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MOSQUITOES, Part 2

Generally, the larger you are, the more Co2 you exhale along with the other attractants you exhale and give off through your skin. That's why children seem to be less bothered by mosquitoes. Genetics are a factor, but the particular mix of attractants you give off also depends on what you eat, drink, use or not... 

WHAT NOT TO EAT/DRINK:

1. BEER (sorry): Studies show beer drinkers are much more attractive to mosquitoes, even if they’ve just had one 12-ounce can. Scientists don’t exactly know why they prefer the beer drinkers, because it doesn’t seem to be the increased ethanol in the bloodstream or the heightened body temperature. Maybe they just like the taste.

2. POTASSIUM-RICH FOODS: Mosquitoes are attracted to lactic acid, which is naturally released by your body at all times, but eating potassium-rich foods like bananas, potatoes, prunes, raisins, lima beans, avocados and spinach increases the amount of lactic acid you off-gas through your skin. 

3. SWEET & SALTY SNACKS: Eating candies, cakes and pies have a sweet aroma that is very attractive to all animals – humans, dogs and mosquitoes. Indulge in too many sweets, and you’ll make yourself a magnet for the bugs. A high-sodium diet also increases the amount of lactic acid your body produces.

WHAT TO EAT:

1. GARLIC AND ONIONS: Garlic is the most well-known food linked to deterring mosquitoes. This popular Italian food ingredient releases a compound known as allicin, which is released through your pores when you consume it. Allicin interferes with your natural scent, therefore helping to mask you from mosquitoes. Onions and other members of this plant family, such as leeks, shallots, and chives, also emit allicin when consumed, so they can be used interchangeably. Because allicin depletes the longer it is exposed to heat, many people suggest this repellent method works best when these foods are cut into slivers and consumed raw. However, if eating uncooked garlic and onions is unappealing to you, both make a great addition to your favorite pastas and tomato-based dishes. They can even be used to add some flavor to stir-fry, rice, and baked chicken!

2. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR: Apple cider vinegar has been a commonly used natural mosquito repellent for years. Like most of the other ingredients on this list, apple cider works by altering your scent. This makes you less appealing to mosquitoes. Don’t worry, it won’t affect the way you smell to other people! Many claim taking an undiluted tablespoon of apple cider vinegar at least once per day is all you need to keep mosquitoes away for good. For a more pleasant experience, you can mix it with honey. You might also try incorporating apple cider vinegar into soups, homemade salad dressings, and even cocktails and other beverages.

3. LEMONGRASS: Lemongrass contains citronella, which is a popular natural bug repellent that is generally applied to the skin or used in other forms. Eating lemongrass has been shown to provide similar protection as well. All of these methods are effective because this fragrant plant helps to conceal your natural odors, which makes it harder for mosquitoes to identify you. Lemongrass is frequently used in many styles of Thai cooking and makes a great addition to soups and curries. Try lemongrass wings!

4. CHILI PEPPERS: One word… capsaicin! This potent, heat-producing compound is the active element of the chili pepper, which produces its signature spiciness. Capsaicin is an irritant for many species (including bears!), which is why you experience that burning sensation when you eat it. Because it is such a renowned irritant for many types of bugs, capsaicin is already used as a natural insecticide in many parts of the world. In addition, mosquitoes are repelled by the smell that you release upon eating capsaicin-containing foods, so they steer clear. Chili peppers are a great way to add a little heat to your favorite foods and I like some spicy foods in my supplies for variety on the trail. They are popularly used in chili, hot sauce, Pico de Gallo and other salsas, as well as many other tomato-based dishes.

5. TOMATOES: Tomatoes are one of several foods that are rich in thiamine (vitamin B1). Many people suggest a diet abundant with thiamine can be very effective at deterring mosquitoes and some other bugs, though this has faced some debate in recent years. Thiamine-rich tomatoes make you less enticing to mosquitoes and prevent them from biting (I often include protein-enriched THIN spaghetti and powdered tomatoes in my supplies). If you still get bit, you can rub the juices from your leftover tomatoes on the affected area to stop the itching! With so many ways to use them, tomatoes can easily be incorporated into your daily meal routine. Try some simple favorites such as tomato soup and freshly tossed salads, or top your favorite pasta with a zesty tomato sauce - bonus points if you throw in some garlic and onions! You could even make some bite-sized tomato and cheese cups to share with your friends at the next outdoor event.

6. GRAPEFRUIT: Not only is it an excellent source of vitamin C and health-boosting antioxidants, grapefruit has been linked to deterring mosquitoes and is also effective against ticks. It has been suggested that it may repel other insects such as bed bugs and head lice as well. This is because of a compound contained in grapefruit called, nootkatone, which is used as both an insecticide and natural pesticide. Citrus fruits can make a great addition to your daily meal routine. Try eating half a grapefruit for breakfast before you start your day, or combine it with other citrus fruits to create a fresh fruit salad. For an on-the-go dessert to keep you protected no matter where you are, you can whip up some grapefruit cupcakes.

7. BEANS AND LENTILS: Beans and lentils (a regular food in my supplies) work in a similar way to that of tomatoes. All of these foods are rich in thiamine, and release a smell that is repellent to bugs when consumed. Beans and lentils can be added to just about anything to add some needed flavor or texture. Whether you use them as a side dish to complement your entree, create spreads such as hummus, or add them to your favorite spicy foods such as chili or burritos, these popular legumes are a great way to enhance you meals and shield you from mosquitoes.

THE NATURAL APPROACH 

These aromas can be used to keep mosquitoes at bay without the use of chemicals and other harsh deterrents. Some plants that emit these aromas can be planted around the house, some can be used around the kitchen in cooking and therefore become a part of your natural scent making YOU a natural repellent (no pun intended). In all, there are over 30 plants and herbs that can be used and about half are fairly common. Here are 10 common scents that repel mosquitoes around the house:

1. CITRONELLA This is likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think about mosquito repelling scents. Citronella oil, which comes from the lemongrass plant, is commonly used in commercial bug sprays and candles. It features a lemon-like citrusy scent that is irritating to mosquitoes, but wonderfully pleasant to people. Lemongrass can be planted outside your home as an attractive, yet effective repellent. Additionally, citronella oil can be applied directly on your skin or paired with other essential oils to make your own natural deterrent.

2. PEPPERMINT Minty fragrances are unpleasant to a mosquito’s keen senses. The mere presence of peppermint plants can ward off these pesky flying insects to some degree. You can also turn peppermint into a personal repellent by crushing the leaves and rubbing them on your skin. Mosquitoes won’t be able to tolerate your presence! Additionally, if you do get a bug bite you will find that peppermint oil is effective at relieving itches.

3. BASIL This versatile plant isn’t simply a tasty herb used for seasoning your favorite Italian fare. It can also be used as a handy natural repellent. The essential oils contained in the basil plant emit a powerful aroma that is irritating to these bothersome biters. Take full advantage of basil’s repellent properties by growing it in your yard as well as creating homemade sprays from its essential oils.

4. GARLIC This member of the onion family has been used for many years as an edible repellent. When consumed, garlic’s active ingredient, allicin, interferes with our natural scent and masks us from mosquitoes. However, garlic can be used to deter mosquitoes even without eating it. Cut garlic cloves into slivers and scatter them around your outdoor living areas, or combine with oils and other liquid ingredients to make a repellent spray for your yard. Furthermore, you can blend garlic with essential oils to make a mosquito repellent spray for your body. Mosquitoes won’t be able to stand the unappealing smell.

5. LEMON BALM A member of the mint family, lemon balm has a calming, strong lemon scent that many undesirable insects find incredibly unpleasant. However, bees, butterflies and humans alike seem to love the fragrance. Grow this attractive plant in specific areas you want to deter mosquitoes or apply the crushed leaves to your skin for personal repellent. For even more versatility of use, you can add leftover leaves to your favorite herbal teas for stress relief benefits.

6. LAVENDER Though lavender may be a favorite scent of many people, mosquitoes would disagree. They detest the pungent scent of the purple flower, and stay away at all costs. Like most of the plants on this list, lavender can be used by extracting the oils and applying to the skin directly or making a body spray. You can also simply plant it in your garden. Best of all, the beautiful purple flowers are sure to liven up your landscape.

7. MARIGOLD This vibrant plant is well known for its pungent aroma. Some people find the smell overwhelming and so do mosquitoes. Plant these golden flowers in various places around your yard to keep mosquitoes at bay. You can periodically cut the flowers off to add to vases around the house to prevent mosquitoes from migrating indoors. As an added benefit, the flowers of the marigold plant make a colorful addition to your garden and are edible as well. 8. CATNIP In recent years, this has become a very popular method of repelling mosquitoes. A study in Science Daily even suggests that nepetalactone, the plant’s essential oil, is approximately ten times more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes. Therefore, much less of this oil is needed to be effective. Plant catnip in your garden as a backyard defense, or crush the leaves and rub them directly on your skin. Some people even use the leaves in their tea for natural healing. Of course, you can also provide surplus leaves to the very thankful felines in your home.

9. ROSEMARY Another multipurpose herb, rosemary can be used for many things other than seasoning. This aromatic plant works wonders when planted in your garden, easily tackling small mosquito infestations. When barbecuing, place a few sprigs of rosemary on the grill to keep mosquitoes away as the scent wafts through the yard. In addition, rosemary can be infused into lotions or sprays to create simple repellents for your body.

10. EUCALYPTUS Similar to citronella, eucalyptus has a powerful smell that interferes with mosquitoes’ delicate senses and can make it difficult for them to locate their food sources. The oil from these trees also repels other insects such as ticks, midges and sandflies. While the presence of the plant itself will work as a repellent in your yard, the oil can be applied directly to the skin as well, but should be applied regularly for optimum protection.

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