Known for bringing out extremes of all sorts, the tropics play host to several ferocious predators… (in Northern Queensland for example you can find taipans, which are highly venomous snakes, to crocodiles and drop bears!) But none of these deadly animals are much of a threat to you, the fun loving backpacker. But there is one predator that loves to prey on you as you sun yourself and try to recover from the night before… this is of course the dreaded mosquito. Knowing what a pest these bloodthirsty bugs can be, I’d like to share a couple of tips on how to repel mosquitoes and avoid those itchy, annoying mosquito bites.
Best way to repel mosquitoes
1. Use a Bug Repellant
The clue is in the name of the area. It’s the tropics so make sure to use a bug repellant at all times when venturing outside. Just like sunscreen, bug repellant should be automatically applied in the morning and re-applied several times during the day. You can get heaps of different brands for all skin types and situations, although Australians swear by Bushmans. This is definitely a necessity so pick up a can of bug / mosquito repellant at the pharmacy. Make sure you get one with DEET as an ingredient but don’t apply it on broken skin and be sure to wash it off when you don’t need it.
2. Wear light coloured clothing
If you really don’t like the idea of using chemical filled bug repellants then wear light coloured clothing. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours like blue and black. To avoid extra mosquito bites make sure to wear light colours like white and khaki. Not only will they help deter the mosquitoes but they will also help you feel cooler by reflecting sunlight.
3. Avoid heavy doses of perfumes and other floral scents
While everyone likes to smell nice, floral perfumes will attract more bugs than boys here in the tropics. Save the perfume for the clubs ladies. The scent of sunblock and mosquito repellant will just have to do during the day.
4. Drink lemon juice
There’s a reason why most insect repellants have a lemon scent and that’s because for some reason mosquitoes don’t like it! Adding a bit of lemon juice to your water can help you to avoid attracting mosquitoes. This is actually my go to way to repel mosquitoes. For some reason mozzies love me, but if I drink lemon juice every day I really don’t get bitten very often at all!
5. Rub Garlic on Yourself
A slightly smellier alternative to drinking lemon juice or using citronella scented candles or repellant is to rub garlic cloves on any exposed skin. This is obviously not a popular option for backpackers on the pull, although you will be one of the few backpackers not to have legs full of ugly, itchy mosquito bites!
6. Light a Citronella Candle
In areas where mosquitoes are prevalent you’ll find citronella scented candles all over the place.
7. Take Vitamin B1
The non-smelly alternative to garlic gloves. Take a Vitamin B1 tablet regularly. Vitamin B1 gives off an odour that we can’t detect, but it does repel mosquitoes, gnats and other biting insects.
Mosquito Repellant Plants
If you plan on having a barbecue then head towards the following plants in the garden! These are all known to help repel mosquitoes and best of all it’s a nice natural way to avoid getting bitten.
- Citronella –You’ve bought the citronella candles but a better way to use the citronella scent is the plant itself!
- Lemon Balm – Another lemony repellant. Rub a few lemon balm leaves onto your skin to deter those pesky bugs.
- Peppermint – Lemon balm has a slight minty tinge so it’s no surprise that the mint plant is also useful in helping to repel mosquitoes. Rub a few leaves between your hands to help release the minty aroma.
- Catnip – Not great if you don’t like cats, but catnip is a fantastic plant for repelling all kinds of insects while at the same time keeping the local cats happy!
- Garlic – Eating huge amounts of garlic or rubbing the scent onto yourself can deter mosquitoes from approaching you, but the plant itself will also release garlicky fumes.
- Lavendar – A much nicer smelling alternative to garlic, lavendar is great as an insect repellant.
- Basil – The smell from this tasty herb will piss off the mosquitoes but to improve your chances of avoiding bites rub a few leaves onto exposed skin as well.
- Rosemary – Another tasty herb with the useful side effect of being a mosquito repellant. If you’re having a barbecue or session around a campfire at night then throw some rosemary on the fire. Not only will it smell lovely the mozzies should stay away.
- Marigolds – Marigolds, the flower not the rubber gloves, contain one of the active ingredients used in many popular insect repellants.
How to Stop Itching!
Perhaps the most important thing to remember DON’T SCRATCH!!! If you do get mosquito bites, please try to resist the urge to scratch. Scratching will only make the mosquito bites itch more and make any bites look so much worse.
If you have been bitten by mosquitoes there are a couple of anti-itch sprays you can use, or even better, some bug repellants are medicated to also include an anti-itch ingredient. Don’t scratch and the bite goes away quickly, scratch and it will stick around longer.
There are also some very odd remedies to soothe itching from rubbing banana peel on the bite to using a meat tenderiser! For more tips (some useful, some really bizarre) on how to stop that itching have a read of “How to Get Rid of Mosquito Bites“.
If anyone has any other tips on how to avoid mosquito bites or how to repel mosquitoes please do add them below as myself and my friends in tropical Cairns will try anything as we’re still not decided on the best solution.