Mind Over Mosquito: Ways to Repel

Each summer, I turn into an all-you-can-eat buffet for mosquitoes. The problem is, as I once learned while traveling through Mexico, that I've got something called "sangre dulce," or sweet blood.

This means that mosquitoes just adore me. They dote on me. They can't get enough of my sangre, dulce or not. And so, I end up scratching huge, red welts on my arms and ankles throughout the summer.

Last year, my collection of bites got so bad that I started carrying a little bottle of insect repellant in my bag. I toted it everywhere, and used it often. Just this weekend, I tossed another bottle of the stuff in my bag. I want to keep it close at hand for the next three months, whether I'm having dinner outdoors at a neighborhood cafe or traveling to someplace that requires a passport.

When it comes to repellants, there are several natural alternatives. It may even be possible to prevent bites by eating foods that are loaded with lots of garlic and vitamin B.

Much as I'd like to rely on natural methods, I often resort to using repellant with DEET, which I suspect is not-so-green and not-so-good for me. Officially, DEET is safe to use, but I'm a bit paranoid and suspect that it's one of those pesticides that does more harm than good. I use it because it's super-effective. But it's also if toxic if used improperly and new studies show that it may not be as safe as the experts once believed. I'm careful to use it correctly -- and sparingly.

The Centers for Disease Control has tips on their website about how to use DEET safely, and protect yourself from insect-borne illnesses. Until recently, I've just thought of mosquitoes as an annoyance. But now that West Nile Fever is on the rise throughout the country, it seems important to be more vigilant than before.

Apart from DEET, I turn to greener options to control mosquitoes around my garden. I keep a watchful eye for anyplace that standing water might accumulate (empty flower pots, watering cans, the wheelbarrow that I keep meaning to stash in the garage) and overturn them to get rid of potential breeding grounds.

I've also got a basket of citronella candles that I tote outside on buggy summer evenings. I'm not sure if these work or not, but I'm keeping the faith. So far, I haven't invested in higher-tech insect-fighers, such as mosquito traps or other special bug-zapping gadgets.

I also can't quite bring myself to buy or build a bat house. Bats are a great form of biocontrol, because they're able to eat up to a thousand mosquitoes in an hour and it's all part of the cycle of life.

In theory, setting up a home for the mosquito's natural enemy is a pretty cool idea. But I've seen enough Dracula movies to know that mosquitoes aren't the only bloodsuckers out there.

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