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Hiking in the great outdoors is the perfect place to enjoy what nature has to offer, but one thing we don’t enjoy is pesky bugs. Ward off mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects the natural way with homemade and store-bought remedies.

Why Mosquitoes Like Hikers

Mosquitoes are everywhere and they always seem to follow us wherever we go, especially during vigorous activities like hiking, running, and working outside. That’s because CO2 draws mosquitoes in, so when you’re breathing heavily, there’s more CO2 to attract them. They’re also drawn to the skin’s perspiration, bacteria, odor, and body heat.

Perfumes, moisturizers, foods, dark clothing, and stagnant water attract mosquitoes too. Females particularly seek out warm bodies for blood to fertilize their eggs, so they do most of the actual biting. Male skeeters feed mostly on flower nectar.

Mosquitoes are drawn to people for different reasons but there is no one-size-fits-all conclusion. Unique body chemistry makeup is one hypothesis,  especially if a person has high cholesterol or the skin produces a high amount of uric acid. Whatever you’ve got going on, female mosquitoes can sniff it out easily and then … bite!

Hike Smart

Keeping mosquitoes (and other outdoor pests) away while you’re hiking is a challenge, but you can reduce the number of buggers trying to get at you.

Ways to keep mosquitoes from biting hikers include: Stay out of the woods, grassy areas, and flower beds. Stick to hiking trails and dirt paths. Insects gather around trees, high bushes, grasses, and flowers. If you invade their territory, they’ll be ready to “bug” you!

When hiking, wear a hat, SPF, and drink a lot of water. Hydration helps the skin flush out toxins, battle against bone inflammation, and dilute scents that attract mosquitoes.

Natural Remedies for Outdoor Pests

Chemical-based insect DEET repellents are most effective for deterring insects but they’re not very good for the environment (and most of them smell terrible!).  Go natural with these organic products:

Cinnamon Oil. Cinnamon oil kills mosquito eggs and adult insects. Blend ¼ teaspoon (about 24 drops) of cinnamon oil into 4 ounces of water, and spray it evenly on your skin.

Citronella.  Citronella is a repellent — not a bug killer — with a pungent and somewhat unpleasant odor. It masks scents that attract mosquitoes and other insects.  

Geraniol. An alcohol-based substance deriving from lemongrass, rose, and other plant secretions, geraniol is hit or miss, depending on one’s body chemistry.      

Lavender.  Ah, the sweet smell of floral lavender is relaxing to you, but says “no!” to adult mosquitoes. It also helps irritated skin after the bite. Buy lavender-based products in stores and online. If you’re the DIY gardener type, grow lavender in containers or flowerbeds. Crush the blooms and add soothing Vitamin-E oil to apply to your body.   

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil.  Apply lemon oil every few hours but don’t use it on small children.

Neem Oil. Neem is typically used on plants to protect them from insects munching on leaves. Neem oil is potent on skin but it’s safe for most people to use. To determine if you have sensitivity to neem, test it on a patch of skin before rubbing it all over your body.  

Soy. Soybean-based products are becoming more popular for protection against mosquitoes and other insects. USDA and EPA tests for mosquito protection by soy oil note that repellent does the job for up to 8 hours.

Thyme. Mix 4 drops of thyme oil with one teaspoon of olive oil. If you prefer tap water in a spray bottle, blend 2 ounces with two drops of thyme oil.

Mosquitoes and tick bites can be serious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mosquitoes spread diseases such as Zika, meningitis, encephalitis, and the West Nile Virus. Ticks bring Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which is why it’s so important to protect yourself.   


Gina Thompson is an experienced multimedia journalist, producer, and content writer born and raised in Texas. In her spare time, she loves catching a live band, dancing, and finding the next big taco spot. As a writer, she is passionate about making a positive impact on her community by elevating the voices and stories that need to be heard.

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