The Truth About Citronella as Repellant
Mosquitoes are here to stay and are, in fact, increasing. Warmer weather due to climate change means mosquito habitat is expanding, and with it a host of dangerous diseases like dengue-fever and malaria.
A variety of sprays work to keep mosquitoes away, but some prefer the “all natural route.” The most common repellent in this category is citronella, but there are a few facts you should know before running out and buying a supply.
First, a commonly known “citronella” plant is actually a species of geranium, called Pelargonium citrosum. This is not the plant that produces the oil used in citronella candles, but it does carry a remote smell of citronella. It is the better known plant, lemongrass (Cymbopogon), that actually produces citronella oil – but this plant puts off only a whiff of the odor and unless you weave a lemongrass outfit for yourself it will not repel mosquitoes.
Citronella in a spray is only marginally effective. Although it is are registered officially as a repellent in the U.S., European countries do not allow citronella. Its effectiveness really is debated, but if used it needs to be applied frequently – about each hour. In addition, just because it’s “all natural” does not mean it is not toxic. In fact, based on studies done on rabbits, the oil is more toxic than DEET.
The oil used in citronella candles is far too mild to repel mosquitoes.