Jaclyn Kennison is a freelance writer living and playing in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She owns and manages an art gallery and event venue between fits of shopping and redecorating.
The other night some friends and I headed out for a picnic on the shores of one of our favorite lakes. Living in a generally dry, mountainous climate, bugs aren't really a big deal. The last couple of years, however, we have had more moisture than ever and the other night we weren't the only ones enjoying dinner. Loathe to use a spray-on, store-bought repellent, I sat at my desk the next day absently itching my bites and researching other options. Turns out, there are quite a few out there. Apparently mosquitoes are attracted to a variety of stimuli. Using these in combination to either lure them away or deter them from biting has met with tremendous success.
We all know that standing water provides a place for the little buggers to lay their eggs, so first order of business is to get all the standing water out of your immediate area. Of course, when you are lake-side with friends and family, other methods may be more practical.
Carbon dioxide is another delicious smell for a mosquito, so light up those tiki torches and fire pits. If you've been exercising, take a cooling dip in the lake or a quick shower to rinse yourself of the sweat they so enjoy.
Stick to light-colored clothing. According to one source, dark clothing is a big attractor for skeeters... trade it out for light colored threads and you'll likely not only beat the mosquittos, you'll beat the heat.
"Volatile" plant oils are not a friend of biting bugs either. And the list goes far beyond citronella (though that's a good one). Cinnamon, rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint and many other oils also work well. Find a scent you like and let it take the place of your perfume. For an even more effective result, switch to unscented shampoo, soaps and detergents for the summer.
If you really want to keep your skin from becoming a feasting table, be sure to re-apply whatever deterrent you choose about every two hours and every time you get wet. Additionally, choose other methods to protect yourself from the sun—such as light, loose clothing—as sunscreens can often reduce the effectiveness of applied mosquito management tools. If all else fails and you are looking for a near-fail-safe (at least in my experience) check out the Don't Bite Me patch. Vitamin B1 is delivered through the patch and metabolized by the body to make you less attractive to mosquitoes. It won't make you stink and you won't have to plug your nose to apply it. Simply stick the patch on your body two hours before you plan to play outside and relax in your bubble of non-toxic, made-by-your-body mosquito repellent. Watch for the next post on how to make your own mosquito repellent for use in tiki torches and other outdoor lighting.