Find the best mosquito repellent for a pest-free backyard

Consumer Reports tried a candle, a diffuser, and a fan

Last updated: August 04, 2015 11:30 AM

Illustration: Oliver Munday

To find out how well area mosquito repellents worked, we went to an outside lab and simulated a backyard barbecue in a 25x30-foot room, where we unleashed 250 aedes mosquitoes, known to be aggressive biters.

We suited up four testers in protective suits and sat them at a “picnic” table, where we lit an Off! Citronella Bucket, $8.50, containing a candle with 0.5 percent oil of citronella. Then we counted how often mosquitoes landed on them. We tested again with the Bug Band Portable Diffuser, $20, which uses a battery-operated blower to propel the scent of 20 percent geraniol, another plant oil. Last, we cranked up an oscillating pedestal fan to its highest speed to see whether it could literally blow mosquitoes away.

Find safer insect repellents that did best in our tests.  

What we found

Neither the citronella bucket nor the geraniol diffuser kept the mosquitoes at bay. But the fan showed some promise: It cut mosquito landings by 45 to 65 percent, at least among people sitting close to the fan. Consumer Reports' survey of 2,011 U.S. adults found similar results: 45 percent of people who used fans said they were especially helpful, compared with 31 percent of those who tried candles.

What else can you do? Clean out gutters and empty old tires and birdbaths (where mosquitoes breed) and clear away ivy and decaying leaves (where they hide). For ticks, keep your lawn mowed, remove leaves, and let in as much sun as you can. Consider fencing, to keep out deer and other animals that carry ticks.

What works for you?

Share your bug-busting tips below.

Editor's Note:

This article also appeared in the July 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.



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