Guess you'd have to be a bug guy to call this a "crazy spectacular year," in the mosquito department. But that's what Mike Raupp is. And that's what the University of Maryland at College Park professor of ornamental horticulture — and the Bug Guy, whenever he's on the network morning TV shows — is calling this year of record rainfalls that's led whole chunks of the country to be swarmed with near-tropical levels of blood-sucking skeeters.
Some of us aren't bug guys, though, so we might call this year a pain in the arm, the leg, behind-the-knee, that little nook-beneath-the-ear. Sometimes, even, a pain in the bottom. Wherever those little suckers leave their itchy, red, raised calling card.
We leaped at the chance to try the shiny new mosquito-repelling gizmos that flooded in this year, almost like the swarms themselves. We put three of them to the test, tromping through (and toiling in) a mosquito-thick garden at peak mosquito hours — early morning and sundown. We even subjected our kiddies to the test, figuring if a 7-year-old boy could make it through a day at soggy sports camp with nary a bite, we'd found something we'd slap on again and again and again.
Here's the latest from the Mosquito Front.
$8.99 for starter kit, includes fan, batteries and one refill. $3.99 for refills.
What it is: A blue plastic clip-on fan, with Off! repellent insert, sort of like an iPhone, only with an app for mosquito-shooshing.
First impression: OK, so this is about the oddest thing we'd seen in the bug-battling battalion (short of donning a haz-mat suit, that is). You slip in the 12-hour supply of Off! mosquito repellent — which includes metofluthrin, a relatively new repellent ingredient — clip the contraption on your waistband and the little battery-operated fan whirs round and round. We didn't think it stood a chance. (And we knew we looked dorky.) But, in the name of newspapering, we forged on.
What we found: It works! Not a bite, while it was whirring away. We even hung around the nearest sanitary canal, where the mosquitoes hang in cloud formations. Whatever it is it's wafting, we couldn't smell a thing. We couldn't smell the repellent. But, apparently, the mosquitoes did.
Final thought: You don't have to get that nasty gook all over you. Just clip it on and go. And embrace your inner dork.
Don't Bite Me!
$4.99, for a five-pack.
What it is: A 36-hour repellent patch, with vitamin B1 and aloe. Just peel away the backing, like a Band-Aid, and stick the little square to your back, thigh or upper arm. Anywhere that won't, um, bug you.
First impression: Oh, sure. A handy-dandy patch, and no bugs will come our way. Right. And besides, Raupp told us there's nothing to the urban myth that vitamin B, garlic and even bananas are super-duper natural repellents.
What we found: We patched up anyway. And lo and behold, we went bite-less for a day and a half. Maybe there's a placebo effect here (you know, you think you won't get bit, so somehow you don't).
Final thought: Not a dorky thing about it. You can hide that little patch. But apparently the mosquitoes know it's there. Oh, be sure to apply two hours before you need it to do its repelling trick.
Natrapel 8 hour
$5.99, for 3.5-ounce pump, or for 12-piece wipes.
What it is: DEET-free alternative. Comes in spray or wipes.
First impression: Win-win, right? Just spray and go, without subjecting our tender selves to DEET, the "gold-standard mosquito repellent since World War II," says Raupp about the chemical that some of us would rather avoid. Natrapel is 20 percent Picardin, which studies have shown to be among the most effective plant-based repellents, along with oil of lemon eucalyptus, according to Raupp. And the label — heck, the name — promises it'll last eight hours. We had high hopes.
What we found: Um, 19 mosquito bites by the end of one long day (and that was only one of us).
Final thought: We tried and tried. Didn't get much better.