On a buzzing summer night, a scented candle can mask your presence from those little bloodsuckers that detect where you are by smell. But not all candles are effective mosquito deterrents. While candles scented with essential oils such as eucalyptus and citronella can block mosquitoes, candles with floral fragrances might attract them.
Lemon-scented citronella candles are the most common mosquito-blocking candles, but they're not necessarily the most effective. According to a 1996 study published in the "Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association," citronella candles reduced bites by only 42 percent.
Geraniol may work better than citronella. In a 2009 study published in the "Journal of Vector Ecology," Geraniol candles were more than three times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than citronella candles. Geraniol, which has a citrus scent, is a component of rose, palmarosa and citronella oil.
Eucalyptus has a fresh scent and contains PMD (para-menthane 3, 8 diol), the only plant-based repellent that the Centers for Disease Control approve for use in disease endemic areas.
Mosquitoes hate catnip just as much as cats love it. According to a 2001 study conducted at Iowa State University, as reported on the school's website, catnip is ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than the synthetic chemical DEET, the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. Catnip smells like a mixture of mint and grass.
Neem, which smells like garlic and peanuts, has been traditionally used in India as an insect repellent. Studies testing neem for mosquito repellency have produced varied results.
The essential oils of many other plants are considered natural repellents, but most require further study to determine their efficacy. These plants include cinnamon, rosemary, cedar, peppermint, clove, geranium, verbena, pennyroyal, lavender, pine, cajeput, basil, thyme, garlic, fennel, juniper and patchouli. Some of these scents -- especially juniper, peppermint, and rosemary -- are often mixed with known effective repellents, such as catnip and eucalyptus, in the manufacture of mosquito-blocking candles.
- Weil Lifestyle: Citronella Convincing Mosquitoes to Buzz Off?
- Iowa State University: Catnip Drives Mosquitoes Away
- "Malaria Journal"; Plant-based Insect Repellents; Marta Ferreira Maia and Sarah J Moore; March 2011
- "Journal of Vector Ecology"; Efficacy of the Botanical Repellents Geraniol, Linalool, and Citronella Against Mosquitoes; Günter C. Müller, et al.; June 2009
- Photo Credit Joao Canziani/Photodisc/Getty Images
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