One of the best places to spend time is in the wild outdoors. But along with all the beauty that Mother Nature provides, humans must also contend with the insects that make the wild outdoors their home.
Insects that sting, bite, or otherwise make their presence known to humans can ruin an otherwise perfect day and in a survival situation, they can really make things worse.
Chief among these irritating little horrors is the ever-present and reviled mosquito.
You know them. You hate them. In this article we will tell you everything you need to know about repelling them and avoiding their (potentially) deadly bite!
Table of Contents
Understanding Mosquito Behavior
Mosquitoes are small, fly-like insects that are known for their bloodsucking habits.
Understanding their life-cycle and behavior can help us to better protect ourselves from their bites. Below is a closer look at mosquitoes, where they come from and how they live.
Mosquitoes go through four different life stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs are laid in water, and the larvae hatch out and live in the water until they mature into pupae.
The adults then emerge from the water ready to ruin your time outdoors by feeding on your blood.
Starting out their lifecycle in water is why mosquito numbers always surge after a hard rain, and are present anywhere there is standing water- from a pond or lake to trapped water in an old tire or birdbath on your property!
This is also the reason why mosquitoes are extremely numerous in any area far from human activity where no methods to exterminate them are implemented.
The bite of a mosquito is only sometimes painful since their needle-like mouthparts are so tiny. But their bite will invariably result in maddening, itchy welts that persist for days.
Constant itching will seriously degrade your morale, and scratching the welts can result in lesions that are sure vectors for infection. Not good, ever, but a real problem in a survival situation!
Most destructively, mosquitoes can also transmit diseases, including some deadly serious ones. The most well-known are malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, and West Nile virus.
Most of said diseases can be fatal if not treated properly or at best result in lifelong health complications. That is why it is so important to take steps to protect yourself from mosquitoes.
When you consider that there are literally countless mosquitoes in North American alone it seems like it is only a matter of time before you contract something bad in mosquito country…
It is because of this propensity to transmit deadly disease that mosquitoes are considered to be one of the most deadly, if not the deadliest animals because of the diseases that they can transmit; they have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people over the years!
Avoiding the Bite of the Bloodsucker
Avoiding mosquito bites is easier said than done. Once they detect prey they will close in silently and invisibly before they land and bite you.
Luckily, there is one major thing you can do to try and keep mosquitoes at bay: reduce the amount of standing water where you are.
This means making sure there aren’t any old tires, birdbaths or other objects that can collect water just sitting around and festering as this invites mosquitoes to congregate and lay eggs in them.
Also, keep an eye on your gutters and downspouts at home to ensure water can drain properly. If you have a pool, make sure it is properly chlorinated so that mosquitoes don’t breed in it.
But how about our own bodies? How to we keep ourselves from becoming a target?
Mosquitoes are attracted to:
- ✅ Lactic acid
- ✅ Type O Blood
- ✅ CO2
- ✅ Metabolic rate (high resting metabolic rates are more attractive)
- ✅ Heat
- ✅ Movement
Drinking alcohol and exercising both raise metabolic rate, and make you more attractive to mosquitoes. Movement and sweating will make you more attractive to mosquitoes.
You should also try to avoid being outside during peak mosquito hours, which are typically dawn and dusk.
If you must be outdoors during these times, make sure to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs, and consider spraying yourself with an insect repellent.
There are a number of different mosquito repellents available on the market, and some work better than others.
The two most common types of mosquito repellents are those that contain DEET and those that use natural ingredients like citronella.
DEET is considered to be the most effective mosquito repellent, but it can also be toxic if used in large quantities, so it is important to follow the directions on the bottle carefully.
Natural mosquito repellents tend to be less effective than those that contain DEET, but they are also much safer to use, so they are a good choice for people who are concerned about the potential side effects of using DEET-based products.
Whatever type of mosquito repellent you choose, make sure to apply it generously and evenly over all exposed skin.
Be sure to include the back of your neck, your ears, and your wrists. Reapply it according to the directions on the bottle, especially if you are sweating heavily or swimming.
If you follow these and the other tips below, you can hopefully avoid becoming a mosquito meal this summer:
Surefire Ways to Repel Mosquitoes
Avon’s Skin So Soft
An active ingredient in this product called IR3535 is considered a biopesticide repellent by the EPA. It works, but in most cases will only provide protection for about twenty minutes.
20 minutes is not much protection, but this should be considered as a low toxicity alternative to other bug repellents especially when used in conjunction with other items as part of a regimen.
Don’t Eat Bananas
Female mosquitoes bite and they love sugar. It’s said that when the body processes bananas it attracts the mosquitoes.
Do Eat Garlic
To repel ticks and mosquitoes alike.
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Can help ward off ticks and mosquitoes. It’s a very effective chemical. Not safe for kids under 3 years of age.
Can cause skin irritation and problems with vision so keep away from eyes. Always test before you apply fully!
Use Mosquito Netting
To keep mosquitoes from being able to get to you. Exercise indoors and shower before going outside.
Use DEET Repellents
Of at least 15% DEET will provide protection from insects for about 90 minutes.
Love it or hate it there is hardly anything more effective for repelling mosquitoes and other biting insects then insect repellent containing a high concentration of DEET.
That being said, some people show remarkable sensitivity to the chemical brew and there are some viable concerns about long-term health effects for those who are forced to use it constantly.
Do your research, and make your own decision. regardless, it should absolutely be a component in your bug out bag or camping kit.
Avoid Scented Hygiene Products
Some conventional wisdom says that smelling like flowers will attract bugs that are attracted to flowers.
Was proven to work 10 times better than DEET as an insect repellent according to a study done in 2001.
Catnip oil is a pretty good choice for an all-natural mosquito repellent, at least according to the cited study, but there is no telling what effect this will have on your cat if you have one and any other felines in the area. User discretion advised!
Citronella candles are a time-honored method of repelling mosquitoes through a one-two punch.
Smoke, as we will learn, is effective at fending off mosquitoes but also the volatile oils in the burning citronella seem to disrupt the direction finding capabilities of the little buggers. Citronella is thought to make mosquitos “miss the target.”
Get Your Vitamin B
To alter your scent and keep mosquitoes away. The Mayo Clinic suggests that 75|-150 mg of Thiamin (Vitamin B-1) could be enough to get mosquitoes to leave you alone.
This is another easy and all natural method for masking your presence from mosquitoes.
As always, you must take great care with any dietary supplement so that you do not overdo it and accidentally ingest a toxic dose over time.
Find the Breeze or Use a Fan
Mosquitoes cannot fly in breezes over 1mph. In the wild of course you’ll need a solar- or battery-powered fan.
Any day you have a good stiff breeze on your side is also good if you are able to stay in the wind.
That will ensure that you’ll keep the mosquitoes downwind of you. This is one of my favorite and least invasive methods for keeping mosquitoes off of me.
Can keep mosquitoes off of you or at least prevent them from biting if they land on you. Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks to cover exposed skin.
Light colored clothing will blend into the surroundings and make you less noticeable to mosquitoes.
Clothing should be tight not loose and should be smooth, breathable fabrics that are tightly woven. You can also buy clothing treated with permethrin which is a proven insect repellent.
Look for brands such as Nobitech and Insect Shield. Or buy permethrin spray and treat your own clothing.
Use Soybean Oil Repellents
Which work a little better than products containing 7% DEET but not as well as products with 15% DEET.
The difference is that soybean oil repellent is all natural and much safer. Yet another all-natural repellent.
If you are a hard-charger when it comes to avoiding synthetic chemicals and any possible side effects, you might want to look into soybean oil as a replacement for your typical, over the counter bug sprays.
Avoid Mosquito Havens
When you are camping or in the wild. Things such as areas with standing water where female mosquitoes (the ones that bite) lay their eggs.
Around your home, empty standing kiddie pools, tires, buckets, or anything else that has filled with water. Avoid bushes, long grasses or tall weeds.
Go Out in Midday
The time of day can also affect mosquito behavior. They generally feed as the sun is rising and just before it sets in the evening.
This is because humidity goes up and the breeze dies down, perfect flying weather for mosquitoes.
Mosquito Repellent Plants
Are one of the ways to prevent bug bites. Basil is said to be toxic to mosquito larvae.
Rosemary can be burned, and the smoke will help repel mosquitoes. Lavender repels flies, moths, and mosquitoes. Peppermint kills some bug larvae and repels adult mosquitoes.
Marigolds work to keep mosquitoes and aphids away. Marigold roots are believed to repel a type of roundworms called Nematodes.
Vicks VapoRub when rubbed on exposed skin can be very effective at repelling mosquitoes.
The only problem with this method is that the smell of menthol may be unpleasant for you and those around you.
If you are absolutely desperate for serious mosquito point defense you can thickly lather VapoRub or other petroleum jellies on your skin to form a physical barrier that will entangle and trap mosquitoes before they can bite you.
Their insubstantial weight and delicate physiology makes them highly vulnerable to this method. But you’ll wind up a greasy mess and will be forced to reapply periodically over time.
Cinnamon Leaf Oil
Has been said to be a natural insect repellent. Combine cinnamon leaf oil with a small amount of water and spray or apply to the skin.
Most bugs don’t like the smell at all. If they do land on your skin, the oil can be deadly for certain insects.
As always, take care when applying cinnamon leaf oil or any other concentrated essential oil as bad reactions or irritation may result. Test before you commit!
Vanilla Extract (Clear) and Olive Oil
Combined into a spray can be effective in repelling mosquitoes and it’s another all-natural method.
Used when bathing or showering can help give you an odor that will repel mosquitoes. Citronella soap might be a good addition to a battery of all natural repellents as part of a layered defense.
If you don’t mind all the extra work and specialty products, they could add up to a pretty effective mosquito-blocking regimen.
Is similar to the chemical compound found in pepper. More natural than DEET. Levels of about 20% picaridin should be effective.
Make Your Own Insect Spray
By combining lemongrass oil, vanillin, citronella, and peppermint oil. It’s safe and can be more effective than products with 100% DEET.
Though an all-natural mosquito repellent that is highly attractive, particularly those who are feeling reservations about DEET, you must be cautious to test for bad reactions as described above.
Mosquito Repellent Myths
There are a lot of old wives’ tales about mosquito repellents and that can be hard to sort out the fact from the fiction.
Here are some of the most common myths about mosquito repellents, and the truth behind them. Be warned; these answers might surprise you!
People have been using campfires as a way to keep mosquitoes at bay pretty much forever, but is there any truth to this?
Well, it turns out that there is some evidence to suggest that campfires can help to repel mosquitoes.
One study found that when wood was burned in an enclosed space, the smoke that was generated did in fact keep mosquitoes away.
However, it’s important to note that the smoke generated by a campfire is not as effective at repelling mosquitoes as some of the commercial mosquito repellents that are available.
So, while a campfire might help to keep some mosquitoes at bay it’s not going to be a completely effective solution 100% of the time.
We also have a mountain of anecdotal experience to account for.
Experienced outdoorsmen and guides also suggest that campfires can help to keep mosquitoes away, or they can when specific herbs, wood or other plant matter (sage, cedar wood, lemon, bergamot) are burned.
Again, it’s not thought to be a foolproof solution. If you’re planning on spending time outdoors in an area where there are a lot of mosquitoes, it’s still a good idea to use a mosquito repellent in addition to having a campfire roaring!
Also, don’t be too quick to douse that smoldering blaze; it is the smoke, not the flames, that keeps the buggers at bay.
Camping Near a Lake or Pond
How about the old wisdom that you should never camp near a pond or lake? I can say with certainty that this “mythical” advice is 100% confirmed!
While you might enjoy the serene beauty of a lakefront campsite, the reality is that mosquitoes love these locations just as much as you do.
That’s because standing water is the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, as we just learned earlier.
If you’re planning on camping in an area where there is standing water, be sure to take extra precautions to keep mosquitoes away, such as using a mosquito repellent and setting up mosquito netting around your campsite or at the very least over your sleeping area.
I promise, you have never seen as many mosquitoes in your life until you have been in deep, damp country near a major water source.
You can literally feel yourself getting lighter you’ll lose so much blood to the little monsters…
Smearing Yourself with Mud
Mud, particularly wet mud, is often touted as a natural mosquito repellent. But does it actually work?
The jury is still out on this one, but it looks like the answer is no. Some people swear by mud as a way to keep mosquitoes away, while others find that it doesn’t make any difference.
Contrary to popular belief, mud doesn’t do a very good job at keeping mosquitoes away. Here’s why.
There’s no scientific evidence that mud works as a mosquito repellent, but it’s possible that it could help to some extent.
Mud may work by creating a barrier between your skin and the mosquito, making it more difficult for the mosquito to bite you. Mud may also have a cooling effect, which could make you less attractive to mosquitoes.
These insects are attracted to body heat, so anything that makes you cooler may help to keep them away.
Of course, the downside of smearing mud on your skin is that it’s messy and can be difficult to remove.
If you decide to try this method, be prepared for a bit of a cleanup afterwards. You may also want to avoid getting mud in your eyes, as it can be irritating or even infectious.
Anyway, there you have it. Myths mostly confirmed! Campfires can help to repel mosquitoes, but they are not a foolproof solution.
If you’re planning on spending time outdoors in an area where there are a lot of mosquitoes, be sure to take extra precautions to keep them at bay.
And, if you’re camping near a pond or lake, be sure to take even more precautions near your campsite since they’ll be out in force. Lastly, smearing mud won’t really help. Sorry!
How to Alleviate Bug Bites
Although many of the ways to prevent bug bites in the wild are effective, chances are one of the little buggers will get to you at some point. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to take care of bug bites too.
You can use a variety of different natural herbs and plants such as lavender, aloe vera, cinnamon, tea tree oil, calendula, and basil to treat the itchiness.
You can also use heat or ice to ease the swelling and pain of bug bites or stings. Witch hazel combined with baking soda can be effective for bug bites as well.
Now You Can Deal with the Mosquito Menace
Hopefully this article has helped to clear up some of the myths surrounding mosquito repellents and arm you with the best information instead!
Remember, the best way to protect yourself from mosquito bites is to use an effective repellent and take other precautions like wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors, and avoiding being outside during peak mosquito hours.
With the list of ways above, you should be able to find something that can help keep the annoying little pests away from you, so you can either enjoy that backyard picnic or focus on accomplishing the survival tasks you need to get done in the wild outdoors.
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of ten is learning everything she can about preparedness, survival, and homesteading.