How to deal with mosquitoes, by Nance Klehm

nance klehm

Q: Mosquitoes are attacking me. What should I do?

To start, two simple lists –

What Attracts Mosquitoes:
– dark clothing and dark foliage
– lactic acid and sweat (from your exercising or a very balmy evening)
– flowery or fruity fragrances
– CO2 (uh oh)
– moist places in general

What Drives Them Away, or at least stops them from finding you:
– smoke
– light clothing
– clean, aseptic fragrances/essential oils such as: clove, geranium, cinnamon, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar and the infamous citronella
– bats!

Little brown bats are the most common bat in temperate North America. I see them darting overhead at dusk in most city parks in most cities. Consider building a bat house or three in your neighborhood! For plans and more info, check out Bat Conservation International at

Let’s consider the bat and the mosquito together:

mama little brown bat
life span 33 years
1-2 offspring/year
50-60 days gestation, 1 month to flyer

mama ‘any type’ mosquito
life span 2 weeks
400/eggs/laying x ?layings/year
1 week egg to flyer

Why not sic mama insectivore on mama nectar-bloodsucker? A nursing little brown bat not only literally flies around with her baby on her nipple, she knocks out 4,500 mosquitoes and other teeny insects in a single evening of hunting. Non-nursing others take care of around a third of that. Which is not peanuts—that’s a lot of bugs.

There are 150 species of mosquitoes in the US, which means as small and short-lived as they are, they also are fairly unavoidable. These bugs can’t regulate their own body heat, so most of them function best when temps are in the 80s, they get sluggish when it dips to the low 60s, and when it is under 50 degrees… Poof! They disappear.

Both male and female mosquitoes are primarily nectar feeders (just like fairies) but a female needs blood for protein to develop her eggs. She hunts for your human scent and co2 emission, lands, pierces your skin with her mouthparts and injects her saliva containing this amazing non-clotting chemical in it so she can drink deeply. Then, once satisfied, she detaches and lays her blood-fortified eggs in moist places—gutters, birdbaths, puddles, ponds, ditches, plant trays, coffee cups left outside, etc. The eggs hatch into squiggling larvae, pass quickly through the pupae stage and become adult flying mosquitoes on the hunt in just about one week. So getting rid of standing water after rainfall, no matter how little, thwarts these quick-cycling bugaroos.

Clothing is an easy thing to fix, and as long as you’re in your own backyard or stoop, so is burning something in a bowl that not only produces some smoke but also a nice scent for you that they dislike. Pick something that is slow-burning—garden sage is a great one. You can get bags of dried sage cheaply from a middle eastern store. If you’re on the move and don’t have anything to burn, you can light a cigarette (a lit cigarette does help and you don’t even have to smoke it). You can also try parsley juice or, if you don’t mind smelling like a salad, you can use parsley juice mixed with vinegar. Even better, if you have the forethought to plan, make yourself a Mosquito Bane salve like so:

Put an inch or two of water in a sauce pan and place a glass jar into it. Pour a half cup of olive oil into the jar and a put in a walnut-sized piece of beeswax. Melt over medium heat. When all is one liquid, pull it off the stove. In the small jar add 15-30 drops of one or more (don’t stink out your friends) of the above essential oils and then immediately pour the wax-oil mixture over it. Set it aside to solidify and there you go: Mosquito Bane salve. (Note: you can always reheat your salve into a liquid to adjust its consistency to your taste—add a touch more oil for increased spreadability, a smidge more wax for more solid salve.)

Perhaps you’ve already been bitten picking those berries** and you’re itching like a hmmhmmhmm. Sorry about that! You are one of the many unlucky ones among us who are sensitive to the female mosquitoes’ saliva, and your skin is having a histamine reaction. Unless you are hyper-sensitive, there are a couple of things to do instead of popping an over-the-counter drug.

One: Pluck a plantain leaf in your mouth and chew it quickly. Plantain (Plantago major or Plantago lanceolata) is a ‘find it everywhere’ weed friend. When you have a nice cud, spit it out and apply it directly on the bite. Leave it for a few minutes. You should feel an instant cooling and soothing. If you have a lot of bites, give your teeth and mouth a break and toss a bunch of plantain leaves in a blender with a bit of water until it is a paste and then use this. You can keep this paste in a jar in the fridge for a week before you might have to compost it.

Two: Vinegar on the skin will knock down inflammation and irritation. Vinegar’s acidity regulates your skin’s pH and helps dead skin cells unglue themselves from your living skin. A few cups in a bath or a direct splash on your skin with vinegar should unruffle your feathers.

By the way, I just took a bath in three gallons of failed elderberry wine. When I say failed, it was neither drinkable nor even what I would deem ready for my still. I am not sure it was even something I would use to pickle with, but I decided to use all of it in this afternoon’s bath. And while I couldn’t bucket this bathwater onto my plants after I finished using it, what it did for my beach sunburn and itchy burned scalp was a wonder.

** Serviceberries, mulberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries… they are all right out there, right now. Go get ‘em!

Comments or questions regarding this column should be posted in the “Comments” section below

Got another questions for Nance? Email editor at arthurmag dot com

Nance Klehm website:

Categories: "Weedeater" column by Nance Klehm | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

5 thoughts on “How to deal with mosquitoes, by Nance Klehm

  1. Obviously, you picked up on my frantic and frustrated swatting at the air yesterday. Light clothes, check. Shower before going out, check. Essential-oil skin solution… oops, didn’t have time to grab that before I ran to the train. And it had rained the night before, so they were fully hydrated and lounging in the tall grass around the nightshades when I showed up.

    Next time I go to the suburban garden, I will start a smoldering fire. I couldn’t get anything done until the Sun was high enough above the trees to keep the ‘squitoes from flying around. They like 70-80 degree temps, but above that (with full sun and dry air), they seem to fall back.

    Oh, and while I read up on dealing with ants (after a column of neophyte queens and drones marched in through a windowsill crack around 1 a.m.), I also read that bugzapper blacklights kill 100s of mosquito predator insects for each mosquito that gets zapped… and that mosquitoes don’t really get drawn to the things in the first place.

  2. great ideas. i’d really love to see more bats and bat houses around

    i’ve made a salve out of beautyberry leaves and lemon balm that works so fucking amazingly. i’ll send you some when i make another batch, which should be real soon.

    p.s. did you make yer still? what plan did you follow?
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  3. hey tartar,

    i’ve had a still, but haven’t distilled in a year. working on the softer stuff as it is more socially drinkable and i don’t need the tincturing base. now i have gallons to push through so i drew a new bead of silicone on it to get a better seal. and i will be bubbling away some evening soon.

    rght now, i am all about berries – another 50 pounds processed today. ridiculous. making soda. the even softer soft stuff with some of it…

  4. oh ginchy
    do you make the soda with water kefir grains? i’ve been usin em to make bubbly mild meads with berries and blossoms and things.
    wow, 50 pounds, that sounds amazing. i’d love to be in yer workshoppe

  5. Pingback: Nance Klehm’s Mosquito Bane « The Aerostat

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