Now that warm weather is here, I was intrigued by this recent letter from a reader in Corvallis, Ore.: “A few months ago, you wrote that Victoria’s Secret Body Mist called Bombshell seems to repel mosquitos. If I am outdoors at twilight I usually end up with about 50-75 insect bites. Even during sleep at night, I will end up with several (10 or more) bites of some sort. I tried that body mist, and if I remember to spray it on whenever I go outside (like to garden, for which I usually don’t spray anything on), or before I go to bed at night, I get 0-1 bites! It is a miracle. I thank you very much for mentioning the anecdotal evidence regarding this spray. I love it!”
Good timing, Gayle. I was just thinking about this topic last week when my unsuspecting daughter and I attracted a party of mosquitos as we rode horseback through a meadow.
As I mentioned previously, mosquitos find their victims through smell. They bite those whose aroma is the most attractive to them. Some people have body chemistries that mosquitos find tantalizing. Other folks don’t get bit because their smells are repugnant to these pests.
That said, I’m not sure what your success using the popular fragrance, Bombshell, has to say about its aroma, but mosquitos sure seem to be repelled by it, according to studies at New Mexico State University.
These scientists also found that formulas with DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) appear to repel the advances of hungry mosquitos more than other type of repellents. Rather than killing them, DEET makes it hard for biting bugs to smell and find their way to our unprotected skin, says the Environmental Protection Agency. This particular chemical is safe for use on adults and children.
I also mentioned that supplements of vitamin B-1 have not proved to be the most effective way to deter insects that love your smell. It may work in some people…and it may not in others.
Lastly, some foods (this is a nutrition column, right?) may produce smells on us that are not attractive to mosquitos. They include garlic (crush and eat it raw — such as in a salad dressing — for the full effect, say experts), lemongrass (one of the best food sources of citronella, an effective mosquito repellent) and grapefruit (eat it and/or rub the peel on your skin). Have a safe summer.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.