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Miami's Mosquito War: How To Win With Natural Repellents

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It's summer and the struggle war against mosquitoes is real. Whether you've lived here your whole life or you're a recent transplant, you know that this blood-sucking situation is serious, which is why we've done some serious digging to provide you with the weapons you'll need for surviving the swarm this summer.

Instead of recommending a bottle of Off! with 100 percent Deet (scientifically known as N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide), we thought we'd take a more natural approach. Why? Well, anything that instructs that you wash off immediately after use is suspect to us.

Deet (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) the active ingredient in many insect repellents is a chemical that keeps mosquitos away. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that, "Rather than killing them, Deet works by making it hard for these biting bugs to smell us."

Is there any serious danger in using Deet products? Not in small doses. Consumer Reports states that in concentrations of more than 30 percent DEET might be dangerous, however in amounts less than that the chemical should be fine. Now, if we only used bug repellant a few times a year it might be fine, but bug spray is an every weekend, if not everyday necessity in the summer. Is it ok to be exposed to such strong chemicals so often?

We're not taking any chances. Here are five natural repellants, from lavender to garlic, that claim to keep those little buggers (sorry, we couldn't help it!) away.

Citronella

Ah citronella, the nostalgic smell of summer by the pool. This all natural repellant is a non-toxic oil made from freshly cut grasses, and the EPA has approved its application most commonly via hand-held spray bottle, cloth wipe-ons, candles, or by hand. It can also be used in flea collars, but since we don't see the flea collar trend taking off this summer we'd recommend stocking up on the candles. Williams-Sonoma has a beautiful variety of a terracotta pots for just $5.95, so swing by Merrick Park and load up on those for your backyard or balcony. Plus, you get double green points because it's reusable. We must say it's a great storage tool for Q-tips...

Basil and Lemongrass


Basil and lemongrass are two more aromatic plants that can keep mosquitoes away. If you're a gardener, even an amateur, you probably have these two in your herb garden. If you aren't a gardener, you can easily pick up a basil plant from your local grocery store or Whole Foods for pretty much the same price as the little plastic packets of leaves.

Crush a few leaves of basil or slice open a lemongrass stalk and swab it on your skin. This won't work for long, but if you're just going out for a few minutes and want to smell as good as an Aesop store, it should keep them at bay temporarily.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Recently, Consumer Reports tested a number of insect repellants and found that new, safer products made with milder, plantlike chemicals were the most effective. This is great news for those who want to convert but are skeptical. The favorite active ingredient? Oil of lemon eucalyptus.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus is an extract from a tree, and apparently it's good for all sorts of other stuff too, like joint pain and relieving congestion - so you'll get a real two-for-one deal. If you can't find it at your local natural foods store (yes, Whole Foods counts) order it online and gently rub it on your skin.

Lavender

Lavender comes from the Latin word meaning, "to wash," so consider this plant the secret to washing away mosquitoes and soothing bites. René-Maurice Gattefossé was a French scientist and perfume chemist who discovered the magical powers of this purple-hued plant. After severely burning his hand, he applied lavender oil for relief and later wrote about his experience in his 1937 book Aromatherapie, where the word "aromatherapy" was first seen in print. While you may love the smell of lavender, mosquitos, reportedly, don't.

Lavender oil is pretty easy to find. Check your local Whole Foods or natural foods store. We like Beehive Juice Bar on Bird Road because you can always get samples of its vegan soup of the day. All you have to do is take a bit and rub it on like you would a very light coat of sunscreen. Put it in all the usual spots– your ankles, your shoulders, your arms– and it should keep mosquitos at bay for a short amount of time.

Garlic

A patent filed in 1998 by the Garlic Research Labs in California state that, "Mosquitoes are discouraged from occupying a grassy recreational area by spraying dilute garlic juice on grass, shrubs and trees," It claimed the method would work for many months , and although they couldn't wholly understand the reasons why, mosquitoes were repelled by some component of the garlic juice.

According to an expert from the American Mosquito Control Association in a story published by ABC, squeezing garlic on your skin might repel mosquitos from that area for 20 to 40 minutes. It will also repel anyone around you as well.

At the end of the day, the most dangerous thing about mosquitos is mosquitos. Some carry diseases and it's important to curtail the spread of these potentially life-threatening viruses (and major itchiness) by being prepared.

We advocate a balanced approach to bug repelling. If you're just going out for a few minutes to water your plants or go for a quick run, consider the natural options, proven to work best in short spurts of up to a few hours. But if you're going for an airboat ride in the Everglades or you're paddle boarding through the mangroves, some Deet will do you good because you're only using it for a short time.

Plus, they itch and it's annoying! Mosquitoes ruin all the fun parts of life: boat days, BBQs, sundresses, and we're not about letting them win again this summer.

Styling By: Ashley Brozic, Patricia Guarch Wise, and Raquel Zaldivar