Discover 12 Smells That Mosquitoes Absolutely Hate (But You Will Love!)

Written by Drew Wood
Updated: July 12, 2023
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In the summertime, nothing beats sitting out on your back deck with snacks and drinks, enjoying conversation and laughs with family and friends late into the evening. That is if only there were not such a thing as mosquitoes in the world! Somehow they don’t seem to bother some people, but others almost get eaten alive by them. We got you though. We’ve got a list of 12 smells that mosquitoes absolutely hate, but you will love!

12 Smells That Mosquitoes Hate But You Will Love
Keeping mosquitoes away may be as simple as planting the right flowers and shrubs or scattering mulch!
Macro shot of Northern house mosquito (Culex pipiens) sitting on human skin

There are over 3,600 mosquito species across the world.

©Anest/Shutterstock.com

What’s the Deal With Mosquitos, Anyway?

Mosquitoes are little flies that come in about 3,600 different species, worldwide. They hatch from stagnant water sources and their larvae are food sources for other insects, fish, and even water birds like ducks. Female mosquitos of various species feed on blood, not only of humans and other mammals, but also birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even some fish! The saliva of a mosquito causes an itchy rash and can transmit diseases like malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, dengue fever, and Zika virus. This makes mosquitos the deadliest creatures in the world, responsible for the deaths of about 700,000 people every year. They are able to function only when the temperature is above 50 °F but are most active in the temperature range of 59-77 °F. This is why you’ll most often encounter them around dawn or dusk rather than in the heat of the day.

Asian woman scratching her arm skin, health care concept image of mosquito bite, allergic dermis inflammation, fungus infection, dermatology disease, malaria, dengue, tropical mosquito virus infection

Mosquito bites can create red, itchy welts that can become infected if you scratch them.

©9nong/Shutterstock.com

What Attracts Mosquitoes?

It’s not just your imagination: mosquitoes actually are more attracted to some people than others. They can pick out their prey from up to 160 feet away. They can detect carbon dioxide, so people who breathe heavily get their attention. People with a lot of skin bacteria, even at levels undetectable to people, and high body heat also get more bites. And they watch for movement. All of that together means they might particularly notice you if you’re doing yard work or playing a game than if you’re sitting sedentary. They also like people with type 0 blood, which happens to be the most common blood type, pregnant women, and people drinking beer. So there’s an extra reason not to drink while you’re pregnant! People wearing contrasting clothing are easier for them to see, and they can bite through tight clothes, so it’s better to cover exposed skin with loose-fitting, neutral colors.

Mowing or cutting the long grass with a green lawn mower in the summer sun

Mosquitoes particularly take notice of people who are breathing hard, have a high body temperature, and have a higher-than-normal bacteria level on their skin. Sounds like a perfect description of someone mowing a lawn.

©iStock.com/BrianAJackson

Ways To Get Rid of Mosquitoes

Of course, you can spray pesticides around your house and yard to kill mosquitoes, and many of these are advertised as being safe for children and pets when used correctly. If you take this route, experts recommend choosing one that contains 30-50% DEET. But why take chances if there are more natural ways to get rid of them? Here are a few ideas:

  • Oscillating fans
  • Electric bug zappers
  • Seal cracks and holes around doors and windows
  • Remove sources of standing water
  • Mosquito traps (purchased or DIY)
  • Landscape with cedar mulch
  • Use yellow LED lighting
  • Keep your grass mowed
  • Bathe in soap designed for camping
  • Set up bird feeders and bat houses
  • Keep goldfish or koi in water features
  • Burn candles
Showa koi fish swimming in pond- one of the most expensive koi fish

Koi or goldfish in an outdoor water feature will feed on mosquito larvae.

©iStock.com/coffeekai

Smells That Repel Mosquitoes and Attract People

Fortunately, many of the very smells that repel mosquitoes are things people find very pleasing. Below is a list of 12 scents you can try. Some of these are plants or flowers you can use in landscaping near the areas where you are most active outdoors in the evenings. Others you can buy as candles to burn in your house or outdoors. Or you can buy them as essential oils and spritz yourself or the affected area with a diffuser.

1. Catnip

Catnip is an easy-to-grow plant that grows 20-40 inches tall and wide and blooms in spring and fall, the times when you might particularly notice mosquitoes. It has fragrant pink or white and pale purple blooms. Catnip is of course famous for the ecstatic reactions it provokes from many domestic cats (and even from big cats like leopards, lions, and tigers in captivity). You can dry clippings of it for your cat to enjoy all year round. But most importantly for our purposes here, mosquitoes hate it!

What does catnip do to cats

Ooh, this kitty loves him some catnip, completely mosquito-free!

©Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock.com

2. Cedar

A wide variety of trees and shrubs are called informally “cedars” so they give you lots of options for landscaping. They are hardy evergreens that provide good cover for birds and small animals. If you live in a region where it snows, they look magical covered in a light layer of ice. The wood of cedar is highly aromatic and has been used traditionally for cedar chests and closet linings to keep away moths and other destructive insects. You can achieve the same purpose by putting sachets of cedar shavings in your closets and drawers. To keep away mosquitoes, consider putting down cedar mulch around the foundation of your house and your plantings.

Thuja occidentalis white cedar

This is white cedar, one of many varieties of trees and shrubs called informally, “cedars.”

©iStock.com/Andrey Rykov

3. Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner bark of certain tree species. It is used as a flavoring for cereals, snacks, and hot drinks. You can simmer cinnamon sticks to release the scent in your house, or better yet . . . bake some cookies. Now that you know it also keeps away mosquitoes, you also have a perfectly good reason to drink those spicy fall drinks all summer long.

closeup saigon cinnamon sticks

Cinnamon can be purchased as sticks or in powder form, for baking, drinks, or making your environment smell nice.

©iStock.com/Marat Musabirov

4. Citronella

Citronella is an essential oil made from lemongrass. Knowing this, you can plant lemongrass in your landscaping. But because citronella is so effective at repelling mosquitoes and other insects, it’s commonly sold in cantles and tiki torches specifically designed to be used outdoors. No doubt about it, citronella is one of the smells mosquitoes hate!

citronella

©rawf8/Shutterstock.com

Citronella is a pleasant, aromatic essential oil made from lemongrass.

5. Cloves

Cloves are the flower buds of a tree that grows in Indonesia. They are used as spices and fragrances in soaps, cosmetics, and other products. They are particularly popular in South Asian, Middle Eastern, and African cuisine in dishes like curries, baked ham, fruit-based desserts such as apples, pears, and rhubarb, and in spiced hot beverages. In the United States, the flavor of cloves is one of the important components of pumpkin pie spice. There is no doubt it is lurking somewhere in the depths of your pumpkin spice latte. If your favorite drink is not in season, why not make your own, or at least boil some cloves in a put on the stove to ward off mosquitoes?

Wooden spoon with cloves on rustic table

Cloves are native to Indonesia. You’re probably familiar with this flavor from eating pumpkin pie.

©DeeaF/Shutterstock.com

6. Eucalyptus 

Eucalyptus is a term describing over 700 species of the Myrtle family. Most of these are native to Australia but can be grown in mild climates in other parts of the world. In the U.S., they do best in California, Florida, and other states that do not have harsh winters. Before you plant them, note, though, that their oil is flammable, so they are best not placed close to your house or areas where you might set up a grill or outdoor candles. The smell of eucalyptus is familiar to most of us from cough drops. it’s a favorite food of Koalas. So as if they weren’t already cute enough, they have fresh breath!

These are the evergreen leaves of a eucalyptus tree, also known as a gum tree.

©iStock.com/Marina Denisenko

7. Geranium

Geraniums are annual flowers when raised in temperate climates. They bloom in shades of white, pink, and red and come in upright and vine varieties, suitable for hanging baskets. Interestingly, their blooms don’t have much smell, but their soft fuzzy leaves have a strong pleasing aroma, especially when crushed or rubbed between the fingers. They can also be raised indoors as potted plants, but they can be unforgiving of overwatering. You won’t always know until their stems begin rotting from the ground up. So take it easy with the watering can.

Potted geraniums

Potted geraniums make a bright show of color, but all their aroma is in their leaves and stems.

©Lapa Smile/Shutterstock.com

8. Grapefruit

Grapefruits originated in Barbados when a sweet orange was accidentally crossed with a pomelo from Southeast Asia. The result was a large sour fruit that some varieties can be a bit sweeter, and in others more bitter. It tends to be used as a breakfast fruit, sometimes sprinkled with sugar to mask its tartness, or as a fruit juice drink. Like other citrus fruits, it has a fresh, eye-opening smell. But people on medication should note that it interacts unfavorably with some medications. Even if you can’t eat it, you can still use grapefruit-scented candles or potpourri to repel pesky mosquitoes who don’t like positive, clean smells.

Grapefruit

©iStock.com/ValentynVolkov

Grapefruit has a pretty sour taste, but you can find some varieties that are sweeter. Or just add your own sweetener.

9. Lavender 

There are about 47 species of lavender, a flowering plant in the mint family. They are raised in temperate climates and can come as annuals, perennials, and small flowering shrubs. Domesticated varieties of the plant have blooms in various shades of purple, but wild lavender can come in yellow or a dark purple that is almost black. has been used for eons in traditional medicine, flower arrangements, perfumes, cosmetics, and in cooking. Used as a spice, lavender can be an ingredient in pasta, salads, dressings, or desserts. Bees also use it to make honey. In various parts of the country, lavender farms are becoming fun day trip locations, usually with gift shops full of lavender-themed items, essential oils, soaps, and other creative uses for this popular scent. Lavender is said to have a calming effect, so some people enjoy the fragrance at times of stress or as a sleep aid in the evenings.

Lavender essential oil

Lavender is an attractive, sweet-smelling flower that yields a popular essential oil. It is said to have calming properties and can be a sleep aid.

©iStock.com/Olivka888

10. Marigolds

Marigold is the name given to a variety of species of fragrant flowers that are found in shades of yellow, orange, and yellow and red. There is also a “white” marigold that has a yellowish-green tinge to it. Marigolds have a strong scent, especially when the leaves are crushed between the fingers. They are useful for repelling not only mosquitos but other kinds of pests as well. Sometimes farmers or gardeners plant a row of them alongside their crops as a natural insect repellant. Marigolds are extremely hardy and easy to raise, but in cold climates they are annuals. They bloom prolifically all spring, summer, and fall and it’s easy to collect more seeds than you’ll ever need for next year from the dried blooms.

Are Marigolds Poisonous -

The fragrance of marigolds is one of the smells mosquitoes hate.

©Quang Ho/Shutterstock.com

11. Peppermint

Peppermint is a cross between watermint and spearmint. It is used around the world as a fragrance, food flavoring, and in medicinal products. Peppermint is said to have memory-enhancing properties, so some teachers recommend eating peppermint candy or smelling a peppermint-flavored candle or essential oil while studying and taking tests. Planted in your yard, it likes partial shade and moist soil, without being overwatered. It grows through underground rhizomes and can spread quickly, so if you want to keep it contained it may be best to grow it in a container.

Peppermint essential oil, fresh leaves, and blossoms. A smell that makes you smile, and mosquitoes leave.

©iStock.com/Rawf8

12. Pine Oil 

Pine oil is an essential oil extracted from pine trees. It’s a smell often used in air fresheners and cleaning products because it smells clean and fresh. It might also bring back memories of Christmas trees. Be careful with this one around the house and yard, though. Some people are allergic to pine. Pine essential oils, as compared to pine-scented air fresheners, are stronger and more concentrated, so they can cause skin irritation if applied directly to the skin. It is best with any essential oil to keep them away from your eyes and don’t ingest them. They are best used topically in moderation and for aromatherapy. And for repelling mosquitoes.

Five-needle pine, Ulleungdo white pine, Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora "Glauca") it is a coniferous evergreen tree.

If you choose to plant pines in your yard, you’ll be pleased with their fast growth rate, and mosquito-repelling properties.

©Anna50/Shutterstock.com

So Many Smells!

Out of this list of smells mosquitoes hate, you’ll surely be able to find more than one you like. Some might be better indoors, and others for outdoor entertaining and landscaping. One last thought to remember is that people have different levels of sensitivity to smells. Additionally, as they get older, some people may not sense smells as easily and have a tendency to overuse them. It doesn’t necessarily take a heavy application of these fragrances, or more than one of them, to keep away mosquitos. You might experiment with different ones, at modest levels, to see how effective they are, then ask friends and family how strong and pleasing the scents are in the house and yard. And of course, if there are people you don’t want coming over, then use as much as you want and drive them away, along with every mosquito on the block!

Summary of 12 Smells That Mosquitoes Absolutely Hate

SmellHow to Use It
1CatnipPlant it around your house – it blooms in spring and fall and can be dried for your cat
2CedarUse cedar mulch in landscaping around your house
3CinnamonSimmer cinnamon sticks in water to release the scent
4CitronellaPlant lemongrass and use citronella tiki torches and candles
5ClovesSimmer cloves in water to release the scent
6Eucalyptus Can be planted where winters are mild – leaves are flammable – so not too close to the house
7GeraniumPlant in sunny spots around your house
8GrapefruitBurn grapefruit-scented candles
9Lavender Plant it around your home if you live in a temperate climate
10MarigoldsPlant in sunny spots around your house
11PeppermintPlant in partial-sun areas – does great in pots
12Pine Oil Plant pine trees, use pine mulch, or essential oils in diffusers

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/nechaev-kon


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About the Author

Drew Wood is a writer at A-Z Animals focusing on mammals, geography, and world cultures. Drew has worked in research and writing for over 20 years and holds a Masters in Foreign Affairs (1992) and a Doctorate in Religion (2009). A resident of Nebraska, Drew enjoys Brazilian jiu-jitsu, movies, and being an emotional support human to four dogs.

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