The Scent of a Bug

Did you know that some poor outdoor lovers really are more vulnerable to be snacked upon by mosquitos than others? In fact, one in five people have a type of bacteria that colonizes their skin and this makes them irresistible to the annoying buzzy-bug-a-boos. Furthermore, certain compounds that are emitted from the skin can make one become more of an appealing and sought-after moving target to mosquitos than someone else.

In fact, studies have actually found the following to be true:

1: Smelly feet attract mosquitos.

2: Old sweat is especially appealing to mosquitos. (Better take those public showers if you’re a smelly camper!)

The problem with getting bit isn’t just the itchy discomfort that results when the bugs backwash their saliva into your blood; mosquitos can actually carry viruses that can cause sicknesses such as malaria and Dengue fever.


The Problem with Bug Sprays

Many studies have shown that chemical bug repellents, such as DEET and permethrin, may keep bugs away, but at a price to your health. They have been found to have neurological and brain damaging side effects. Furthermore, the combination of more than one chemical in a single spray can have additive toxic effects. These continue to build up over time as the liver becomes overburdened and unable to effectivity detoxify additional chemicals.

The Good News

The good news is that we can use therapeutic-grade essential oils which are safe and can protect our skin naturally. At the same time, these oils support our immunity and enhance vitality. In fact, essential oils are very well-researched for their efficacy to repel mosquitos and protect our skin and overall health.

Below are some examples with their study abstracts and sources:

1. Cinnamon:

Cinnamon oil shows promise as a great-smelling, environmentally friendly pesticide, with the ability to kill mosquito larvae, according to a new study published in the July 14 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society. (Cinnamon oil kills mosquitoes. EurekAlert. July 16, 2014.)

2. Lemon eucalyptus oil

A field trial comparing a formulation containing 40% deet (N,N-diethyl-3-methyl benzamide) in ethanol (Bushman) and 32% lemon eucalyptus oil (LEO; Mosi-guard) as protection against mosquitoes at Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia, was conducted in February 2012 and February 2013. The 40% deet formulation provided 100% protection against mosquitoes for 7 h, while the 32% LEO provided >95% protection for 3 h. (Comparative laboratory and field evaluation of repellent formulations containing deet and lemon eucalyptus oil against mosquitoes in Queensland, Australia. J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2014 Mar;30(1):65-7.)


3. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and Basil (Ocimum)

These results suggest a potential utilization of the essential oil of these two Ocimum species for the control of A. aegypti. (Larvicidal Activity of essential oils from Brazilian plants against Aedes aegypti L. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02762004000500015.)


4. Combination: Thyme, Clove, Geranium

Thyme and clove oils were the most effective mosquito repellents and provided 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 h of protection, depending on oil concentration. Clove oil (50%) combined with geranium oil (50%) or with thyme oil (50%) prevented biting by An. albimanus for 1 1/4 to 2 1/2 h. (Barnard DR 1999. Repellency of essential oils to mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae). J Med Entomol 36: 625-629.)


5. Combination: Patchouli, Citronella, Clove

The mosquito repellent activity of 38 essential oils from plants at three concentrations was screened against the mosquito Aedes aegypti under laboratory conditions using human subjects. On a volunteer’s forearm, 0.1 mL of oil was applied per 30 cm2 of exposed skin. When the tested oils were applied at a 10% or 50% concentration, none of them prevented mosquito bites for as long as 2 h, but the undiluted oils of Cymbopogon nardus (citronella), Pogostemon cablin (patchuli), Syzygium aromaticum (clove) and Zanthoxylum limonella (Thai name: makaen) were the most effective and provided 2 h of complete repellency. (Trongtokit, Y., Rongsriyam, Y., Komalamisra, N. and Apiwathnasorn, C. (2005), Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites. Phytother. Res., 19: 303–309. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1637.)

6. Combination including Melaleuca, Niaouli, Catnip

The five most effective oils were those of Litsea (Litsea cubeba), Cajeput (Melaleuca leucadendron), Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia), Violet (Viola odorata), and Catnip (Nepeta cataria), which induced a protection time of 8 h at the maximum and a 100% repellency against all three species. (Repellency effect of forty-one essential oils against Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquitoes. Parasitology Research. September 2006, Volume 99, Issue 4, pp 478-490.)


7. Combination: Rosemary, Citronella, Thyme components

Pulegone, thymol, eugenol, trans-anithole, rosemary oil and citronellal showed high larvicidal activity against all larval stages of Ae. aegypti (LC50 values 10.3–40.8 mg L?1). (Larvicidal and oviposition-altering activity of monoterpenoids, trans-anithole and rosemary oil to the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae). Pest. Manag. Sci. 2009, 65: 241–248. doi: 10.1002/ps.1675.)

8. Myrtle and Rosemary

Essential oil composition and larvicidal activity of six Mediterranean aromatic plants against the mosquito Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae). (Parasitology Research. November 2010, 107(6):1455-1461).


All in One Bottle: The Outdoor Oil Blend

Quality, therapeutic-grade essential oils can be applied neat (directly) to the skin or put in a spray bottle and mixed with a carrier oil, such as organic almond or olive oil, if the skin is sensitive. One can combine a perfect formulation with some of the oils above to their smell and liking.

My favorite essential oil combination blend contains four of the essential oils reported above to be effective for repelling mosquitoes. It also contains lavandin essential oil that acts as an antiseptic to prevent appealing to the critters with an old sweat, body odor, and smelly feet.

Outdoor Oil Blend includes: Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus), lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Melaleuca (Melaleuca alternifolia) lavandin (Lavandula x hybrida), and myrtle (Myrtus communis).


Three other uses for Outdoor Oil Blend:

Apply 1-3 drops on feet or on location

1. Sinus support

2. Bug bites- in case you forgot to apply it before going outdoors, it can help with the itching and cleanse and neutralize toxins

3. Skin bumps and boo-boos


This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.


Mercola, J. What Attracts Mosquitos and How to Repel Them. Mercola.com. August 23, 2014

Richardson, J. Why Mosquitoes Bite Some People and Not Others — And the Surprising, Natural Way to Avoid Bites: Who knew that a mix of plants including lemongrass, peppermint, and vanillin could work so well. Alternet.org. June 25, 2014.

ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center. Permethrin Hazards for Cats. http://www.vetprof.com/clientinfo/permethrincats.html

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