With summer in full swing, you're probably already thinking about how to avoid mosquitoes. There are many reasons to do so, least of which is the annoying itch their bites can cause. In addition to viruses such as West Nile and eastern equine encephalitis, now there's Zika to worry about. The World Health Organization has declared Zika virus and the explosion of birth defects in Brazil a public health emergency, and medical experts are calling for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics to be moved due to the threat.
While the Aedes mosquito, the type most responsible for the spread of Zika, isn't prevalent in the United States, it's still smart to take every precaution against the spread of this disease. Consumer Reports recently tested mosquito repellents to see which ones worked best against the Aedes mosquito. Topping the list were products with 20% picaridin or 25% deet, keeping the bugs away for eight hours. One with 30% lemon eucalyptus kept them away for seven hours. What's not recommended? Repellents made with natural plant oils such as citronella or cedar oil.
Though natural repellents may not work the best, there are plenty of other natural steps you can take to keep mosquitoes away.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants. Don’t forget to cover your feet too. And make sure your clothing isn't too tight, since mosquitoes can bite through material to your skin.
- Wear light colors, as dark colors attract the insects.
- Don't wear attractive scents such as perfume or aftershave.
- Try wearing strong-smelling essential oils such as cedarwood, rosemary or lemon eucalyptus. Other strong scents that might put mosquitoes off include cider vinegar and imitation vanilla.
For your yard
- Empty standing water. Make sure there are no buckets or other water receptacles around the yard, such as wheelbarrows, gutters, birdbaths and kiddie pools.
- Remove ivy and other tight-growing plants that keep an area cool and dark – a setting that mosquitoes prefer.
- Use an oscillating fan and set it on high when picnicking. Mosquitoes can't fly through the strong wind.
- Plant herbs and flowers known for keeping mosquitoes away, such as marigolds, lavender and catnip.
- Add fresh rosemary or sage to your fire or coals to keep the bugs away.