$20 Gluten-Free Mosquito Repellent

My teaching and writing schedules these days allow me to have some early morning reading time outside by the pool before the 110° temperatures drive me indoors to accomplish actual paid writing work.

At 6:30 a.m. it’s quite comfortable in Phoenix…except for those pesky mosquitos who don’t respect anti-bug spray, Absorbine Jr. or a flyswatter. In Mosquito spray-back label-cutout(993)altfact, they laugh uproariously in their annoying mosquito way at my flyswatter, hovering just above swatting level, flitting underneath, playing hide-and-seek. As a result, I re-enter the house with three, four, five bites every day.

I tried several experiments — spraying anti-mosquito stuff on one leg but not the other, applying Absorbine immediately upon feeling a bitabsorbine-cutoute and glaring menacingly at the pests. Nada. The flies on the other hand, respect my widely acknowledged swatting abilities. (I once adopted a pet fly, “al Nofly,” in Riyadh who visited me in the kitchen every day after work. We got along pretty well until Nofly landed in my homemade wine and I had to send him to the No-Fly zone.)

I thought the powerful overhead patio fan would be the solution. I positioned myself directly underneath but it didn’t take long for mosquitos to figure out that that left the underside of all my body surfaces vulnerable. Horrible derisive mosquito laughing sounds continued to fill my ears.

Then, I got an idea. What if I doubled down on the air currents…with a  floor fan? Just organic, gluten-free air.

I probably spent far too much time picking the model, going to three different stores. Interestingly, the Fry’s supermarket guy told me they didn’t have them in stock yet because . . . get this . . . “it’s a seasonal item.” I muttered something about what dang season does it have to be in Arizona before it’s “in season”?* and finally headed over to Walmart.  After wading through the sea of fellow shoppers festooned with tattooed neck slogans and visible butt cracks  (and those were just the women!), I bagged my trophy. Cost: $20.

I tried it out this morning.

fan-floor(984)HVoila. No bites today. Second day update: no bites.

I’m declaring a success. Now, if I can only figure out how to get that gluten-free fan into my backpack.

* (This is the same reason Trader Joe’s gives, by the way, for not having bacon-wrapped scallops from February to October. Apparently both bacon and scallops are out of season 9 months of the TJ year.)


By the way, the Cutter brand spray repellent takes joyous delight in proclaiming that it is “with Picaridin!” (All they need to do is put a “Captain” in front of that and I’m sold.) But note the tiny instructions on the back, which I would guess to be about 6pt type. According to the label, you’re supposed to read the entire label before each use! The. Entire. Label.

Or what? You’re going to beam down Capt. Picaridin to haul me away?

Cutter Mosquito spray(989Mosquito spray-back label-cutout(993)Stop-label-CU(990)2

P.S. Although I use the word “repellent” in regard to bug sprays, I’m not entirely sure sprays such as DEET or Capt. Picaridin “repel” the mosquitos so much as mask or confuse the chemicals emitted by humans. Female mosquitos have nerve cells called cpA neurons that have a receptor that they use to detect carbon dioxide (and skin odor. )  In addition, people with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attract mosquitos (WebMD). (That doesn’t necessarily mean that mosquitoes prey on people with higher overall levels of cholesterol. These people simply may be more efficient at processing cholesterol, the byproducts of which remain on the skin’s surface). If you really want to get wonkie, you can read the 2011 study in the journal Nature which found that mosquito odor receptors could be confused by DEET.  The conclusion of the study was that odorants from humans could be detected, but their pattern was confused, so the mosquito didn’t recognize the target as a target. It’s as if we disappear from the mosquitoes radar when we wear DEET.

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