By Greg Illes
The first thing you’ll always hear about mosquitoes is DEET, the active ingredient in the most-effective (to date) repellent. “Get some DEET and go soak in it,” or something like that, is common advice. Our attitude about DEET is thoughtfully considered: it’s a toxin, you can’t drink it, so why put it on your skin? Now, that may be too extreme an attitude for a lot of folks, and if it is, more power to them, because DEET really does help keep the bloodsuckers at bay. That said, we avoid it.
But even DEET proponents will agree that it smells, makes you feel sticky and dirty, and is non-effective after washing or showering. Nobody seems to like to sleep with it on, which is arguably when you need the best protection, to get a good night’s rest.
For those who would like to minimize mosquito predation with other methods, we offer the following suggestions:
Other repellents — Several different skin applications are available, both commercially and as home-brew recipes. We’ve had excellent results with Pest-Off body oil from Plantlife (it has a huge ingredients list, all natural plant oils). There are many other rub-on or spray-on products. There are also air-treatment deterrents. We’ve had only modest results with citronella candles, smoke coils, and/or battery-powered smoke-producers, because the slightest breeze makes them ineffective except directly downwind. But they can be useful when it’s calm, which is also when the bugs are the most pernicious.
Personal netting products — A head net and a jacket, or jacket-headnet combo, should be considered mandatory attire in mosquito country. If it’s hot and you need to wear shorts, add mosquito-net pants to the list. This is a nearly sure-fire method to keep from getting bitten, with no repellent at all. I say “nearly” because the nasties will actually bite right through the netting if you let it sit against your skin. BTW — they will also bite through socks and T-shirts, so wear loose-fitting clothing to avoid this.
RV “sealing” — Mosquitoes find you by the carbon dioxide (CO2) you exhale. They will find the CO2 at any screen or vent, or any gap, crack or hole. If they can get in, they will, and they’ll follow the scent right to your ear lobe. Do a serious inventory of your RV’s doors, windows and vents, and screen or plug any mini-ports you find. Check under the bed and behind drawers, too. We did ours, and it’s been bug-free ever since (once we swat the ones let in with the door open/close).
Outdoor screens — If it’s okay to stay in one spot and gaze out at bug-infested, but otherwise beautiful, scenery, then a camp screen-room might be useful. These come in various sizes, are lightweight and easy to put up, and can afford the opportunity to be bug-protected while reading, cooking or just relaxing. We saw one huge screen room where the campers had an extension cord and their TV set up inside.
Active attack — You can use pesticides or bug bombs if you like. Here again, it’s a toxin and you don’t want it in your body. Furthermore, if you bug-bomb the RV or screen room, it only lasts until the next time you use the door, and then more bugs come in. We don’t use this method, but you can try it if it seems useful. One active attack method we do use, in fact with great delight and a vengeful grin, is the high-voltage swatter. We got one of these recently and have found it to be amazingly effective at snatching the little devils right out of midair and instantly killing them. You can find these at sporting goods and hardware stores for $5 or so. And you don’t have to feel guilty if you think it’s fun. [Editor: bug swatter zappers are available at Amazon.)
These anti-bug remedies have been quite useful for us, especially in northern Canada where the mosquitoes can get to plague proportions. The jackets especially have allowed us to transform misery into contentment.
photo: Karin Illes