Mosquito Repellent | How to Keep Bloodsuckers at Bay This Summer

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It’s that wonderful time of year again. The sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, the grass is green, and the mosquitoes are looking for a plasma donation. Before you willingly consent to these efficient and merciless bloodsuckers, take a look at the following tips and tricks. They might save you a pint or two.


The most obvious but overlooked method of repelling mosquitoes is simply a smart choice of clothing. It’s really your first line of defense, so don’t neglect it. Mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale and our body temperature, so if you can hide those as much as possible, it stands to reason you’ll be more protected.

Wearing long sleeves and pants might not be fun in the heat and humidity of summer, but it really goes a long way to preventing insect bites. The key during hot weather is to use performance clothing that breathes well (think polyester, light merino wool, etc.).

Also consider the use of head nets to save your sanity. Simply drape over your hat to keep mosquitoes from buzzing around your face, and you’ll get to spend more time outside doing what you love. Sure, you might not look your coolest, but you also won’t have a black eye from swatting at your own face.


A mechanical (borderline chemical) repellent that has really blown up the market is a Thermacell unit. The technology behind this unit includes a butane cartridge that vaporizes a mat saturated in allethrin, an odorless chemical similar to one produced naturally in chrysanthemums. This chemical spreads out and repels mosquitoes, flies, and no-see-ums within a 15 by 15 foot area, making your life just a little more enjoyable around the picnic table.


Almost anyone who ventures outdoors carries some type of chemical insect repellent, most likely containing DEET. This has always been the standard protocol for campers and anglers, and it will likely continue. The Center for Disease Control still recommends that DEET is one of the best protection options to repel mosquitoes from your skin. By the way, the higher concentration of DEET listed on the can does not mean it’s more effective than lower concentrations. It only means you may have to apply the lower concentrations more often. Here’s another money-saving tip: concentrations over 50% DEET don’t provide any additional protection than lower concentrations, so don’t bother with higher doses.

You can also apply permethrin to your clothing or gear to repel ticks and mosquitoes. This treatment will often persist on your gear through several washes, which means more time fishing and less time treating your clothes. Using a combination of these two tactics is an effective one-two punch against biting insects.


If the application of potentially toxic chemicals to your skin doesn’t appeal to you, there are several natural sprays you can easily create at home. Typically, chemicals are replaced by very fragrant herbs or essential oils. Simply crush the leaves or flowers of plants like basil, lavender, lemon balm, marigolds, or catnip. Add some vodka to the crushed foliage (which will infuse it with the oils) and “marinate” the mixture for a day. Then strain and add the liquid to a spray bottle. Use your DIY version as you would a store-bought version. You’ll smell much better than being soaked in chemicals.

This summer, don’t reach for the calamine lotion to ease those itchy welts. Prevent insect bites in the first place using the tips suggested above.

Originally published at on July 27, 2015.