# Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Mosquito Protection
Martin Eising
It is now summertime and for many people it is mosquito time again. These voracious little insects are found in most parts of Canada, and just love to incessantly bother us in apparently limitless numbers.

Besides being quite irritating, mosquito bites are potentially dangerous. Much of the world has difficulties with malaria being transferred by mosquito bites, and here in Canada we have an occasional occurrence of West Nile virus.

The good news is that there are ways to minimize being bitten by mosquitoes!

Clothing Protection

The foremost protection against mosquitoes is clothing. The more clothing you wear, however, the warmer you are going to be. A good rule of thumb is to wear as much clothing as you can without becoming too hot.

The following are suggested clothing tips:
  1. Avoid clothing with dark colours, especially brown. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark clothing. Light colours work best; especially yellow (which is also effective against black flies).
  2. Wear long pants made out of thick, durable fabric (blue jeans are excellent protection).
  3. Tuck your socks over your pant cuffs. Either use a double layer of socks or spray insect repellant liberally over your socks to prevent your ankles from being chewed.
  4. Wear a long-sleeve shirt that is tucked into your pants. If this is the only shirt you are wearing consider spraying it with repellant. Especially concentrate on parts that are hard to reach (e.g. shoulder blades and mid-back). Note: if possible wearing a sweater is preferable to using the repellant.
  5. Wear a light sweater that is made of dense material. If the temperature permits wear it over an undershirt.
  6. Protect your head. For complete protection you can either wear a large bandana over and around your head or use what is called a "bug hat" (which does result in a minor loss in visibility)
    If using a bandana (my preferred method that withstood hordes of insects while planting trees) make sure it is large enough so that it covers your entire head from just below the ears and up. For my head size I require a minimum size of 16" (inches) X 16" of fabric. I’ve found old pillow cases (yellow in colour) work well. If needed you can spray the bandana with repellant.
    I’ve also found that a baseball cap that is liberally sprayed with mosquito repellant also works fairly well.
  7. If you are facing very large numbers of mosquitoes then you might consider duct taping closed any large openings within your clothing. Common locations to tape closed are sleeve openings on long-sleeve shirts, where your socks cover your pants, etc.

Mosquito Repellant

There are two major types of mosquito repellant: those with DEET, and those without DEET.

DEET stands for "N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide" and is very effective at repelling mosquitoes as well as black flies, ticks, fleas and chiggers. It works by "masking" the carbon dioxide and lactic acid smell that humans emit.

However, DEET is also a solvent and will dissolve some plastics as well as rayon, spandex and other synthetic materials. In addition, some believe that DEET can cause neurological damage by absorption through the skin (click here for more). We leave it up to the reader to do their own research.

There are alternative bug sprays that are oil based and do not use DEET such as:
  • Citronella oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil
  • Rosemary oil
  • Cedar oil
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Clove oil
Make sure you re-apply repellents if you get wet or have been doing a lot of sweating.

There are also "ultrasound" repellants available that theoretically use sound waves to drive the mozzies away. This technology, however, is unproven. I have not personally seen an ultrasound repellant that worked. If you have evidence to the contrary then please let me know!

Note: the juice of a wild plant called "bloodroot" also provides mosquito protection and was used by native Canadians.

Avoid Perfumes and Artificial Scents

One way mosquitoes find potential victims is by their sense of smell. Anything that has artificial scents or perfumes will result in more mosquito bites. Articles to pay particular mind to are:
  • Soaps
  • Shampoos
  • Fabric softeners
  • Perfumes (avoid altogether)
  • Body lotions
  • Sunscreen


What we eat results in the type of smell that we give off. Since mosquitoes hunt by sense of smell, this means that diet will influence whether or not a mosquito is attracted to you.

Note that a change in diet is usually temporary in nature, done before and during a camping trip or holiday.

Foods to Avoid:
  • Very salty foods.
  • Anything that is high in potassium (it increases the amount of lactic acid your skin emits). Foods that are high in potassium are potatoes, spinach, bananas, some squash and lima beans.
Foods to Eat:
  • Lots of garlic (preferably raw). Garlic results in your skin emitting sulfur-based compounds which helps keep away mosquitoes.
  • Fruits and vegetables low in potassium such as blueberries, watermelon, cabbage, cucumbers, green peppers and apples.

Habitats and Mosquitoes

All mosquitoes breed on water and many species need stagnant water to reproduce.

In addition mosquitoes like shaded areas as opposed to open areas that get direct sunshine.

Take these factors into account when either going for a walk or when pitching camp. Avoid camping in a shaded location right next to a water source. If possible, pitch your tent in an open area and use a small tarp for a rain cover.

Also note that mosquitoes are particularly active at dawn and dusk, so be prepared for the onslaught!

Camping and Mosquito Nets

Mosquito nets are an effective method of keeping these pesky critters away and come in various sizes. Small nets can be used for hammocks, while larger nets can be used to create a mosquito-free area within your camp.

You also have the option of using a mosquito coil in your camp to cut down on mosquitoes. I choose not to use them due to the chemicals they emit, but that is a personal choice.

Walking Habits

Try to minimize the amount of vegetation that you disturb when you are out for a walk. Shuffling through a patch of vegetation, crushing all plants in your path, is a sure fire way to raise clouds of mosquitoes and other bugs.

Lift your feet high when walking and take deliberate steps. If possible use an alternate route that doesn’t involve wading through lots of greenery!

Also, if you are in prime mosquito habitat try to keep moving!


How often you bathe or shower, as well as soaps and/or shampoos used, will affect how attractive mosquitoes find you to be.

Try not to use scented shampoos or soaps. If you can stand it, try rinsing away sweat and dirt using plain, warm water.


I've spent over 6 seasons in northern Ontario doing geophysical surveying and tree planting. Home to the most ferocious of bug habitats, where the bugs are huge and many! I've personally used all of the tips in this blog article and was able to keep my sanity in the worst of conditions.
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