Many commercial products claim to repel mosquitoes and many folk remedies circulate but whether such products and treatments are effective is debatable. People frequently employ several methods for repelling, getting rid of, or attracting the annoying insects to a distant location. These techniques include using body sprays or lotions that contain DEET, burning citronella candles, storing open containers of sweet water, or employing bug zappers.
Perhaps the most widely used substance to repel mosquitoes is N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, commonly known as DEET. It has been used for decades in skin-applied commercial insect repellents and is effective for hours. Many experts recommend that the amount of DEET in the repellent should be between 10 and 30 percent as higher concentrations may cause adverse reactions. Children younger than 12 should wear only a 10 percent solution, and children younger than 2 should use repellent sparingly, if at all.
Natural Solutions & Home Remedies
"Natural" solutions for repelling mosquitoes abound as a number of common plants have shown limited effectiveness. Citronella candles and citronella oil for patio torches are a widely used method of providing outdoor lighting that may also repel mosquitoes. Studies have shown that people seated near a burning citronella candle suffer fewer bites than people not near the candle.
Wearing citronella-based "all-natural" skin-applied repellents can be effective, but the duration of the protection is considerably shorter than that for DEET-based repellents. Repeated applications are necessary if you want to continuously repel mosquitoes. Other plants that show some repellent characteristics are cedar, lavender, garlic, cinnamon, and peppermint. Some people claim that a garlic tablet taken once daily makes the person who takes it unattractive to mosquitoes, but there is only anecdotal evidence that this works.
Some folk remedies work not by repelling mosquitoes from the skin — or more accurately, blocking the carbon dioxide emitted from the skin which in turn attracts mosquitoes — but by attracting mosquitoes to a nearby area. In this vein, some suggest that storing an open container of water will attract mosquitoes to it and away from people. Mixing that water with a variety of products from sugar to dish-washing liquid are often touted as effective, but typically, this approach isn't foolproof.
Electric Bug Zappers
Electric bug zappers can remove some of the insect population from the immediate vicinity but can't provide complete protection against all mosquitoes. There are two primary types of bug zappers — a wand or tennis racket type, or stationary ones that look a bit like lanterns and can be placed in seating areas like an outdoor patio. Some people have built bat houses to encourage bats to move in and eat mosquitoes within their range.
Home Misting Systems
A more recent pest control product is the home misting system, a series of chemical release valves that are set around a home. The valves periodically emit a mist of chemical insecticide into the air. Like automatic sprinkler systems, the misting system is on a timer and sprays on a predetermined schedule. The mist drifts with the wind, but the effects of exposure to the chemicals used aren't well-known, and the systems kill beneficial insects as well as pests. Their effects on pets and wildlife are also unknown.
Perhaps the only truly effective way of keeping mosquitoes at bay is to completely keep them out. Enclosed patios allow for the outdoor experience without having to intermingle with life's peskier aspects. If mosquitoes are a problem while sleeping, draping mosquito fabric around the bed will help provide for a restful night's sleep.