(Beyond Pesticides, May 18, 2007) Mosquito season is here in many parts of the country and many communities are reaching for mosquito control sprays as the solution to reducing West Nile Virus infection with little data supporting reduction in risk.
Beyond Pesticides urges communities to practice responsible mosquito protection by focusing on reducing breeding grounds and practicing safe personal protection. The first step in avoiding mosquitoes is prevention. Remove any standing water where mosquitos can breed around the home and the schoolyard, such as plant pots, leaky hoses, empty buckets, toys, and old tires.
The best way to avoid mosquitoes, especially in the evening when they are most active, is to wear long pants and long sleeves. Burning citronella candles outside also helps repel mosquitoes. Since these two options are not always possible, mosquito sprays can sometimes be a good alternative. Many common mosquito sprays can contain toxic ingredients, however, so it is important to consider all of the option and read labels carefully before buying or spraying the repellents.
Some Least-Toxic Mosquito Sprays Include:
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus- CDC recommends lemon eucalyptus oil repellents as a good alternative to DEET. The scented oil of lemon eucalyptus masks both carbon dioxide and lactic acid exhalations that alert mosquitoes to our presence, essentially hiding humans from detection. According to CDC, this plant-based mosquito repellent provides protection time similar to low concentration DEET products. (Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent).
Essential oils: Pesticides made with essential oils are derived from plants that are known to have insecticidal properties. Some essential oils used in repellents include Cedarwood, Soybean Oil (www.biteblocker.com), and Geraniol (MosquitoGuard, Bite Stop, Bugband) When compared against products like Citronella, Geraniol proved to be 100% more effective. Against products containing 10% Deet, Geraniol proved to be more effective.
Picaridin (KBR 3023): This new repellent is dervived from pepper, is a newly registered repellent that CDC claims provides comparable protection as DEET products with similar concentrations (Cutter Advanced). The limited data available on this product suggest that it has low potential for toxicity.
Citronella sprays: The same ingredient in the candles that repels mosquitoes also is in some mosquito sprays, including the repellent Natrapel.
These recommendations are based on what is known about the relative toxicity of the active ingredient. The inert ingredients, which often makes up the largest portion of the product, is not disclosed, and therefore cannot be evaluated.
With all these repellents, be sure to reapply often (following the directions on the label) to repel the mosquitoes most effectively.
For more information visit Beyond Pesticides Mosquito program page.