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Plants that have naturally repellent properties make up the majority of that arsenal. They can be found in gardens or farmers markets or bought as essential oils. Eucalyptus, cedar, geranium, peppermint, lemon grass, fennel, catnip and rosemary plants in addition to tea tree, castor and soybean oils are all readily available natural repellents.

 Lemon eucalyptus and soybean are often considered the most effective of the bunch, and peppermint oil is reported to also kill mosquito larvae. At least one study found catnip to be 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.

Needless to say, DEET is not an option in this battle. As a rule I don’t feed my skin anything classified as a pesticide. And there’s too much controversy surrounding the safety of DEET to justify its use. It is standard in the industry to measure a repellent’s effectiveness by how long it lasts rather than how well it works.

A fennel, geranium and soybean mixture is likely a better repellent than DEET, but it will have to be reapplied more often. Some people may have been turned off to natural options because the most commonly marketed repellent -- citronella –- only remains effective for a short time. 

I usually buy bug spray off the shelf, but on occasion make my own by diluting the essential plant oils with water, vegetable oil (preferably soybean) or alcohol. Apparently, witch hazel and apple cider vinegar can also be used as a base. I often just mix the essential oils with an unscented skin cream. 

Consider some long-term strategies in the mosquito wars: 

• Incorporate repellent plants into your landscape.

• Make your house and your neighborhood home to animals that eat mosquitoes. Purple martins, frogs, bats, guppies and dragonflies all feast on mosquitoes.

• Get rid of standing water. Clean gutters, tip over buckets, bowls and anything else that collects water.

• Don’t use pesticides or bug-zappers. These indiscriminant killers are likely to kill more beneficial, mosquito-eating animals than mosquitoes.  

Do, though, take this last thought to heart in your battle against mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are no laughing matter. Every year, 500 million people are infected with mosquito-borne illnesses and at least 2.5 million die from those infections. And the fact that mosquitoes are showing up in larger numbers, earlier in the season, and in places previously too cold or dry for them to survive is not just alarming, it’s deadly. You may be bitten by a first-generation mosquito, hatched and thriving in areas of Alaska that have never seen mosquitoes.

The real battle against mosquitoes is the battle to stabilize Earth’s climate.

 
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