Insect Repellent Myths

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Mosquito season is in full swing and it seems like there are more mosquitoes than ever before. Unfortunately, more mosquitoes in Los Angeles County is our new reality but residents can take action now to take back the outdoors and protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus. 

Because West Nile virus is endemic in LA County and there is no cure or vaccine, prevention is the best method of protection. We recommend using an insect repellent with one of the four active ingredients recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, and IR3535. 

What's the right insect repellent for you?
Read more about active ingredients in repellents here!

If you’re not a fan of insect repellents sprays, don’t be fooled by the number of insect repellent products on the market. Below are some repellent myths to keep in mind when looking for the right repellent to keep you and your family safe and bite-free.


Citronella Candle

Citronella Candles

Citronella candles are only effective at repelling mosquitoes in the immediate radius around the candle and in the absence of a breeze. Unfortunately, Aedes mosquitoes prefer to feed off the lower extremities of the body like the ankles, away from candles on table tops. To provide long lasting coverage, use an insect repellent product that contains one of the recommended ingredients.

Natural Ingredients
Natural Products

Insect repellents with natural oils or ingredients only work for 15 minutes or less, are unregulated, and can be toxic. For example, lavender oil is a popular alternative to recommended insect repellent products but it can actually act as an attractant for mosquitoes.

Dryer Sheets
Dryer Sheets

Dryer sheets have not been scientifically tested as an insect repellent.

Citronella Plants
Citronella Plants

Like the citronella candle, citronella plants, if at all, only provide protection for the immediate area around them. Because most people place them in pots, this can potentially become a mosquito source because of the water that accumulates in the pot saucer. Lavender plants are also a popular option but besides potentially attracting mosquitoes, they can also create a potential source if they are stored in a plant pot with a saucer.

Bug Zappers
Bug Zappers

Bug zappers are great at attracting insects, and while they may  eliminate some mosquitoes, bug zappers attract and destroy mostly beneficial insects that serve as food sources for bats and birds.

If spraying yourself with insect repellent isn’t your favorite option for protection, there are other ways to apply it like lotions and wipes. Always look to see if the insect repellent product has one of the four active ingredients and note the percentage. The percentage of the ingredient is an indicator of how long the product will last before you have to reapply. And lastly, always read the label before applying.