There really should be a proverb: as punctual as a mosquito. As soon as summer arrives, so do they, accompanying our outdoor evenings with their irritating buzzing and itchy bites. But how to keep them at bay? The most common solutions use pesticides, which the producers claim are safe for the environment and our health, but that’s not entirely true.
Instead, why not try some of our natural and DIY remedies, along with a few simple preventative measures, like getting rid of standing water that serves no purpose around the home (containers of rainwater in the garden or on a balcony) and closing off their access points as much as possible.
One of the best natural remedies is garlic. It’s not commonly known that mosquitoes hate the pungent bulb. To create a sprayable natural repellant, mix one part garlic juice and five parts water and pour into a small plastic spray bottle. Shake well before use and spray onto exposed skin. It should last for around six hours. Alternatively, soak some pieces of cloth in the mixture and hang them up around where you’ll be.
A homeopathic remedy, meanwhile, works directly on human blood, giving it an unpleasant odor: Ledum palustre or Rhododendron tomentosum, commonly known as wild rosemary. In fact many plants are useful in the fight against the bloodsuckers: bay leaves, cloves and eucalyptus can be wrapped in small squares of fabric and hung from open windows or doors, while small pots of basil and clover are perfect for placing next to pet food or other open foods.
The best-known natural repellant is citronella oil, obtained from a south Asian grass (Cymbopogon nardus) and used in many natural anti-mosquito products available for sale. The oil from the closely related lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), a herb commonly used in Thai cuisine, can also be effective as a repellant. Remove the outer leaves from a lemongrass stem to reveal the tender bulb at the base and crush it by hand to obtain a juicy pulp which can be rubbed on exposed skin.
Another natural remedy commonly used in vegetable gardens is neem. The oil extracted from the leaves and seeds of the neem tree contains a compound with excellent insect-repellant properties. Marigolds are also helpful; the flowers emit a scent that all flying insects hate, making them good ornamental plants for the garden.
What if, despite all this, you still get bitten? There’s not much that can be done against the itching, but ice can help reduce the inflammation, and alcohol can be used to disinfect the wound. Alternatively, apply some toothpaste, preferably menthol, on the bite and leave it to dry for around 20 minutes before washing off. Honey also has soothing, antibacterial properties, particularly if mixed with a spoonful of bicarbonate of soda, or try a slice of onion or a teaspoon of salt dissolved in a glass of water.
Let the battle against the bloodsuckers begin!