Every year summer begins with the promise of ice creams and long warm nights, and then reminds us that it's also prime mosquito season. Dealing with the dreaded bites isn't exactly fun — though every family has their own homemade ways of dealing with them — but there are definitely tried and true methods to prevent bites in the first place. Of course, classic spray-on mosquito repellents containing DEET are still the most effective, but if you don't have bug spray on you (or aren't looking to use it), there are other unexpected ways to keep mosquitos away — from those you might find in your kitchen cabinet to those that might make it onto the market some day soon.
One thing you definitely shouldn't do? Use one of those ultrasound mosquito-repelling "apps" — you know, the ones that play a frequency that's supposed to be annoying to mosquitos? Numerous studies have demonstrated that they won't do anything to stop you from being bitten, according to the BBC. It's a nice idea that, unfortunately, doesn't work in practice. And neither do bug-zappers; mosquitos are apparently not all that attracted to bright purple lights, so that zap and crackle on a warm summer night is much more likely to be a moth or a fly than a pesky mosquito. Here are some other options if you want to keep yourself bite-free.
1Wearing Light, Tightly Woven Clothes
Flowing linens might be super comfortable while sitting out back over the summer, but if you want to keep yourself free of mosquito itches, it's considered best to wear fabrics that are tightly-woven (so they won't allow mosquitos to penetrate) and in light colors. Mosquitos are actually more attracted to dark colors than bright; they're like nature's little goths. You're trying to blend in with the light on the landscape so that they don't pick you out as a potential bit of prey. Long sleeves and pants will also be helpful in that regard.
2Oil Of Lemon Eucalyptus Spray
Yes, this is a genuine bit of science and not an old wives' tale; oil of lemon eucalyptus spray is actually, according to a study from 2017, just as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitos from human skin. It's important that you buy the correct thing, though, so read the ingredients correctly. Plain old lemon eucalyptus oil won't do the same thing as oil of lemon, so you can't make this yourself with your herbal oils.
3A Genetically Engineered Spider-Fungus
This one might appear on the shelves in a few years, but isn't quite available yet. In 2017, scientists announced that they'd produced a fungus that's harmless to humans but highly lethal to mosquitos, who avoid it like the plague. The fungus apparently emits toxins from spiders and scorpions that are extremely bad news for mosquito health, but doesn't do anything bad to other insects like honey bees (phew). The fungus is currently being tested in Burkina Faso, which has a big malaria problem, but it could be available to have on your kitchen window one day soon. For now, if you see spiders in your apartment, try to keep them around; they eat mosquitos like nobody's business.
4Scrubbing Out Your Kiddie Pools
You're slathering yourself in repellent, but are you doing enough to target mosquitos where they breed? If you live near a source of stagnant water, get rid of it, and make sure you clean the area properly. Ponds and water features in gardens are big problems, as are kiddie pools. Don't just dump out the water from stagnant places; wash them out thoroughly so that any eggs that have been laid will be dispersed. #TheMoreYouKnow
5This Kind Of Pepper
If you want to stay away from DEET, a surprising innovation might be your best option: applying a picaridin-based repellent that comes with a fan option to keep it circulating around your body. Picaridin is derived from black pepper, and is very annoying to mosquitos — but just having it on a wristband, according to science from 2017, does very little. Instead, it's a good idea to look for repellents that also come with fan or spray attachments so it creates a kind of protective globe around your body. Please don't cover yourself in black pepper if you're out of ideas; it's not an adequate replacement and you'll irritate your skin.
6A Poisonous Nectar
Contrary to popular opinion, mosquitos don't just live on blood. They're actually dependent on nectar, and a study from the American Chemical Society in 2017 found that creating a toxic nectar product was actually a pretty good way of lowering mosquito levels a lot. They made an insecticide that smelled like tasty flower nectar, and mosquitos were utterly fooled. Though this solution isn't on the market yet, it offers an easy-to-implement lesson: you should avoid leaving out sweet foods and substances that might attract mosquitos in their season. Keep all sugary things behind closed cupboard doors and consume them fast when they're out.
7Victoria's Secret Bombshell
A study by scientists in 2016 found that, contrary to expectation, a serious floral perfume like Victoria's Secret Bombshell, which is sweet, sugary and fruity, actually repels mosquitos. Yes, actually. However, there are downsides to this. The scientists point out that they don't know what ingredient in the perfume is the one repelling the mosquitos, they told NPR, and it's not exactly a solution to slather perfume all over your exposed skin. It's likely something to do with the fixer chemicals that are used to "hold" the scent, but without more investigation we can't be sure. In the meantime, don't count on a floral perfume to keep mosquitos away.
Your best bet for repelling mosquitos this summer will be keeping a bulk supply in bug spray in your purse, in your car, by your fire escape, or wherever else you may be hanging out in the great outdoors. But when you run out, these options could give you some surprising relief.