Are You a Mosquito Magnet? What Repellents Work and Don’t Work

Yup, turns out I’m a mosquito magnet. WHY ME?

mosquito magnet

Are you a mosquito magnet?

By the way, did you know August 20th is World Mosquito Day. What? I know there’s a day for everything, but why the heck are we celebrating these malicious insects? But then I read that this day commemorates the important discovery that female mosquitoes transmit malaria between humans. Okay, I get that.

But I still want to know why skeeters love me so much. Mosquito bites really suck! Excuse the pun.

Hubby hasn’t been bit once all summer, which is SO irritating. Puh-leeze! Make me less irresistible somehow!

Like a meme with Baby Yoda I posted on my author FB page says: “I hate mosquitoes. I know I’m sweet and delicious. But I’m not giving away free samples.”

So began my war with the mosquitos. Before I share what repellents  work and don’t work (as I learned the hard way), let’s answer the question, Why me?

Life as a Mosquito Magnet

I’m not alone. Studies show that around 20% of people are particularly irresistible to these pests.

While scientists aren’t entirely clear on how mosquitoes choose their targets, they do have some theories.

Based on some studies, breathing, body heat, sweat, drinking beer, and eating salty foods makes us more attractive to these wicked blood-sucking insects.

Great. No problem. I’ll just quit breathing, stop sweating in the 80% humid weather we’re having, stay away from drinking refreshing ice cold beer, and eating salty pretzels.

May as well throw in the towel now.

And yes, body odor plays a part. Which doesn’t always mean you’re simply stinky. At least, that’s what I tell myself, ha, ha. Hey, I shower everyday and wear deodorant religiously.

So, what contributes to your personal, unique brand of body odor? Genetics, unfortunately, is a big one, says Eric Ascher, DO, a family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, in an interview for SELF. That makes sense since my sister came over and got bit three times within a few minutes. Turns out she’s a mosquito magnet too.

On top of all that, did you know mosquitos can see humans from up to almost 50 feet which helps them identify a landing site? Wonderful. “I always feel like somebody’s watching me,” as Michael Jackson sang.

What Doesn’t Work?

So here’s what I learned as a mosquito magnet.

Not wanting to douse myself in chemicals, I diligently tried other methods.

Supposedly, certain plants repel mosquitos. So, we planted a pot of citronella which I placed by our sliding glass door. Also, we have a pot of herbs including basil, rosemary, and sage along with lavender in our yard – all of which mosquitos supposedly don’t like to smell.

I think I saw a mosquito laugh as it hummed past the plants and bit me.

But I didn’t give up.

We lit citronella candles. The candles provided more light. All the better to see the mosquitos come after me.

As recommended, I’ve worn long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks for protection. I heard a mosquito whisper to her friend , “Let’s go out for a bite, follow me.” That’s how I discovered mosquitos have the ability to bite through clothes.

Hubby bought a couple of bug zappers – after all, the male species loves to zap things. Unfortunately, devices that rely on light or heat are indiscriminate bug killers. “When you’re hearing your bug zapper go all night, it’s killing moths and midges and beetles, beneficial good insects, and very few if any mosquitoes at all,” says Daniel Markowski, PhD, technical advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association.

The mosquitos chuckled and said, “Stupid moths.”

I tried a repellent with natural oils including rosemary, citronella, peppermint, and lemongrass oil, which was slimy and super stinky, by the way. The mosquitos slid their way to home base, held their noses, and thought, “Good try.”  FYI, skeeters will avoid those repellent bracelets and simply bite you elsewhere.

Doing a bit of research on the Internet, I looked for any standing water on our property, but didn’t find any. I thought about purchasing some mosquito traps, but then I read that mosquitos are more attracted to humans than the traps. What about those apps that supposedly make sounds like mosquito’s predators: dragonflies? Sounds good in theory, but apparently not very effective. If you’ve ever sat by the edge of a pond swatting at mosquitoes while watching dragonflies zip around, you know that mosquitoes don’t leave just because a dragonfly is  close by. In fact, they’re probably sticking their tongues at them.

Since mosquitos love humid conditions, experts recommend running your air conditioner on humid days to help keep skeeters out of the house. Out of luck here, since we don’t have AC. Did I mention, it can get super humid here at the beach on hot summer days? In other words, “Come on in!” It’s not enough that I suffer with insomnia as I wrote about previously in a humorous blog, but to add to my troubles, I’m dodging under my sheets all night to escape these little suckers.

The other night, I sprayed lavender scent on my bedding, clothes, and myself after spotting a mosquito buzz by in hopes of deterring it. I was unable to find the stupid skeeter again until a few minutes later, when she landed on my hand and attempted to bite me. Obviously, this mosquito loved the smell of lavender.

It was her last mistake. (It is the females that attack humans, by the way.)

Since mosquitos are almost impossible to find and kill, I actually whooped a battle cry. As Liam Neeson says in Taken: “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

And yes, the mosquitos and their high-pitched buzzing are making this mosquito magnet a bit delusional!

So, What Works?

There are effective repellents that involve chemicals. In repeated studies, DEET has been proven the most effective chemical repellent on the market. Another chemical-based repellent, Picaridin, has only recently become available in the U.S. and the CDC considers it among the most effective repellents . Some experts say it’s a safer bet than DEET. Mosquito bites are no joke since these insects can carry diseases and some people are allergic to their bites, so using these effective chemical-based repellents to avoid bites is your call.

But if you’re like me and steer away from chemicals, the good new is that I did find a DEET-free natural repellent that works. Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) – the only type of oil not found in the repellent I tried previously, by the way. I sprayed some on me and my clothes and went into our yard at dusk shaking in my boots. And you know what? I stunk but was bite-free. I’m impressed! It is the only botanical mosquito repellent recommended by the CDC.  (Note: the CDC does not recommend using lemon eucalyptus essential oil as a repellent.)

When I don’t feel like spraying the smelly oil on me, what I have found really useful in the end is an old-fashion, inexpensive mosquito net which hubby installed over my reading spot in the yard. If I make a fast dash for it, I’m safe at last and can stick my tongue out at the little suckers as they hover outside the net. It’s pretty entertaining actually.

What About You?

Are you a mosquito magnet? Have you found any repellents that work well? I would love to know. Share in the comments below.










Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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4 Responses

  1. Great post, Julie and funny, too.
    Living in the humid Midwest, we battle them here as well. Hubby tried all the plants you mention and they got him every time, even with the plant sitting right next to him.
    Years ago, we heard “Skin-So-Soft” from Avon worked so we made sure to have a bottle handy on summer evenings, especially 4th of July. It did work. (Not sure if they still sell it?) It has a cucumber fragrance to it. Since then, I save all my cucumber based lotions and products. It helps some, but may not help all. Let me know if it works for you.
    PS. Ants hate the smell of cucumbers and that has helps us get rid of them in the past, too. 🙂

  2. We have the same problem here in Summer. I’ve also lived in the tropics, Darwin, Thailand and Papua New Guinea, so I am no stranger to those pesky mossies. I’ve not found any natural herbs to remedy the situation, although we do use those plug-in thingies at night that seem to help. I get a better nights sleep. Good luck with finding a cure and do let me know. Oh, and a Gin and tonic helps keep you safe from malaria when you do get bitten.

  3. This is good to know. I hike a lot and mosquitos are an issue. I’m not a magnet but there are a lot of them on the trail. Nothing I’ve used worked against them. Thanks for this.

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