How To Keep Mosquitoes Away Without Toxic Chemicals

Mosquitoes don’t like fans, and other tips to keep them off naturally.

We are heading into summer while news of the spread of mosquito-borne infectious diseases like dengue and Zika is everywhere. What makes people so attractive to mosquitoes? Blood, yes. But first, it’s CO2. Every breath we exhale alerts mosquitoes to the proximity of tasty blood. While you can’t stop breathing to avoid these bloodthirsty pests, here are a few nontoxic ways to keep them off you.

Plant-based repellents

Oil of lemon eucalyptus
Effective, but needs to be reapplied every two hours. Not recommended for children under 3.

Soy, Coconut, and Palm Nut Oil
Works for a limited time. Bonus points: Who doesn’t want to smell like a piña colada?

Band soaked in citronella oil is semi-effective. Don’t bother with outdoor citronella candles; their heat and CO2 actually attract insects.

Geraniol Bug Bracelets
Alcohol derived from citronella, geranium, and rose oil is less effective than citronella in its whole form.

Playing hard to get

Create Wind
You wouldn’t want to stroll through a windstorm, and neither would a mosquito. Using a hand fan or setting up a strong fan outdoors—and staying within range—can ward off the relentless pests. The swirling air also disrupts the steady flow of carbon dioxide humans release every few seconds and makes it trickier for mosquitoes to find us.

Cover Up
Mosquito nets can protect children in strollers. Long, loose clothing in lighter colors is effective.

Even a tablespoon of water is enough for a cozy mosquito nursery. Ways to avoid creating them:

  • Change water in pet water bowls and bird baths frequently.
  • Unclog gutters.
  • Shake water from tarps.
  • Remove yard garbage, like tires.
  • Fill hollow stumps with mortar.
  • Minimize the growth of tall grasses, weeds, and shrubs; flowering bushes hold water in their flowers.  

Natural Predators

Dragonflies and their damselfly cousins eat mosquitoes as adults; as nymphs, they prey on mosquitoes before they even leave the water. But high-pitched sound emitters that claim to scare away mosquitoes by imitating the wing beat of a dragonfly don’t work.

Too fond of your pond? Install pond aerators to prevent stagnant water or add fish that eat mosquito larvae, like goldfish or mosquito fish.

Kate Stringer wrote this article for Gender Justice, the Summer 2016 Issue of YES! Magazine. Kate is an editorial intern at YES! Follow her on Twitter @KateStringer2.

Sources: Journal of Medical Entomology, Malaria Journal, Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Extension Entomologist and Associate Professor Janet Knodel, The Cochrane Library

See also:
Experts Admit Zika Threat Fraud
27 Versatile Uses For Coconut Oil