We’ve talked about Australia’s more irritating wildlife before, but we figured mosquitoes are so bad they deserved some more attention. In fact what we wanted to look at are some of the myths about how to keep the little pests off you when you’re camping. There are dozens of these, and any time you complain about mozzies you’re sure to hear a few, but nobody’s all that sure about how well they work. We did think of challenging the Mythbusters to test them but we figured they’re not that keen on being eaten alive, so we ended up doing it ourselves.
Mozzies are attracted by smells. You might think you don’t smell, but trust us – to a mosquito’s nose you do, and what you smell like is dinner. No surprise that most of the ideas about keeping them off smell pretty bad, then. Anyway let’s look at them and how they worked in practice.
If you sit beside a smoky fire it’s supposed to keep mozzies (and other insects) away.
Does it work? Sort of. Throw some green leaves on the camp fire and sit in the choking clod and you’ll be pretty safe from the mozzies. The trouble is you’ll also be coughing your guts up. If the wind changes and the smoke shifts away from you the bloodsuckers will pile on. Then the smoke comes back and you’re choked again. Not a good idea.
These coils are a popular item with campers. They burn for hours and release smoke that usually contains citronella,which mozzies hate. They’ve been available for a very long time, so plenty people think they work. Do they?
Actually they’re not bad. If it’s windy they’re less effective, but under an awning they do a pretty good job of keeping the nasties away without gassing everyone.
This natural repellent is an old favourite, and lab tests have shown that it really does keep mosquitoes away. Is it worth giving it a shot?
Our results say not really. It does seem to work, but it doesn’t last very long. If you’re fine with splashing some more on every half hour this might work for you, but it gets boring pretty fast.
If you add loads of Vitamin B to your diet it’s supposed to change your odour so it repels mozzies. Supplements are the obvious way to do this, but it’s also good news if you’re a Vegemite fan. Well, if it works.
Which it doesn’t. As far as we could tell Vitamin B makes no difference at all. The mosquitoes were as annoying as ever.
Listerine And Vinegar
We found this one online. A mix of Listerine and vinegar, rubbed onto your skin, should keep the pests off you. It’s a pretty pungent combination, so it seems like it might work.
Well we tried it. We suggest that you don’t bother. Not only do you still get bitten, you smell weird too.
Diethyl Meta Toluamide
This sounds scary, but DEET is what proper mozzie repellent is made from. There’s a reason for that – it repels mozzies. Every time one of the other methods failed we reached for a bottle of high-DEET repellent, because that works every time.
There’s some talk about how DEET might be harmful, but we’ve done some digging and can’t find any evidence of that. It’s not recommended to use it – or any other repellent – on very young children, but there’s no reason to think that even a strong repellent with 80% DEET or more is going to do you any harm. It’s been in use for decades and people seem pretty happy with it. This is what we recommend.
So, we’ve sacrificed a fair bit of blood to test out these mozzie myths for you and the result is clear. Buy mozzie repellent and leave the Listerine and vitamins at home.