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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

9 Things Mosquitoes Absolutely Hate

Any product with DEET is the gold standard for repelling mosquitoes, but these will tick off a mosquito, too.

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A good fan

When you’re sitting outside on a warm, windless day, bring a fan outside and turn it on high. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, not to mention itty-bitty things, and hate the breeze from a strong fan. Here are 10 weird reasons mosquitoes love to bite you.

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Quick, what’s the most popular mosquito repellant in the world? DEET, right? Wrong! It’s picaridin (pronounced pih-CARE-a-den), a synthetic compound developed from a plant extract that’s a close cousin to table pepper. Picaridin has been available in Europe and Australia but was approved for sale in the United States only in 2005. “Picaridin is a little more effective than DEET and seems to keep mosquitoes at a greater distance,” Dan Strickman, of the Global Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told NPR. DEET doesn’t stop a mosquito from landing on you. It just makes you less tasty. Skeeters avoid picaridin outright, making it less likely one will even land on you. Try these trusted bug repellants you’ll actually want to use.

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Loose-fitting clothes

The best defense against mosquitoes is making sure they can’t get to your skin. But covering up isn’t good enough, because the little buggers can get you through your clothes. So wear baggy shirts and pants. Let them bite air and not you.

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Mosquitoes like to have a good time like anyone else, which is why studies have shown they often target beer drinkers. “There’s possibly something different about the way they smell to a mosquito,” Susan Paskewitz, an entomologist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, told ABC News. Mosquitoes are also keen on clammy and sweaty skin. Since booze tends to make people flush and makes their skin warmer, added Joe Conlon, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, that’s one more plus in the booze column as far as mosquitoes are concerned.

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Pale clothing

Mosquitoes are the hipsters of the insect world: They’re attracted to dark clothing. Wear whites and pales and they’ll turn their proboscis up next time they see you. There’s good reason to follow through too: These are 12 mosquito-borne diseases you need to know about.

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Lemon grass, basil, rosemary, mint … you can make a pretty good meal with those herbs as the base. But don’t invite a mosquito for dinner—they don’t like them. And catnip isn’t catnip to them either. In fact, any plant in the citrus family is off the mosquito menu. The plant they really loathe is lantana, which has a bitter, citrusy odor. A study by the science journal PLOS One had 231 families in Tanzania keep lantana plants, while 90 other families didn’t. At the end of the study, there were 50 percent fewer mosquitoes in houses that grew lantana. Check out these other plants that repel mosquitoes naturally.

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Mosquitoes don’t care for smoke. So Bruce Lubin, who edits, had this simple suggestion. “All you need is a cardboard egg carton,” he wrote on Huffington Post. “Light the corner of it on fire, then place it somewhere safe (like on top of your barbecue grill) and let it smoke.” also suggests smudging. Next time you’re camping or settled around the fire pit, toss in a few herb branches, “like lavender, mint, lemon balm, sage, and, of course, citronella” to keep the skeeters away.

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Oil of lemon eucalyptus

The CDC, which is mired in a pitched battle against the Zika virus, recommends oil of lemon eucalyptus to keep mosquitoes away. “When researchers from New Mexico State University tested a variety of commercial products for their ability to repel mosquitoes,” reported NPR, “they found that a product containing lemon eucalyptus oil was about as effective and as long lasting as products containing DEET.”

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iStock/Emily Churchill


Mosquitoes like standing water; everyone knows that. And everyone knows that a birdbath or a pond is a mosquito’s best friend. But so is a pet water bowl left out too long. Or the folds of a tarp that has collected water. Or the area behind a rain spout. Or the inside tube of a tire swing. Or … well, you get the idea. Look around your yard and get rid of any standing water. “Once a week,” says the CDC, “empty and scrub, turn over, cover, or throw out any items that hold water like tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, flowerpot saucers, or trash containers. Mosquitoes lay eggs near water.” But don’t fall for these myths about mosquito control you need to stop believing.

Andy Simmons
Andy Simmons is a features editor at Reader's Digest.