika virus isn’t established in Ohio; however, the mosquito that carries the West Nile Virus is. In fact, mosquitoes in the Greater Cincinnati area recently tested positive for the virus, according to Hamilton County Public Heath.

Fortunately, cases of West Nile Virus are relatively rare, but it’s still a good idea not to take any chances.

Need Help with Mosquitoes?

We recommend using tried-and-true mosquito repellants whenever you are going outdoors during mosquito season. We also advise you to take these steps to prevent a mosquito infestation. However, if you have a serious mosquito problem in your yard, you have other options.

Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We've been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Authored By: Eric Scherzinger

Quality ProNational Pest Management AssociationOPMABetter Business Bureau Angies List Super Service Award

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