A burning coil, a citronella candle, a Thermacell diffuser, an ultrasonic device: we’ll help you choose products that will help keep mosquitoes away from your terrace or campsite on beautiful summer evenings.
Are you hosting your family or friends on the terrace and the idea of cleaning yourself with mosquito repellant doesn’t make you too happy? Indoor mosquito repellants, which can be found in outdoor shops, pharmacies, or hardware stores, promise to save you from this chore by creating a kind of protective bubble. But which ones really work?
“Only atmospheric repellents, which release active substances known to be effective, have a chance to repel mosquitoes,” emphasize our colleagues from the French magazine Que Choisir, who tested several such solutions in 2019.
On the other hand, according to Health Canada and the Que Choisir team, products that emit ultrasound or light-emitting diodes (LED), which are supposed to repel insects, are ineffective. “Ultrasounds don’t work, whether it’s a plug-in device, a portable device that can be put on a person, or an app,” cuts the magazine, testing in support.
How about installing mosquito traps in your yard? They may be effective in killing mosquitoes, but not in preventing mosquito bites. Even worse: “These traps, especially the light ones that electrocute critters, attract not only unwanted biters, but all insects, including pollinators,” explains Yulia Mlyarek, an entomologist at the Montreal Insectarium. For this reason, she says, they should be avoided.
Insecticide in the air…
In mosquito repellent gadgets, the active substances found to be effective are synthetic pyrethroid insecticides (permethrin, allethrin, methofluthrin, etc.), which are released as vapors into the air, as explained by Jacques Boivert, a retired professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières.
The latter are neurotoxic products that act on insects and can kill them, whoever they are. “Their secondary role is to act as a repellant,” adds the biting insect specialist. However, Health Canada considers that the levels of insecticides used and administered are safe for humans. Of course, always follow the instructions carefully.
Diffusers (or lights)
These products use a heat source to activate an insecticide—often allethrin or methofluthrin—which forms an invisible zone several meters around the diffuser after a few minutes.
Some devices work with a fuel cartridge (usually butane), but there are also models with a lithium-ion battery or with a direct connection to a fuel canister (for example, for camping).
Still others are powered by a single candle, such as small OFF! flashlights. However, the market is dominated by the popular brand Thermacell, whose products are recognized as effective by Wirecutter, part of the New York Times. This dedicated site also recommends the battery model, in part because of its ease of use.
Efficiency: “It’s effective… as long as it’s not for sale!” Even a very light wind significantly reduces the effectiveness of this type of protection, but it is not strong enough to repel mosquitoes,” explains Jacques Boiver. The “cloud” of insecticide tends to move with the force of the wind; thus, the protection on the terrace can be uneven.
And what do users think? Samuel Charest and his wife use Thermacell (fuel) in their mosquito-infested yard in Carignan, Monteregie. Very satisfied: no smell, good perimeter protection for the group at the table, etc. “The downside I see with Thermacells is mostly the cost. If you use it frequently, it can quickly cost you a lot of refills! says outdoor enthusiast.
Duration: The filter or insecticidal “mat” that is inserted into the device needs to be changed after a few hours, as does the fuel cartridge. The exact duration depends on the product; for example, a battery-powered model may need to be charged after 5-6 hours.
Safety: This type of product is for external use only. Avoid direct inhalation of the fumes it gives off and do not let children handle insecticidal dressings.
Price: The Thermacell unit sells for about $35-$70 (depending on model), including fuel (or charging cable) and filters or insecticidal mats, which last about 12 hours. As for the price of refueling, it varies depending on the models and their autonomy, but usually ranges from 20 to 30 dollars for 40-48 hours of operation.
These spirals contain an insecticide; Alletrin, for example. You ignite the tip of the coil, extinguish the flame by blowing on it, then let the product burn quietly, which disperses the insecticide and creates a smoke barrier.
Efficacy: Insect sting specialist Jacques Boivert finds them effective and praises their low price. However, according to our French colleagues from Que Choisir, for good protection, you must be in close proximity to the product. And, of course, as with diffusers, a simple breeze will affect their effectiveness. “One of the problems with these coils is the bad smell and smoke they give off,” adds Samuel Charest, who has tried them at home.
Duration: Manufacturers indicate that they can burn for about 5 to 8 hours.
Safety: For outdoor use only. Do not inhale smoke directly and do not let young children handle these products.
Price: Approximately $4 to $10 for a box of 10.
How about citronella candles and torches?
Something not new: you have candles on your table outside that, when burned, scatter lemongrass. There are also citronella oil torches that can be placed throughout the terrace.
However, the Que Choisir team concluded that these products are not effective in preventing bites. Jacques Boivert sticks to the same speech: “In this case, mosquitoes can be repelled rather by smoke,” he clarifies. Verdict: Use – outdoors only – far more for the atmosphere they create than for their actual mosquito repellent potential!
5 professional tips to protect yourself from mosquitoes
Not only mosquito repellents can help control the presence of these pesky critters. Here are some home tips:
• Specialists Jacques Bouvert and Yuliya Mlinarek use a simple but effective technique: using a fan on a pedestal! Place one or more of these devices on your terrace and activate them. This should slow down the ardor of unwanted insects, if not completely block their path.
• “Strong light away from you can act as a trap, attracting mosquitoes and scaring them away from people,” Yuliya Mlynarek also suggests.
• When camping or at home, if allowed, approach the fire; it will act as a mosquito repellant.
• Eliminate conditions that encourage mosquito breeding in your area, such as stagnant water. Thoroughly clean gutters and bird feeders, and make sure the ground is well drained.
• Be aware that mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, especially in June and July; therefore, you can plan your activities to avoid these periods.
>> Read also: How to choose a mosquito repellent for the body?