Repelling Mosquitoes: A Guide to What Works and What Doesn’t

Getting covered head-to-toe in mosquito bites seems to be as much a part of everyone’s summer as sunburns, black flies and scorched burgers. For a long time, the only really reliable weapon in consumers’ skeeter-fighting arsenal was DEET. The insect repellent has been around for 50 years and remains one of the best weapons against mosquitoes, offering excellent bite protection that lasts for hours. But DEET – an oil formerly called N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide – isn’t perfect and many have had bad reactions while using it.  Still, the number of repellent choices has grown in recent years, with several new mosquito-fighting options entering the market. So which of these new products actually work and how do they stack up against what’s already out there? Let’s take a look at a few.

  • Bug Light Bulbs

Yellow-Bug-Lights If you grew up with yellow light globes for outdoor lighting, which were said to repel insects, have you ever wondered if they actually work? Is there such a thing as a light that will repel insects, such as mosquitoes?  Do yellow bug light bulbs work? To answer that question, let’s start by clearing up some myths about yellow incandescent bug lights and their energy-saving cousin, compact fluorescent bug lights. Bug lights do not kill bugs (you’ll need a bug zapper or Paraclipse fly trap for that), nor do bug lights repel bugs. Bug lights simply attract fewer bugs than other light bulbs. Light is divided into multiple wavelengths, measured in nanometers (nm), as you can see in the graph below. The human eye can only perceive a small band of wavelengths in the light spectrum, from about 390 to 750 nm. Insects perceive a similarly small band of the light spectrum, though their band of vision is shifted further to the “right” of the spectrum than ours. In fact, any wavelength higher than about 650 nm is virtually invisible to most flying insects. In short, a bug light will not magically solve your bug problem, but it will make you and your home less visible to most flying insects.

Is there a lamp that would effectively repel mosquitoes?

Interesting question. Many day-active mosquitoes tend to shun light at night. Similarly, night active mosquitoes sequester themselves into dark cavities during the day. Some traps that are used for sampling mosquitoes at night are outfitted with a small incandescent, fluorescent or LED lamp to ‘attract’ (disorient) the mosquitoes. Whereas some insects do, indeed, exhibit a positive phototropism (attraction to light), many of those that accumulate around lamps or flames at night are merely disoriented by that point source of light. Those that would normally maintain a straight flight path by using the moon as a reference point might instead fixate upon the intense street or porch lamp. As the creature flies straight, the nearby point source light would seemingly change position, as if the insect was being blown off course. The insect makes a course correction again and again, resulting in a spiraling approach to the lamp – or the flame. So, no, they wouldn’t repel, but instead they may be less attractive or less detectable. What are my options? Zika Virus Repellent If you insist on going the spray route, The CDC recommends any product containing Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, p-Menthane-3,8-diol (a synthetic form of Lemon Eucalyptus oil), and IR3535 (a biopesticide used in Europe for the last two decades) Should you really want to invest in an insect repellent lamp or lantern, keep in mind that these devices use butane heaters or candles to warm up pads containing the insecticide allethrin — the same chemical used in most mosquito coils. Directly breathing in the vapours, can induce serious breathing problems and skin irritations. More worrying, though, is a number of recent studies that show the smoke can be toxic to the lungs, especially when they are used indoors — as they often are in South Asia. One study found that burning one mosquito coil would release the same amount of large particulates as that released from 100 cigarettes, and as much formaldehyde as 51 cigarettes. Other Options

  • USB Led Lamp

No led lamp has a insect killing function. So, why do some people claim that LEDs repel bugs and insects? For the same reason that bug lights do not attract insects. LED lights, specifically the bulbs typically used in residential lighting, emit very little light in the UV spectrum. LEDs also emit little heat from their light source, further reducing their attractiveness to bugs. Thought LED light bulb attract fewer insects than a typical incandescent light, using a warmer color temperature which contains less of the blue wavelength of light is the best chance you have to keep those invaders astray.

  • Vitchelo’s Laptop Computer Mini USB Keyboard Powered LED Light Lamp

What makes the Vitchelo’s USB Led light lamp a perfect insect repellent option is the red spectre of light that it emits besides the white spectre which attracts insect and bugs. Keep pressing the power button and the light turns to a warm red-range spectre which is almost invisible to bugs and mosquitos. Best thing of all, it doesn’t need its own power source: plug it to your computer, USB hub, power bank or any USB charging port and you’ll enjoy a surprising amount of pleasant light. Flexible, you can position it as you want and it’s slim enough to be carried in your pocket or for easy packing when you travel. Mosquito repellent light bulb WHAT DOESN’T WORK Citrosa geraniums, also called mosquito plants: These plants are often sold as mosquito repellents, with some claiming that the leaves emit a smell that keeps the pesky bugs at bay. But several studies have shown they are useless in warding off mosquitoes, with one study finding they were about as effective as doing nothing at all. Bug zappers: Electric insect traps, or bug zappers, as most of us call them, are useless for two reasons. First, studies have shown they fail to attract mosquitoes. Second, they are indiscriminate in their killing. Studies have shown that bug zappers kill thousands of bugs that are perfectly harmless and necessary to the ecosystem, such as moths and fireflies. In fact, one study found that of the thousands of insects these bug zappers kill, less than one per cent were biting insects. The authors of that study went so far as to say that using bug zappers should be considered ”irresponsible.” Eating garlic or vitamin B12: Sorry to those looking to pop a pill to ward off skeeters: Several studies, including the so-called “gold standard” of studies — the double blind, randomized control trial — have shown that neither garlic nor B12 have any impact on mosquito bites. Otherwise, the late garden author and radio host Ralph Snodsmith swore by a regimen of taking Vitamin B1 (thiamine) starting the day before you go camping, hunting or fishing in a mosquito-infested area, continuing into the day of exposure.

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