It’s mosquito season again. Those tiny winged creatures with the high-pitched hum are not only inconvenient pests, they carry deadly diseases. Now more than ever it’s important to protect yourself from mosquito bites this summer. And that means finding the best mosquito repellent for your living situation.
Mosquitoes are the deadliest species in the world; they killed more than one million people last year. They carry the deadly West Nile and Zika viruses as well as dengue fever. And this year mosquitoes are carrying malaria in North America. No one know how they got here. But take heed: according to The BMJ (the British Medical Journal), people who are over the age of 65 are almost 10 times more likely to die from the malaria than those who are aged 18-35. Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is no longer an afterthought. It’s a necessity.
In addition to the health consequences of being bitten by insects, mosquitoes are simply pests. Many a backyard barbeque has been ruined by the winged tormenters. The best solution is to keep insects completely away from you.
We found eight insect repellents that really work
We searched for the best mosquito repellents so you can protect your health and enjoy being outside, no matter the time of day. They include products that you apply to your skin, external devices, and natural remedies.
The criteria we used for selecting these eight products include the following:
- At least a 70% rating on Amazon
- In the case of natural solutions, at least five reputable sites recommend them
- No sprays. We find they are wasteful as much of the product doesn’t reach your skin but disappears into the air. Most products that are sprays also come in lotion form, giving much better coverage while being safer for the environment.
We are featuring the FVOAI bug zapper because of its high effectiveness. Reviews on Amazon are very good. It can be used indoors, although it is not an attractive part of any décor. The description of how it works is humorous: “ultra-violet light attracts mosquitoes, gnats, moths, and most insects. Once they fly in, they will be killed immediately in an eco-friendly way”. A minor drawback is that it needs to be plugged into a power outlet. Find it on Amazon.
This brilliant little device is one of the best mosquito repellents around. It can either be clipped on to clothing or set on a table. It works by emitting a high frequency that is aggravating to mosquitos. But here is the genius part: it has a dragonfly mode that attracts dragonflies, a natural predator of the mosquito. The idea is that you can sit back and sip your mint julep while the carnage happens silently around you. It takes two triple A batteries and is effective up to 300 square feet; to cover a larger area, you may want to invest in several. Find it on Amazon.
Raid-Off Botanicals is a plant-based mosquito repellent. Its active ingredient is chemically synthesized from pine oil extract. According to SC Johnson, the product provides protection from black flies, gnats, no-see-ums and mosquitoes, including those that may carry the West Nile virus. One of the drawbacks of this product is that it will require frequent reapplication as it is effective for only two hours. The good news is that it does not contain a pesticide and it has a pleasant, fresh scent. Find it on Amazon.
Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent is a top-rated product with a good rating on Amazon and effectiveness that lasts for 14 hours. Its effectiveness and longevity result from a synthetic compound called Picaridin. Picaridin was first made in the 1980s to resemble the natural compound piperine, which is found in the group of plants that produce black pepper. Picaridin has been widely used as an insect repellent in Europe and Australia for years, coming more recently to the US. Find it on Amazon.
All Terrain Herbal Armor is completely botanical. It is made with oil of citronella, peppermint, cedar, soybean, lemongrass and geranium. As one reviewer put it: “You know in all those articles that recommend some natural oil that keeps mosquitos and other insects away? You then try them out and find out it doesn’t really work? Well, this bug spray contains all of those oils together and with the powerful combination you can be bug free and feel invincible to mosquitoes and other bugs outside.” Find it on Amazon.
The RibRave Electronic Repellent works by using a powerful combination of natural scents and technology to create a 30ft mosquito and bug-free space in just 10 minutes. The device comes with an extra rechargeable battery that you can pop in after four hours. As one reviewer put it: “First I put it at 10 feet distance and waited and didn’t see any mosquitoes at all. Then moved it at 30 feet and still no sign of mosquitoes. It’s a very interesting device that has a quiet fan that blows the natural ingredients to the surrounding environment and bugs don’t like the smell.” Find it on Amazon.
We love the description of how this Walrus Oil Bug Repellent works: “Instantly turn[s you] into a repulsively unattractive human to mosquitos.” Everything about this product, from the attractive dark green tin featuring a walrus to the marketing literature is backwoods homey but the product appears to really work. Even though it’s made with natural oils, the product is cream based, which makes it non-greasy. In a review captioned, Unbelievably Effective, Smells Incredible, the reviewer writes, “one of those rare apothecary products that lands a home run.” Find it on Amazon.
3M Ultrathon is the only product in our list that contains DEET. We included it because of its very high effectiveness for certain situations. This is not the mosquito repellant you would use for a garden party (unless it’s in the Florida Everglades). This is the big gun for a deep woods trek.
DEET is a pesticide. It was invented by the United States military in 1946 to protect soldiers in combat in unforgiving environments. Since 1946 we’ve learned a lot about pesticides and how they affect us so DEET now comes with cautions. It is considered safe when used sparingly but not continuously; it can also stain or ruin clothing. DEET sprays have been found to harm aquatic life and some plants, which is why we recommend the lotion. Follow the instructions carefully. Find it on Amazon.
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