The author in her protective gearBattle dress: The netting is hot and a little scratchy, and I could hear the mosquitoes swarming around my head. But they couldn’t get in!There’s a clan of blood-sucking vampires that calls my farm home. Unlike most, this clan is entirely female, and they like to hunt in the evening after the sun goes down. There aren’t any coffins for them to sleep in, though they enjoy hanging out in the shade of leafy vegetables in the garden.

I’m talking, of course, about mosquitoes. This summer’s substantial rain has led to an exploding population of them, and it’s made an otherwise lovely country existence nearly intolerable.

Under normal circumstances, I love summer with a passion. Fresh foods and thunderstorms, long days and ice cream, along with a distinct lack of the cold hands and feet that plague me during other parts of the year. While the fair skin inherited from my Norwegian and English ancestors keeps me from basking in direct sunlight, I tend to think of summer months as the time when I build up my internal heat store for the cold winter months I know are coming.

This year’s mosquitoes have sadly taken a lot of enjoyment out of sitting outside with a picnic dinner and a tasty beverage, or working in the garden. For tasks that must be done, we’ve gotten in the habit of wearing long sleeves and long pants on even the hottest days. For my birthday, I received mosquito netting to wear over my head.

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I avoid chemicals as a general rule, and I’m especially not a fan of insect repellents. Many of them have DEET, which is suspected in having negative impacts on the nervous system, and phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors. Call me crazy, but I’m also hesitant to use any product that doesn’t have to list all of its ingredients.

We do own a can of bug spray though. When I can’t take the attacks anymore, I squirt a small amount on my hat or shirt, careful to hold my breath so I’m not inhaling any more than absolutely necessary. I hate the smell, and it makes my skin feel oily and uncomfortable.

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For a while I used a mixed essential oil that contained citronella, rosemary, tea tree, and lavender oils. It worked moderately well on the spots where I dabbed it, but it doesn’t cover the skin well and requires frequent application. And at $23 for half a fluid ounce, it’s not something I’m going to cover myself in multiple times a day.

I even tried taking vitamin B1 several times a day for a few weeks in the hopes that the rumor about it making my blood smell bad to mosquitoes is true. I don’t know if it worked, but I don’t seem to have more bites now that I’ve stopped taking it.

So, dear readers, I’m asking for advice. Do you have any tried-and-true methods to avoid the itchy welts that have covered my body this summer? Are there natural alternatives to deet-based insect repellents? Or is staying inside and/or covering up my skin the only way to repel these vampires?