Skip to main content

How to Repel Mosquitoes, Midges, and Summer Biting Flies

Beth loves to travel and explore new places. She hopes you'll be inspired to visit them too.

A mosquito obtains a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis.

A mosquito obtains a blood meal from a human host through its pointed proboscis.

Chemical DEET (Insecticide) Repellent

If the insects in your locality are ones that carry disease (for example mosquitoes and malaria) you may want to use a DEET insect repellent such as Repel to give effective protection against disease. If I'm in a malarial area I use this, as the risk of catching malaria from being bitten outweighs the detrimental effect of DEET on the environment. However, this is a personal choice and your decision should be based on your own experience of being bitten by mosquitoes.

How to Avoid Getting Bitten By Midges, Mosquitoes, and Summer Biting Flies

  1. Cover up as much skin as possible. Wear long-sleeved shirts and blouses, and long pants. This may be uncomfortable when the weather is hot and humid but is better than being bitten. The main biting times for insects are dawn and dusk, so be sure to cover up for these. If you are walking through wooded or bush areas, you may also reduce insect bites by covering your face and neck with a scarf.
  2. Use an insect repellent on your skin. There's a wide choice of repellents available. These range from non-toxic natural-based solutions to ones with DEET chemicals. If you want to avoid using DEET, I recommend Sky Organics Organics DEET-Free Bug Spray. It's gentle enough to be used on delicate skin and is also effective at deterring biting insects.
  3. Avoid wearing perfume. Make sure your deodorants, aftershave, soap, and shampoos, etc. are all unscented.
  4. Apply insect-repelling scents to exposed skin (hands, arms, ankles, face, and neck.) Some scents are known to deter insects. The most commonly used scents are citronella and eucalyptus oils.
  5. Eat lots of garlic. Garlic compounds are excreted through the skin, and will keep many creatures at bay; your friends as well as insects. On the plus side, folklore has it that witches and vampires will also keep away if you eat garlic.

Why Do Insects Bite Us?

Female insects are the ones that bite. They need the protein from blood to produce eggs; they feast on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Some insect species feed in the daytime, while others choose to plague their host at dusk or night-time. Lights can attract night-feeding flying insects, but it is the carbon dioxide which animals and birds excrete that is the main attractant.

"The more carbon dioxide and lactic acid you produce, the more likely you are to attract a mosquito. Who produces more carbon dioxide and lactic acid? Overweight people and very active or fidgety people. Mosquitoes usually prefer to bite women over men." Source:

Why Do Some People Get Bitten Less Than Others?

Some people seem to get bitten more than others. This is not your imagination, some people’s skin really does attract more biting flies and midges. We naturally excrete waste products through our skin. The chemical composition of these waste products depends upon our metabolism, our general health, and the food we have eaten.

Every person’s skin “effluent” is slightly different. This difference explains why one person is more attractive than their neighbor to flying insects and is therefore more likely to be bitten. Two people can be within inches of one another and the flies will all swarm around one person rather than the other. Sometimes one person has used a strongly perfumed shampoo or deodorant. However, often it is a person’s natural body excretions that explain the difference.

There are both DEET and DEET-free bug sprays and repellents on the market.

There are both DEET and DEET-free bug sprays and repellents on the market.

How Do You Avoid Getting Bitten In the Garden?

If you attract biting flies and get bitten a lot, the best advice is to avoid being in the garden at sunset. Also, stay indoors on hot, muggy days. These are the times when flies mass together and swarm. If you really want to go outside despite the discomfort, make sure you use lots of insect repellent, especially on areas of skin that are not covered up. i.e., your feet, hands and face.

Many people say that burning a scented candle in the garden like citronella, lavender or eucalyptus helps keep the bites at bay. You could also grow these plants in your garden and that may help.

Scented Oils Can Be Used to Deter Insects

  • Citronella: A fresh lemon-like smell.
  • Eucalyptus: A pungent oil often used in nasal decongestant sprays.
  • Lavender: A rich floral perfume.
  • Peppermint: A clean and fresh toothpaste smell.

These fragrances can be used as oils or scented candles to help keep away flying insects. They pleasantly fragrance the air, but none of them are totally effective. You still need to use an insect repellent to protect yourself from insect bites.

Make Your Environment Unwelcoming to Flying Insects

During the evening and night-time insects are attracted by light. Try deflecting them with scents they find unpleasant; hang strings of garlic nearby, or burn lemon scented candles. Or you can try making a mosquito or midge trap (see video above). This uses carbon dioxide as a way of distracting the flies, mosquitoes and midges away from people.

Some people get bitten by midges and mosquitoes no matter what precautions they take. If this is you, make sure you have first aid treatments handy to minimise any itching and swelling. Antihistamine cream or ointment will reduce the inflammation and Calamine lotion will sooth and cool the affected area. I use Forces of Nature organic anti-itch roll-on to sooth the bitten area. In rare cases, a person may suffer a severe allergic reaction to an insect bite. If this happens you should seek urgent medical help.

15 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Mosquitoes

Safe Use of DEET Personal Insect Repellents

  • Read and follow all directions and precautions on the product label.
  • Do not apply over cuts, wounds, or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to hands or near eyes and mouth of young children.
  • Do not allow young children to apply this product.
  • Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin and/or clothing.
  • Do not use under clothing.
  • Avoid over-application of this product.
  • After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water.
  • Wash treated clothing before wearing it again.
  • Use of this product may cause skin reactions in rare cases.

Source: US Environmental Protection Agency

Will Water Sprayed on Midges Make Them Go Away?

No, water alone will not make midges stop biting you. A water spray has the same effect as you blowing on the insects. You may temporarily dislodge them, but they will quickly return. An insect repellent sprayed onto your skin will provide relief. Alternatively you could use an insecticide spray to disorientate and kill flying insects. Try to avoid being outdoors at sunset or on hot humid days as this is when midges are most active.

Do Bounce Dryer Sheets Repel Biting Insects?

Some people swear that putting a Bounce sheet in their pocket while gardening stops them getting bitten by insects. Dryer sheets contain small amounts of chemicals that act as insect repellents. However, the concentrations of these in the sheets is extremely low. In 2010, scientists at Kansas State University carried out research to test the theory. Their tests showed that Bounce does not repel the majority of biting insects. The only exception was gnats; these are deterred by the chemicals found in dryer sheets. So there is a grain of truth in this claim.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.