Although most people love warmer weather, it does have one serious downside – mosquitoes. Not only are they an irritant, leading to itchiness and other allergic reactions, they can carry serious diseases, including malaria, dengue, and the newly discovered zika virus. So it’s important to avoid being bitten but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Mosquitoes have been around a lot longer than human beings and they have an exceptional sense of smell for such a small creature. They can detect a potential target from 30 metres away and so one of the best defences is to become “invisible” to them by changing your chemical signature.
They are attracted by the carbon dioxide that human beings breathe out and the larger you are, the more carbon dioxide you will exhale. This goes for pregnant women, too, who often report that they are bitten more frequently than usual. Mosquitoes can also detect blood type, and people with Type O blood are twice as liable to be bitten as people with Type A. If you’re sweating a lot, or drinking beer, you’re also more likely to be attacked. You can spray yourself with artificial chemicals in the hope of deterring them but a better idea is to use a natural plant-based insect repellent – citronella oil. It’s an essential oil obtained from the leaves and stems of lemongrass. It’s effective but it’s also non-toxic and so safe for humans and pets to put directly on the skin.
As well as being an anti-fungal, and effective at calming barking, anxious dogs, citronella masks the smell of carbon dioxide and perspiration that attracts mosquitoes. It comes in a variety of forms: candles, incense sticks, coils, oils (for use in oil burners), and sprays. Canadian researchers found that lighting a citronella candle reduced the number of mosquito landings by nearly half. Most people find that a combination of citronella products works best. Use the personal sprays if you fall into one of the higher risk categories above in conjunction with the coils, the oils, or the candles.
Think about your environment as well and make sure that your garden is well maintained, with no standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. If you put saucers under your flower-pots, make sure that there’s no stagnant water lurking in them. If you enjoy fresh flowers in your home, change the water every couple of days.
You can purchase a variety of high quality citronella products from the Tropical Spice Garden’s two shops in Penang as well as online.