“Summertime… and the livin’ is easy!”
This is certainly my favorite time of the year.
Sunshine, beach days, outdoor gatherings, and more… there’s so much to love about this season.
But there’s one pesky side of summer that troubles a lot of folks. In fact, it puts quite a damper on all of that wonderful time outdoors…
Mosquitoes and scents
I’m talking about mosquitoes. These pesky little insects seem to love summer just as much as I do.
But isn’t it funny how you can be in the same place as others, yet only some members of the group get “eaten alive?”
Well, research reveals different cues that may attract—or repel—mosquitoes.
Researchers from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University collected unique odor samples from volunteers, including different soaps being used.
Turns out, mosquitoes are attracted to people based on several olfactory and visual cues. And the soap you’re using could be enough to lead them toward a total feeding frenzy.
You see, mosquitoes use smells produced by plants to find nectar. So, they may get confused if the soap you’re using has a plant- or flower-based fragrance. (In other words, you’re inviting them to hang out with you.)
On the other hand, while there’s bound to be variation, researchers found coconut-scented soaps are among the most repulsive to mosquitoes. (I suppose this isn’t too surprising since coconut derivatives are anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-viral. Plus, other research has suggested coconut-derived chemicals tend to have a repellent effect on various blood-feeding insects.)
Now, DEET is, to date, the most effective mosquito repellent on the market. But if you’re like me, you probably want to AVOID slathering your body with a toxic chemical. (It’s a known neurotoxin.)
Of course, there’s another chemical—picaridin—that’s used extensively in Europe and Australia. It’s a synthetic compound similar to a compound found in the black pepper plant.
It doesn’t seem to irritate the skin. It doesn’t appear to be toxic. It won’t erode plastic or synthetic materials. And it won’t leave a greasy residue. But I personally still don’t feel safe putting it on my skin.
So, let’s talk about some safe, non-chemical alternatives…
As I mentioned above, avoid fragrances that tend to attract mosquitoes. And remember, ANY fragrance added to your personal care products are loaded with chemicals. (Which is why I steer clear of scented soaps all year-round.)
Instead, you can use oatmeal, which cleans and softens the skin without soap. (Wrap your oats in a cloth and gently scrub.)
Additionally, if you’re out in the early hours of the morning or at dusk, be sure to wear light-colored clothing. (Mosquitoes love dark colors.) Both times are when mosquitoes generally like to come out “to play.” You can even use a light wrap to cover your skin.
If you have an outdoor living space, use a few fans to help blow mosquitoes and other insects away. And be sure to address any standing water around your property, as damp places attract them.
You can also rub your skin—and your pets—with lemon verbena. It’s easy to grow from a small plant (versus seeds), or you can find wipes! (It seems the citrus odor helps repel mosquitoes.)
Finally, you can opt for non-toxic citronella candles, made from unscented beeswax and organic essential oils. But in my experience, you need a lot of them burning at once to be effective.
What natural solutions do you use to help keep mosquitoes away? I’d love to hear from you! Send me an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Are mosquitoes attracted to you? Try using a different kind of soap.” MedicalNewsToday, 5/10/2023. (medicalnewstoday.com/articles/washing-with-different-soaps-could-make-you-more-or-less-attractive-to-mosquitoes)