Burning spiral, citronella candle, Thermacell diffuser, ultrasonic device: we help you choose the products to use to keep mosquitoes away from your terrace or your campsite during the beautiful summer evenings.

You receive your family or friends on the terrace and the idea of ​​brushing yourself with mosquito repellent does not please you too much? Room mosquito repellents – found at outdoor stores, drugstores or hardware stores – promise to save you that hassle by creating a kind of protective bubble. But which ones really work?

“Only ambient repellents that release active substances known for their effectiveness have a chance of keeping mosquitoes away”, underline our colleagues from the French magazine What to choosewho tested several of these solutions in 2019.

In contrast, products that emit ultrasound or light-emitting diode (LED) light, which are supposed to repel insects, are not effective, according to Health Canada and the research team. What to choose. “Ultrasounds don’t work, whether it’s a plug-in device, a portable device to put on your person or an app”, slices the magazine, supporting tests.

And what about mosquito traps to install on your land? They may be effective in killing mosquitoes, but not in preventing them from biting you. Worse: “These traps – especially light traps that electrocute critters – attract biting unwanted ones, but also all insects, including pollinators,” explains Julia Mlynarek, entomologist at the Montreal Insectarium. For this reason, they are to be avoided, according to her.

There’s insecticide in the air…

In mosquito repellent gadgets, the active substances recognized as effective are synthetic pyrethroid insecticides (permethrin, allethrin, metofluthrin, etc.), which are released in the form of a vapor into the air, as explained by Jacques Boisvert, a retired professor at the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières.

The latter are neurotoxic products that affect insects and can kill them, whoever they are. “Their secondary role is to act as a repellent,” adds the biting insect specialist. Nevertheless, Health Canada considers that the insecticide concentrations used and regulated are safe for humans. Of course, always follow the instructions carefully.

Diffusers (or lanterns)

These products use a heat source to activate the insecticide – often allethrin or metofluthrin – which has the effect of forming an invisible zone of several meters around the diffuser after a few minutes.

Several devices operate using a fuel cartridge (usually butane), but there are also models with a lithium-ion battery or that plug directly into a fuel canister (for camping, for example).

Still others are powered by a single candle, such as the small OFF! lanterns. However, the market is dominated by the popular brand Thermacell, whose products are judged to be effective in particular by Wirecutter, belonging to New York Times. This specialized site also recommends a rechargeable battery model, in particular for its ease of use.

Efficiency : “It’s effective… provided it doesn’t sell!” Even very light winds greatly reduce the effectiveness of this type of protection, while not being strong enough to keep mosquitoes away,” explains Jacques Boisvert. The “cloud” of insecticide tends to move with the intensity of the wind; thus, the protection may be uneven on a terrace.

And what do users think? Samuel Charest and his spouse use a Thermacell brand product (fuel) in their yard plagued by mosquito infestations, in Carignan, Montérégie. They are very satisfied with it: no smell, good perimeter protection for a group around a table, etc. “The disadvantage I see with Thermacells, it’s mostly the cost. If you use it often, it can quickly cost you a lot of refills! says the outdoor enthusiast.

Duration : the filter or the insecticide “mat”, which is inserted into the device, must be changed after a few hours, as must the fuel cartridge. The exact duration depends on the product; a battery-powered model might need to be charged after 5-6 hours, for example.

Security : this type of product is for exterior use only. Avoid directly inhaling the vapor it releases and do not allow children to handle insecticide refills.

Prix : a Thermacell device sells for around $35-70 (depending on model), which includes fuel (or a charging cable) and filters or insecticide mats sufficient for around 12 hours. As for the price of refills, it varies according to the models and their autonomy, but it generally goes from 20 to 30 $ for 40 to 48 hours of efficiency.

mosquito repellent-cartridges

Fuel canister and insecticide mat to be inserted into the Thermacell brand device. They should be changed after a certain number of hours.

mosquito repellent-spirals

Spirals to burn

These spirals contain an insecticide; allethrin, for example. You light the tip of the spiral, you extinguish the flame by blowing on it, then you let the product burn quietly, which diffuses the insecticide while creating a smoke barrier.

Efficiency : the specialist in biting insects Jacques Boisvert considers them effective and praises their low price. For good protection, however, you must be in the immediate vicinity of the product, according to our French colleagues from What to choose. And, of course, as is the case with diffusers, a mere breeze will affect their effectiveness. “One of the problems with these spirals is the unpleasant smell and smoke they give off,” adds Samuel Charest, who has tried them at home.

Duration : the manufacturers indicate that they can burn for approximately 5 to 8 hours.

Security : for outdoor use only. Do not breathe smoke directly or allow young children to handle these products.

Prix : between $4 and $10 for a box of 10.

What about citronella candles and torches?

Something that is not new: you have candles on your outdoor table that diffuse lemongrass while burning. There are also citronella oil torches, to be installed all around your terrace.

The team of What to choose concludes, however, that these products are not effective in preventing bites. Jacques Boisvert holds the same speech: “It is rather the smoke which can keep mosquitoes away in this case”, he nuances. Verdict: to be used – outdoors only – much more for the atmosphere they create than for their real mosquito repellent potential!

5 pro tips to protect yourself from mosquitoes

It’s not just mosquito repellents that can help control the presence of these pesky critters. Here are some homemade tips:

• Specialists Jacques Boisvert and Julia Mlynarek both use a simple but effective trick: the use of a pedestal fan! Place one or more of these devices on your terrace and activate them. This should slow down the ardor of undesirable insects, or even block their path altogether.

• “A strong light away from where you are could act as a trap by attracting mosquitoes and deterring them from people,” Julia Mlynarek also suggests.

• When camping or at home, if permitted, approach the wood fire; it will act as a mosquito repellent.

• Eliminate environments conducive to the proliferation of mosquitoes on your property, such as stagnant water points. Clean your gutters and bird baths well, and make sure your land is well drained.

• Keep in mind that mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk, especially during the months of June and July; you can therefore plan your activities to avoid these periods.

>> To read also: How to choose a mosquito repellent for the body?

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