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What to burn to keep mosquitoes away?

Nothing puts a bigger downer on a nice evening outside than the relentless company of mosquitoes. These persistent critters appear sometime around dusk, then proceed to make an uninterrupted nuisance of themselves for several hours.

And while they usually confine their antics to summer, our variable climate means that mosquito season can actually start as early as April, and go on as far as October.

We’ve written this post as a short primer on reducing the number of mosquitoes wreaking havoc on your outdoor evenings, whether they involve a bonfire or not.

Does smoke from burning wood keep mosquitoes away?

Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive answer to this question. A lot of anecdotal evidence that smoke keeps mosquitoes away, but the actual answer is less clear.

Like many folk remedies and old wives’ tales, there’s some value in it.

Smoke is a natural repellant, and it appears to discourage bugs. But there’s scientific debate about whether they’re repelled by the smoke itself, the higher temperature near the fire, or the chemicals within the smoke.

What can I burn to keep mosquitoes away?

On the last point above, there are several readily-available herbs that contain oils thought to deter mosquitoes when burned. Chuck a bunch of any of these into your fire and you should see their numbers dwindle.

The most famous contender for keeping your fire mozzie-free is citronella. The oil from this plant is what you’ll see used in candles and incense-based products designed for burning in your garden during the summer. In the UK, you’re more likely to find lemongrass growing than citronella. The two plants are cousins and both contain citronella oil.

Other herbs like mint, sage, and lavender should work, too.

Which of these plants grow in the UK?

If you’re planning on an evening outdoors without buzzing visitors, keep your eyes peeled for the following plants.

Lavender grows in the UK. Thanks to numerous varieties growing freely here, you’ll find lavender in bloom from as early as April, right through to October. The tall purple sprigs are easily recognisable – just grab a few and stick them in the fire occasionally.

Mint grows here, too. You can either grow it in your herb garden or find bushes of it tucked away in woodland undergrowth. Here’s what you’re looking for – just follow your nose:

Sage is evergreen, so you can find it year-round. You can either throw a bunch of leaves onto the fire once in a while or bundle them up like in the image below:

Bundling them together tightly and lighting the end will give a more gradual burn, and should deter mosquitoes quite well.

Lemongrass – a cousin of citronella that also contains citronella oil – doesn’t grow wild but you can grow it in your garden it or buy it. If you decide to grow at home you can harvest the plant all year round once it’s established, meaning you’ll have plenty on standby whenever you need to banish mosquitoes from your space.

A few other ideas

While there are tons of purpose-built products and sprays designed to keep mosquitoes away, these usually contain fairly nasty chemicals that you might not feel comfortable using.

That’s why our favourite option is the smoke from the naturally-growing plants above.


All images royalty-free from Unsplash. Sources: Lavender, mint, sage, mosquito.

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