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8 mosquito repellents tried and tested – or were they?

Oliver Fischer
22.09.2022
Pictures: Oliver Fischer
Translation: Katherine Martin

Before my summer holiday in Sweden, plenty of friends warned me that I was destined to become a human sacrifice for marauding mosquito swarms. No way, I thought, and stocked up on numerous mosquito repellents to test.

«Sweden in August? Have fun with the mosquitoes, then. They’ll eat you alive!» When I told people in spring and early summer about our vacation plans, reactions like this occurred with an almost alarming frequency. To tell the truth, I shared their concerns to some degree. I’d experienced said mosquito attacks on a similar three-week campervan holiday to Norway as a kid in the 1990s. But hey, no problem. After all, I do work for the largest online retailer in Switzerland, meaning I was able to use the opportunity to pack a whole host of mosquito repellents and put their effectiveness to the test.

Before setting off, I procured some weapons for my battle with the nightly plague of mosquitoes:

Mosquitno Anti-mosquito bracelet Citriodiol 1 piece
Animal repellers
11 of 12 remaining
10.10

Mosquitno Anti-mosquito bracelet Citriodiol 1 piece

6
Anti-Brumm Forte insect repellent (75 ml)
Animal repellers
Quantity discount
10.–per piece for 2 units133.33/1l

Anti-Brumm Forte insect repellent

75 ml

9

With this arsenal, I felt well equipped for a mosquito-ridden August spent at Swedish rivers, lakes and marshlands. But here’s the thing: I didn’t test ANY of them. Well, not exactly. My equipment was lit, sprayed, donned and switched on. In that regard, I was very conscientious. The only thing is, I can’t say a thing about its effectiveness. Zilch. Nowt. Nada.

Because in three weeks in Sweden, I didn’t see or hear a single mosquito. Not one.

Alright, my family and I spent the first four days on the west coast i.e. by the sea, on saltwater and therefore mosquito-free territory. After that, however, we headed inland in the direction of large lakes, rivers and canals. In other words, freshwater – and mosquito country. But no. The mosquitoes didn’t show up there either.

Twilight at the water’s edge: no mosquitoes in sight.
Twilight at the water’s edge: no mosquitoes in sight.

At first, I thought I was just «unlucky». That I just had to wait and see. After all, I’d be spending every evening outside near the water. And though I did exactly that, the mosquitoes still didn’t want my blood. I began to think I was the problem. After all, as my colleague Caro recently discovered, the critters are picky eaters:

  • Guide

    Why do mosquitos prefer biting certain people?

    by Carolin Teufelberger

But even my wife and daughter were left untouched.

Even though they weren’t biting me, you’d think I’d notice them here and there, right? So, I made a real effort to track down some mosquitoes. I spent evening after evening hanging out on lakeshores, jetties and in fields of reeds, wearing flip-flops, shorts and a T-shirt in the hope of enticing at least one swarm of mosquitoes with my tender skin and sweet blood. Alas. Nope, not even going for a twilight dip in the shallows of various lakes was enough to attract any mosquitoes.

Not even a nibble after an evening swim in the lake.
Not even a nibble after an evening swim in the lake.

Three weeks in Sweden and not a single mosquito? Surely not, I thought. So, I set out to find out why.

  • The timing was right: Sweden’s peak mosquito season is summer, particularly in July and August. Check.
  • Regional differences: Mosquitoes’ preferred habitats are bodies of water and birch forests located inland, not on the coast. Check.
  • North vs. south: Basically, there are mosquitoes all over the country. However, they’re less common in the south than in the north. There you have it. Our most northern point on the trip was just south of Stockholm. That would at least explain why we didn’t come across quite as many mosquitoes as we’d expected. But none at all?
  • Breeding conditions aka climate: The number of mosquitoes flying around in summer is dependent on the weather in spring – even in typical mosquito territory. This is because the critters need their breeding habitats to be moist enough for eggs to develop and mosquitoes to hatch. Basically, if it’s a dry spring, the summer mosquito plague will fail to materialise. My search for spring weather data for Sweden leads me to timeanddate.de, where I can look at the changing levels of rainfall in different regions of southern Sweden between March and May. My conclusion? It was a dry spring. In many places, I’m able to count the number of rainy days on one hand.
I plonked myself down in every place you’d expect mosquitoes. All I got out of it was a nice photo. But hey.
I plonked myself down in every place you’d expect mosquitoes. All I got out of it was a nice photo. But hey.

Well then. Given my chosen vacation dates and destination, I actually didn’t put a foot wrong in my attempt to test mosquito repellents rigorously. The dry spring in southern Sweden hadn’t been on my radar. Nor had I reckoned with the fruitless wait for the pesky creatures that resulted from it.

Test failed.

PS A week after returning to Switzerland, I spent the weekend in Graubünden, a couple of hundred metres from the Canova lake in Domleschg. Guess what attacked me in the garden at dusk? And guess who didn’t have their mosquito repellent with them? Yours truly.

/ PPS The mosquito season has been and gone. Next year, I’ll be going on the hunt for hungry swarms of mosquitoes and putting the repellents to the test. Promise.

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Globetrotter, hiker, wok world champion (not in the ice channel), word acrobat and photo enthusiast.


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