Story in the NY Times...

Citronella Candles Don’t Really Work. Stop Buying Them

Citronella, an essential oil distilled from a type of lemongrass, has long been regarded as a “natural” mosquito repellent. Citronella oil is used in many different forms—from tabletop candles to oil diffusers to 5-foot tiki torches—to attempt to keep the pests at bay.

But the truth is there’s no indication that citronella candles provide more protection than any other candle-produced smoke. This is because essential oils don’t offer as substantial an invisible shield as EPA-approved repellents like DEET and picaridin do.

A mosquito interprets the world through multiple chemical receptors, according to Laurence Zwiebel, a professor of biological science and pharmacology at Vanderbilt University. Essential oils block only a limited number of those receptors, and Zwiebel told senior staff writer Doug Mahoney that he wasn’t certain an essential oil that worked for one species would work across a range of others. As Doug writes in a post about essential oils as bug repellents, “Repellents such as picaridin and DEET, on the other hand, block a much wider number of receptors on a more consistent basis.”

However, our experts were able to find a handful of mosquito repellents that actually do work in most situations. The Thermacell E55, a rechargeable spatial mosquito repellent, shields an entire area, instead of just one person. As Doug explains in the guide, the device uses heat to “vaporize a little vial of liquid repellent, which slowly disperses out of the unit, protecting an area from mosquitoes and other biting insects.” The E55 is not only almost as effective at warding away pests as a full application of bug spray repellent, it’s also silent and odorless.

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