Help Squad: Bugged by mosquitoes? Here are some solutions

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Are the mosquitoes driving you buggy? We at Help Squad assume they are because, like road construction season, mosquito season is currently in full swing in Chicagoland! With this in mind, we decided to investigate some homemade and natural mosquito repellents and share our findings with you. What we discovered ­— with the expert assistance of environmental biologist Jim Louderman, collections assistant for insect collections at the Field Museum — are some options that are both environmentally safe and inexpensive.

A few drops of lemon eucalyptus oil (Louderman’s personal mosquito-repellent of choice) or any other essential oil, such as lavender, citronella, tea tree, lemongrass, castor, geranium or peppermint, combined with 2- to 4 ounces of distilled water, rubbing alcohol or olive oil, can be sprayed directly on skin and/or clothes to repel mosquitoes for up to three hours. Approximate cost: less than $15.

Fabric softener sheets, which contain linalool, a compound found in lavender and basil, can be rubbed over clothing to keep the bugs away for as long as two hours. Approximate cost: $7 a box.

A bubble machine utilizing a combination of bubble solution and a few drops of essential oil will discourage mosquitoes from entering an area where bubbles are blown — and more importantly, popped. The key is the dispersion and adhesion provided by the popped soap bubbles, which contain the repelling scent of essential oil. A fun solution for outdoor parties. Approximate cost: $20 to $40 for machine, $10 for bubble solution.

Apple cider vinegar set in small bowls around an area’s perimeter will attract mosquitoes, luring them into a liquid trap from which they can’t escape. Approximate cost: $5 for 32 ounce bottle.

Plants such as marigolds, Thai lemongrass, rosemary and geraniums all produce a scent that mosquitoes find very unpleasant and humans don’t mind, so planting these around your deck or patio provide another mosquito barrier. Approximate cost: depends on yard size; individual plants range in price from $3 to $12.

Pure vanilla extract applied to the body’s pulse points will make you smell delicious to other humans but unappetizing to hungry mosquitoes. Approximate cost: $6 for an 8-ounce bottle.

Incense sticks soaked in citronella torch fuel — which, when burned, create an inexpensive homemade mosquito coil — will repel mosquitoes with their scented smoke. Sticks can be arranged in flower pots or jars, or stuck in the ground and lit. This is a decorative way to keep bugs away at an outdoor party. Approximate cost: $10 for 200 incense sticks, $5 for 50-ounce jug of torch fuel.

Having fresh breath will keep the mosquitoes away! Well, not exactly, but the following mixture containing mouthwash will act as an effective bug barrier for several hours: Combine equal parts flat beer, Listerine and Epsom salt in a pump spray bottle and spray deck, lawn, shrubs, etc., before outdoor guests arrive. Approximate cost: $15 for a 6-pound solution.

In addition to the above-suggested insect repellents, Louderman makes the following common sense suggestions to reduce the opportunity for mosquitoes to breed in the first place.

• Dispose of old tires, buckets, sagging tarps, etc., that can hold water, and turn over any other outdoor receptacles you may not currently be using.

• Clean debris from rain gutters and unclog obstructed downspouts. Clogged rain gutters are one of the most overlooked breeding sites for mosquitoes around homes.

• Irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days.

The bottom line, Louderman said, is mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide and humans produce a lot of it. He half jokingly suggests, “If you can find someone whose respiration rate is higher than yours, stand or sit by them when you’re outside.”

If that fails, try one or more of the inexpensive, natural repellent options listed above.

Need help?

Did a utilities company overcharge you? Did a boutique deny your request for a return? Are you the victim of fraudulent business practices? Is someone just exhibiting bad business behavior? Let Help Squad make the call for you. Send your letters, your complaints, your injustices and your story ideas to HelpSquad@pioneerlocal.com and we will be happy to help you.

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