With West Nile virus scare season upon us, health officials are bidding folks to apply toxic, DEET-containing mosquito repellents. Though effective at stopping bites, DEET can cause seizures in young children and is unadvisable for infants and pregnant or lactating women. Why not try natural alternatives?
1. Ban bug breeding. Eliminating areas of standing water such as clogged gutters and birdbaths denies mosquitoes breeding grounds.
2. Go natural. A number of nontoxic, botanical insect repellents are sold in health food stores. These products should be reapplied every thirty minutes or so to remain effective.
3. Deploy soy. Repellents containing soybean oil reportedly protect against mosquitoes for about ninety minutes—comparable to DEET.
4. Sick ’em with citronella and geranium. Candles containing these aromatic oils keep bloodsuckers away from decks and patios. Another option: a spray machine that periodically releases plant oils into the air.
5. Grow repellent herbs. Plant flowerpots with geranium, lemon balm, catnip, basil, lemon thyme, and lemongrass. Crush the herb and rub on your skin. (First, test a small area to determine skin sensitivity.)
6. Trap them. Mosquito traps release natural gases that lure mosquitoes into sticky traps, vacuums, or electrocution grids. Caveat: The traps may actually attract mosquitoes.
7. Blow them away. Set a fan on your deck, patio, or porch. Mosquitoes don’t fly well through wind.
8. Dress for success. In infested areas, wear mosquito-net hoods, shirts, and pants.