Mosquito Repellents and Bite Remedies

Home Remedies for Repelling Mosquitoes and Soothing Bug Bites

June 3, 2021
deter-mosquitoes-bug-bites

Discover natural mosquito repellents that work—and also safe. Plus, find out why mosquitoes bite (it’s only the females!), 5 tips to keep mosquitos to a minimum in your yard, and how to quickly and naturally provide relief from mosquito bites and soothe that itch!

We love summer, but staying away from mosquitoes is annoying. No one wants to wear long clothes in the heat just to prevent mosquito bites, but the bugs can be relentless. Keeping those little fiends away is not only a matter of comfort but can be a matter of disease prevention (West Nile, Zika, yellow fever, etc.) though disease is rare.

It’s the Females Who Bite

It’s not all mosquitoes that feed on blood, though: male mosquitoes only drink nectar. Why do the females bite? They are nourishing their developing eggs with protein-rich blood. To that end, the female mosquitoes prefer to bite ankles and wrists, where blood vessels are nearer to the skin’s surface. Ever noticed where you get bitten?

Why Do Mosquito Bites Itch?

When a mosquito bites you, it injects a small amount of saliva into the wound to stop your blood from clotting. Our bodies react to this foreign substance and, in defense, produce a protein called histamine. Histamine triggers the characteristic inflammation seen around mosquito bites, as well as the itching.

Avoid Bites in the First Place

  1. Sweat attracts mosquitoes! A higher body temperature and more sweat make you more likely to be bitten. A first step is to wash off any sweat and keep your body temperature down.
  2. Place barrier between the skin and mosquitoes—​lightweight long sleeves and long pants.
  3. Spray yourself with an effective, safe mosquito repellent.

Effective Natural Mosquito Repellents

All of the below repellents are topical (rubbed on the skin).

  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (or PMD, the man-made version) can be very effective and is safe. It shouldn’t be used on children under 3 years old, however — it’s not well-studied enough. Some repellents in the United States that contain it include Repel Lemon Eucalyptus and Off! Botanicals. 
  • Garlic oil rubbed onto the skin has proven to be effective in some studies. Some people swear garlic works and swallow slivered garlic to ward off these summer pests. Others take garlic tablets or rub garlic juice directly on their skin.
  • Many readers claim that rubbing apple cider vinegar on your skin helps to repel insects. If you take in enough apple cider vinegar by putting it on foods you eat, you’ll develop a body odor that will repel insects, including black flies. One great and refreshing summer drink for this purpose is switchel, made from apple cider vinegar.
  • Catnip oil was reported to repel mosquitoes by some studies.

Effective Synthetic Repellents

  • DEET, which has a long track record, is safe with low risks but many people worry that it’s not. The big advantage of DEET is that it lasts — and you don’t have to use a super high concentration. If you are going to use a DEET repellent, do not use one with more than 25% DEET. Unlike the SPF rating in sunscreens, higher concentrations of DEET don’t mean more protection.
  • Picaridin, a derivative of piperidine, a chemical related to black pepper, has been used in Europe since the late 1990s. In this country, Cutter Advanced was the first picaridin product to hit the market. 
  • IR-3535 is the active ingredient in Avon insect repellents (and some others as well). It lasts for about 2 hours. It can cause eye irritation if you spray it there by accident, but is otherwise very safe.

garlic-keep-mosquitoes-away.jpg

Though it might not give you the most pleasing scent, garlic juice could help to keep mosquitoes away.

How to Keep Mosquitoes to a Minimum

  1. Eliminate mosquito breeding sites on your property. They need standing water to breed, so empty those puddles, old cans, buckets, and plant pots. If you have a pond, don’t worry—dragonflies love ponds, and they are a big mosquito predator. Just don’t hang around standing water yourself!
  2. It is thought that certain plants repel a broad spectrum of insects. Marigolds, chrysanthemums, asters, and pyrethrum daisies, as well as herbs such as basil, anise, and coriander, are all thought to repel insects. See more plants that repel mosquitoes.
  3. Citronella candles are not proven to work in studies, however, cintronella smoke repels mosquitoes. Or, burn a little sage or rosemary over coals to repel mosquitoes.
  4. Add a bat house to your home! Did you know that one small brown bat can eat as many as 600 mosquitoes in one hour? Check this page for more information on bats and other creatures that eat annoying pests!
  5. If you are camping outside, use mosquito netting around bedding. Spraying the netting with insect repellent is a good idea.

Best Way to Relieve Bites and Itching

  1. It helps to ice the area of the bite to constrict the capillaries near the skin’s surface and reduce swelling. 
  2. If you are going to use a topical cream, stay away from caladryl and calamine lotions for mosquito bites; it’s better to apply a low-potency hydrocortisone and simple patience.
  3. Remember: Do not scratch the bite; this will only make it worse. For itchy bites, rub on meat tenderizer or lemon juice. A paste of mashed garlic can also help make bug bites stop itching.
  4. White vinegar is another remedy for relieving the itch of insect bites. Apply it in full strength. Don’t use vinegar if the area is raw. See more household uses for vinegar.
  5. A paste of baking soda and water can provide much-needed relief to bug bites. Learn more about the countless household uses for baking soda.
  6. Oatmeal can also help to provide itch relief—not only for bug bites.
  7. Some people have luck with high doses of vitamin B1 (100 milligrams, two or three times a day), but it doesn’t work for everybody.

If you have an intense reaction to mosquito bites, consult your doctor.

We hope these natural mosquito repellents and bug bite remedies help you beat the bugs this season! Have some tips of your own? Please post in the comments below!

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Broken hyperlink

The hyperlink under “plants that repel mosquitoes” is broken.

I am a backyard gardener who loves being outdoors. It is a good day when I can be outside enjoyIng nature and learning a few lessons from Mother Nature - that is if I pay attention!
I always enjoy your articles and usually it’s how I start most days with my coffee. Thank you!!

Mosquito bites

Basil leaves rubbed on mosquito bites makes the itch go away. It works for fire ants and other bug bites.

My old dude mosquito repellent story

I'm not really that old, but old enough to have a bunch of stories I tell often. I'll make it brief for you whippersnappers. In the Everglades, exploring as dusk approached, when the swarms of mosquitoes were like black fog rolling in. Yeah, a lot of them. Myself and my friends already had some DEET protection slathered on but the growing clouds of skeeters prompted us to add more. I put on quite a bit, then a bit more, then maybe a little more. We left the Everglades park area and within an hour, I was extremely sick - sweating, nausea, very light headed, felt near to passing out. I knew it was the extreme amount of DEET I had applied. We stopped at a restaurant where I washed it off as best I could in the bathroom and got some food into me - a slow recovery, but the whole thing was scary. Definitely felt like being poisoned. The moral is, obviously, DEET works, but don't be crazy with it. Probably better to avoid the Everglades at sunset!

mosquito bites

I have found that if I put my spit on a mosquito bite repeatedly after getting bitten the enzymes in my saliva will counteract the mosquito's. One must apply their own spit every 5 minutes or so for a half(?) hour. This sometimes works on itchy older bites also.

Bug bites

This makes me wonder if my very low vitamin D condition is attracting mosquitoes and bees to me...the little buggers love me I’m full of bites from being in my pool around my flowers there

Bug bite relief

Hold the Hair dryer about 3-5 inches from the bite, turn on (preferably on high) Hold over the bite for a few seconds (30 ish).. the skin around the bite gets warm, the bite will get HOT.. bear it for a few moments and the itch should be gone.

Why? Convection heat de-natures the proteins causing the allergic reaction and the bite will stop itching... if it doesnt after the first attempt repeat again.

Mosquitoes

Thank you for all the home remedies I live in Louisiana and God knows we got some big ones and I want to set

Natural Repellent Used in Hot Countries

A natural repellent used in hot countries is to cut an apple in half, take one of the halves and some cloves: using it as a 'pin cushion' for the cloves (planting stalk of each clove into fleshy part of the half-apple). Leave that beside the bed, where a chemical reaction will repel any mosquitoes.

itchy mosquito bites

Dab a bit of tea tree oil on the bite, not if the itch has been scratched open!

insect repellent

All the normal precautions, plus suck on peppermint candy.

Repel mosquitos

Great article

Natural repellent

Catnip is 10x more effective repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the main substance used in insect repellents.

1 c isopropyl alcohol
1 c water
1/2 tsp catnip essential oil.

Pour into a spray bottle and use on clothing as a repellent.
Though effective, not suitable for children and pets.

Mosquito repellent and bites

For me just a dab of Vicks Salve at the pulse points works wonders as a repellent. And for the "itchies" try a smear of white solid antiperspirant deodorant. This works for almost any itchy bite including "chigger" bites! You'll find almost instant relief!

Mosquito bite relief

Rubbing alcohol works great

Mosquito repellent & itch remedy

I use Vick’s vapor rub. It works great!!

B12

I've taken vitamin B12 every morning for several years now and no longer have problems with mosquitos or other biting insects while I'm in the garden or yard. I'd heard of the remedy from a friend and tried it; the original idea was to take a B12 tablet at least 30 minutes to 1 hour before going outside. Since then, my B12 has increased due to normal aging issues, but it still works against those pesky biters! May not work for everyone, but could be worth a try!

B12

Thanks. Will buy some today. I'm desperate! Have a lovely yard with patio and can't enjoy it.

bug bites

I use hand sanitizer on mosquito and fire ant bites. Takes the sting right out, and the ant bites don't make a welp. The hand sanitizer with aloe works the best in my opinion. I keep a big bottle on my back porch.

mosquito bites

This is a phenomenal bite killer and anti itch remedy I use in Mexico continuously: We keep a saucepan on the stove at all times. When we are bitten (which is a continuous daily affair), boil the water, use a wash cloth to dip the corner in the boiling hot water and apply to the bite for 2-3 seconds. Immediately do a second time. The itching is gone immediately. Reapply before bed, and bite is gone the next day. No damage to your skin. I discovered this remedy to fool the brain when I had a bad case of hot pepper burn on my hands and found this remedy online. I submerged my hand in the hottest water without burning that I could stand for a period of minutes. Pain gone.

Mosquito bites

Heat denatures the proteins that cause the mosquito bite to itch. Some people use a hot spoon or lighter, but there are now also purpose-built commercial products for applying controlled heat. (I think "therapik" is one; not endorsing just FYI.)

The other trick for itchy bites: scotch tape! Just like the mystery of duct tape occlusion for warts, I don't know how it works. But it works. Before the heat discovery, scotch tape was #1 on my camping gear list.

Fix mosquito bites

Aloe Vera leaf slit an rubbed on bite 2 to 3 times will make it disappear quickly. I always have a few potted near doorways for easy access.

Mosquito bites- relieve the itch

I have found that once I'm bitten and the bump is beginning to grow, vegetable oil can stop the itch and stop the bump from getting any bigger. If the bump has already grown then the oil can help get rid of them faster. It can also help make skin softer. I use it all over, and it works wonders!

Use natural soap to relieve itching and redness of bug bites

I use GreenWyre all purpose cleaner for everything around the house. But I found that wiping some on mosquito, tick, fire ant, and bee stings works immediately to stop the itching, remove the redness, and disinfect the bite area. It's safe for any skin condition and can be used on kids too. Google GreenWyre to find it online.

An outdoor fan keeps mosquitos away

The best mosquito deterrent we have found is turning on our outdoor fan when we sit on our deck. It seems mosquitos don't like moving air. The benefits to the fan are that it is chemical free and cooling as well.

Mosquito

I hate bug bites but i need to sleep with the window open at night to breath and window cant open very far but how do i keep mosquitos from comming in the window i have a curtian over the window and a fan blowing around the room but isnt doesnt seem to keep them from annoying me

Mosquito Netting

The Editors's picture

The easiest way to stop mosquitoes from getting into your home would be to fit a screen in the window. You should be able to find mosquito netting at a local hardware store, which you can attach to your window frame.

All Natural Mosquito Repellent

Lavenderm - All Natural Mosquito Repellent, not just a bug repellent, but the oils in this product are so beneficial to too! It can treat hair loss.

ALL NATURAL MOSQUITO REPELLENT

I tried these bracelets that contained lemongrass essential oils. While I wore the bracelets on my wrists and ankles I did not get one bite. If I wasn't wearing the bracelets I was in agony.

Bat House for Mosquitos

A bat house. Really. Do you have bats in the attic. What is worse. Mosquito bites or the rabies virus?

Don't be batty

Most bats are insectivores and are not interested in humans. Your statement about bats carrying rabies is a hyperbolic in nature. I would worry about raccoons much more than bats.

Pages