Insect repellents that work? Preferably non-DEET.

So, I will be spending a lot of time outside with mosquitos in the near future and wanted to remain mostly uneaten (actually, I generally have no problem, but people I’ll be with are just as attractive to mosquitos as they are to dirty old men). A search for “insect repellent” on these boards turned up some interesting, but conflicting information.

I’d like to avoid DEET because I’m one of those hippies that can’t deal with chemicals.

Here’s the summary of my findings:



May or may not work:

“Buzz Away”
Citronella daubs
Skin-So-Soft (lots of back and forth, appears that this only works against gnats, no consensus was reached).
Cactus Oil Salve


Black clothes

Anyone help with this? I could have sworn that bananas were supposed to keep mosquitos away, but apparently not. Any other ideas of foods to eat/not eat ('twill be on a picnic)? Other products I should be using?

Someone (SDSAB someone IIRC) commented that the only use for the repellents was to mask the human scent. Should I smear myself in animal dung? Eat lots of jalapenos?

Would this be better off in IMHO?

Consumer Reports tells us that it found DEET and Permethrin to be effective, and that everything else that they tested really wasn’t very effective.

From this sight. Which also has some other recommendations.

Sorry that’s site. :smack:

If you are covered with Skin-so-Soft, and they dude next to you isn’t- he’ll get bit a lot more than you- same with Citronella. Neither protect worth a damn- although Avon has a SSS repellent out, which adds stuff to SSS.

There are special outfits which are a 100% protection- and use no chemicals.

One of my survival books suggests the pioneers repellant. A mixture of Castor Oil and PennyRoyal Oil, equal parts, slathered over the skin. I’ve never had the stomach to try it.

A friend of mine got a set of incense repellant sticks from REI. They seemed to burn for 2-3 hours, and smelled rather nice to most human noses. I’m not certain what the active ingredients were. I’m also not certain how effective they actually were, since most of us were covered in DEET, anyway.

I’ve also used citronella candles to good effect, though it could be more because the insects get attracted to the light and die landing in candle wax.

I’ve also read that putting a sizeable amount of honey or molasses upwind from your campsite can attract most insects to that point. I’m not sure if it would also attract bears. :frowning:

Only other tidbit I’ve heard on mosquitoes is they are attracted to carbon dioxide from humans. Which means the more you fidget/excercise/exhale, the more they see you.

Those are some pretty harsh chemicals, man!

A major ingredient of many of them is dihydrogen monoxide

Careful with that stuff, dude.

QtM, thanks for the links. I’ll have to see if I can find any of that “Bite Blocker.”

Thanks for the responses all!

Man, more checmicals I’ve got to be afraid of…

Dude, everything’s a chemical.

Now DEET is some nasty shit, but it’s pretty much the only thing that works. Here’s how to use it:
–Get a 100% DEET preparation, like Ben’s
–Apply it sparingly to places other than your skin, like your boots or the brim of your hat. If you’re sitting in one place, you can put it on your chair. This usually works sufficiently well, and keeps it out of contact with your skin. Keep in mind that DEET reacts with some plastics, so be careful.
–Only if absolutely necessary, apply it sparingly to exposed skin.

This way, you’ll come into direct contact with a lot less of the stuff than if you constantly slathered yourself with a 20% preparation, like “Off!”

Two other things that do work: permethrin and mosquito netting. If you’re really going to be around a lot of bugs, get yourself a head net. Everybody will laugh at you the first day. The second day, they will try to steal it.

The other bug repellents, like citronella candles, incense, and non-DEET lotions do have some utility, but they won’t fight a serious bug problem on their own. I usually use the non-DEET repellants and find them sufficient. But if I run into a lot of mosquitoes, I break out the DEET.

8 billion applications show that DEET is effective and relatively harmless…Can you say that for any of the other chemicals anyone else will try to con you into using.

Be a chemophobe if you want…but if you want to be good at it you shouldn’t touch or eat or breathe anything.

In my long and bitter and much-bitten experience, the only thing that works (and works amazingly well) is mosquito coils. Long coiled up josstick-type substance that you light at one end, and it burns throughout the night (or day).

You can actually hear the mosquitoes going mad in the vapours and tumbling to earth.

Coils are usually very cheap (less than US$1 for a pack of twelve). The only downside is - just as with any incense/jossticks/scented stuff - your room will smell of it. So you might want to keep your wardrobe closed or move clothes elsewhere.

I recently bought a Mosquito Magnet for my back yard. After I set it up and let it run for a while, I would visit it to check on the collection basket - there would be dozens, if not hundreds, of mosquitoes swarming around the thing. Or maybe they were just swarming around me, which is typical in my back yard. So I let it run for three weeks, and the thing caught a total of about 30 or 40 mosquitoes in the basket.

I didn’t figure this was going to be very effective against a population of probably hundreds of thousands, so I returned it. Fortunately, Home Depot was very gracious with their return policy and I got a full refund.

I guess it’s back to DEET. Not that I’m afraid of the stuff, but it’s inconvenient to slather myself with it any time I want to sit on my deck.

A couple of years back there was a great amount of excitement regarding catnip oil as an effective mosquito repellant. The research at the time, IIRC, indicated that catnip may be a better repellant than DEET. Since I have heard nothing since then, the flurry of excitement may have been just hopeful hype for a project that did not pan out. Does anyone out there know where this research went?

Yep, that’ll rid your yard of biting insects. You’ll have nothing left but a pile of stoned cats. :smiley:

Picking insect repellant is all determined by where you are and what the mosquitos are like.

Here in Austin, if I walk my dog, or if I’m in the yard at dusk I might use some regular OFF. Hell, in a situation like that even the SSS might work (most people I know originally recommended it for Black Flies). I have also been in Belize where we were burning termite mounds for smoke and wearing head nets and long clothes and still had to use %100 DEET on exposed skin (hands and wrists) every 2-3 hours.

For dealing with mosquitos in a city DEET of 12-20% is probably going to do the trick. Permethrin does work as well but it is harder to find and I don’t know if it comes in different strengths. I most cases you may even be better off to not use anything and just get some anti-itch spray for the few bites you may end up with. In the jungle you need the right clothes and either Permethrin or DEET, all the other stuff just doesn’t stand up to the test.

I read the journal article anouncing this. I think only one of the chemicals in the catnip plant (and only one isomer of this chemical) had the desired effect. I think if this particular isomer could be synthesized economically than it would be useful. Right now, I believe you have to go through a whole lot of catnip to get enough of the desired molecule. So I think economics is keeping it from being scaled up…that and the fact that it would have to be tested as safe for use and the environment. Just because it comes from a plant doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful.

My chemistry teacher swore by oil of bergamot - the ingredient in ivory soap that gives it its smell :o

At first this set off my BS detector, but it turns out there may be something to it:
Scientists discover how mosquitoes smell their human prey. Maybe a good anti-perspirant is all that is needed.

Last summer, at work I had to go pretty deep into the swampy river bottoms quite a bit. It seemed that the mosquitos there could really care less what kind of repellant you used. The only thing we found that worked was a repellant made from cedar oil. I don’t know if it’s widely distributed or what it’s name was, though.