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How I Transformed My Backyard Into A Mosquito Bite-Free Zone

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The benefit of having a backyard in New York is that you have one at all. First you have to luck out with a ground floor apartment, and once that’s out of the way, suddenly, the possibilities of what you can do in your small oasis of undeveloped land are endless. Seemingly mundane activities to a Midwesterner like me—barbecues, bocce ball (don’t knock it till you try it), picnics—once again become accessible, all because of that backyard! But none of that matters if you can’t really enjoy it. And you can’t enjoy it if you’re the kind of person mosquitoes like to dine on—in other words, if you're a kind of person like me.

I’ve been a target for mosquitoes my whole life. And I don’t just get lots of bites—I get lots of huge, golf ball-sized welts. Sprays, diet changes, sonic deterrents, repellent wristbands—you name it, I’ve tried it. What I’ve found is that only a few things actually work, and even fewer are pleasing to wear. Forget the citronella and ditch the vitamin B1 patches that'll make you (and your clothes) smell funky for days. Here’s what works instead.

Handy Wipes

I’ve used Avon’s Skin So Soft repellent spray since I was a kid. I’m not sure when they started making the wipe version of their spray, but I’ve found that it’s a much more enjoyable experience to apply—a more targeted application, if you will. One wipe is about the size of a typical face wipe, and it’s enough to cover your entire body in a lightly floral scent. Inside is the repellent Picaridin, which in my humble opinion is superior to DEET. And unlike DEET, it doesn’t eat away at your nail polish or clothes, either. The best.

Action-Packed Lotion

Another reason I like Skin So Soft is because the wipes are as chic as bug repellent can possibly ascend to—and they are easily portable. Perfect for a few hours in a mosquito playground. If I want something a little longer lasting, however, I prefer this lotion. Like the wipes, it also uses Picaridin. It keeps to my skin for hours on hours, and it rubs in without any hassle.

A “Natural” Alternative

If Picaridin is the best mosquito repellent, and DEET is the second best, then eucalyptus is a very close third. Listen, I wouldn’t believe it either, but then I tried Cutter’s spray because of all the glowing reviews on Amazon. It works really well, and it's a good alternative if you’re freaked out by DEET and Picaridin. The downside is the smell—it’s…strong. It’s a far cry from the subtle fragrance of the eucalyptus shower salad, it’s more like Pine-Sol on acid, but it’s not the worst smell in the world, either.

The Beyoncé Method

If you are a constant target for mosquitoes, then you probably already know that fans help keep them away. Mosquitoes are weak fliers, so even a flimsy fan can blow them away from your body, but the trick is finding a fan that covers your entire body—without that, mosquitoes will find a way to go to town on any sliver of skin not directly in the fan’s path. The solution is to get two fans. If I find myself planted somewhere in my backyard for a while, and I don’t really want to put a repellent on my body (usually when I’m eating), I put these diva fans to work, with one positioned in my front, and a cross-cutting one to the side. Ridiculous, maybe, but Beyoncé-approved. So there’s that.

—Ashley Weatherford

Photo via ITG