I love every part of my house, but my favorite place by far is my covered outdoor patio. As soon as the weather permits, I am the first to leave and the last to return. I love the fresh air, the view, and knowing which neighbors come and go. I like to hear the birds in the morning, the frogs and crickets in the evening. What I don’t like are the mosquitoes.
Unfortunately, they like me.
As soon as I leave, it’s as if a neon lights up: “The buffet is open”. Mosquitoes zoom around like sports fans at a tailgate party.
Apparently, I’m one of the unlucky 20% that researchers say is particularly attracted to these nasty vectors, which have a type O blood craving (yes), the smell of sweat both fresh and dried (uh, it’s summer), people who run hot (again, it’s summer), certain body chemistries (which depends on your genes) and those who drink beer, a factor you can control but that you may not want.
In other words, if you’re taking a break from gardening and sitting down on the veranda for a brewski, you’re having lunch.
I have tried many mosquito control methods: insect repellents, zappers, candles, peppermint oil, citronella torches and electromagnetic bracelets. Because mosquitoes don’t like moving air, I keep the outdoor ceiling fan running. I have a pest control service that regularly sprays the yard and I have planted grasses and flowers that mosquitoes don’t like. (Who asks them?)
And I’m still the prey.
So when I recently received an email about a new smart mosquito repellent system that connects to your Wi-Fi, allowing you to control the release of localized mosquito repellent from an app on your phone, my first thought was: “No more gadgets that don’t work.”
Over 10 years ago I tried another product from the same manufacturer, Thermacell Repellant, and was disappointed. The battery-operated lantern worked by heating a wafer-like insert infused with repellent. When heated, the insert releases repellent to repel mosquitoes within 10 feet. I never knew if it worked, because either the batteries were dead or the pads were.
However, I was ready to give the brand ― one of the biggest names in the mosquito world for over 22 years and a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts ― another try. Products are improving. But first, I called my future son-in-law, an avid hunter and fisherman, to get his opinion.
“I love Thermacell,” he said without hesitation. “I clip one to my belt when I go hunting or fishing, and I carry butane cartridge refills with me. It’s the only thing that works.
“You’re going to think I’m a slob,” he continued (I don’t, by the way), “but while duck hunting in the Louisiana swamps, that was the only thing that kept me away. mosquitoes.”
I am frankly dumbfounded. Men’s hunting tales so seldom apply to a better life.
“So should I try this in my backyard?” I asked.
“Damn, yeah,” he said.
Although I don’t plan on being in a Louisiana swamp, I would like to sit on my patio with a friend without fear of catching the Zika virus.
After reading several favorable reviews of what the manufacturer claims to be the first smart mosquito repellent system, I ordered the smaller Thermacell LIV, which sells for (cough) $699. The system’s hub plugs into a GFI outlet (so no batteries to recharge or butane to replace). The hub connects via a three-repeller cable.
They are thermos-sized devices made of weather-resistant die-cast aluminum. When you turn on the system, the repellents heat up and release a synthetic version of a compound in the chrysanthemums that the little biting insects don’t like. Each repellent covers an area of 20 feet, creating a bubble that mosquitoes don’t want to be in. Imagine putting a giant cake dome on your picnic table or hot tub.
I installed the system a week ago with low expectations. I have spent every evening since and a few mornings on the terrace. What I noticed was that I stopped noticing the mosquitoes because there were no mosquitoes to notice.
I also liked that unlike traps and zappers, the system doesn’t attract and kill mosquitoes, it just tells them to go eat somewhere else. And it doesn’t smell.
Those who want to spend less can skip the technology and still get the same benefit, according to company spokesperson Alex Emmanuele. Thermacell also sells non-smart products (the E55 or the E90), which look like big tumblers, run on rechargeable batteries, and sell for around $50 each.
“However,” he added, “if you’ve invested the money in a nice outdoor space or hot tub that you can’t enjoy because of mosquitoes, it might be worth it.”
If you’d rather mosquitoes eat elsewhere, here are eight ways, in addition to area protection, experts say you can reduce mosquitoes in your yard this summer:
1. ELIMINATE STANDING WATER: Puddles, wheelbarrows with rainwater, stagnant birdbaths, etc., are where female mosquitoes lay their eggs.
2. MOW YOUR LAWN: Mosquitoes like to hang in cool, damp, dark places, so long, damp grass is ideal. Keep your lawn trimmed.
3. HIRE A PRO: A professional pest control service can spray the yard to discourage mosquitoes.
4. INSTALL A MISTING SYSTEM: Surround your garden with misters that regularly mist the plants and shrubs, creating a protective barrier.
5. PLANT THINGS THEY DON’T LIKE: These include mums, lavender, marigolds, mint, lemongrass and rosemary.
6. KEEP THE AIR AND WATER IN MOTION: Run your fans and fountains, so mosquitoes can’t get comfortable.
7. DEATH WISH: Turn off traps and zappers.
8. USE BUG SPRAY: If you know you will be outside, apply insect repellent containing at least 30% Deet. If you prefer to avoid chemicals, try the peppermint spray.
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle. She can be reached at www.marnijameson.com.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to aging, I have a plan. Plan A is that I won’t age. Plan B is that if I have to get old, I’ll fall into swinging.
I talk to you all the time about properly storing and organizing all the things that matter, so they’re safe and accessible, like I have everything…
Today’s story begins in a crowded market in New Delhi, India in the mid-1960s. Martha Ramsay of Bristow, Virginia had just bought three…