The three-ingredient hack that saved me from mosquito bites

As the temperature gauge crept in to the mid-20s, and the Mexican humidity started to take hold, my skin slowly became a mosquito’s ultimate meal.

Sweat, dirt, sunscreen and more sweat, the ingredients were all there. It was simply a waiting game as we trekked closer and closer to their favourite breeding ground.

Winding down the dusty trail that snaked around the eastern slope of the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range — a small agricultural hub in the middle of the Mexican desert — the faint sound of the Fox Canyon springs increased with each step.

But the closer we descended down the rocky trail to the freshwater below, the more I became distracted by the signature buzz synonymous with my worst enemy.

I’d found their happy place.

I hadn’t thought to bring repellent, nor did I really need it after submerging myself into the cold spring water as protection, but during the hike back to base — they couldn’t help but follow their food.

But as we arrived to the smell of tacos and the stirring of margaritas at a local cafe following our hike, there was something different about the open setting of Los Agaves in the tiny town of Miraflores.

The effects of tequila aside, the “buzz” had disappeared.

There were still bodies of water surrounding the village, and plenty of puddles and buckets of water to feed the dogs that called the streets home. But the mosquitoes were non-existent, well, at least as we sat down for lunch.

I looked around expecting to see coils, a citronella candle or perhaps a can of Aerogard for customers — but instead, their trick to fend off any blood suckers was like nothing I’d ever seen.

Sitting in the middle of our guacamole, pick de gallon and corn chips was a single, flaming orange decorated with specks of cloves sprinkled on to the fruit’s flesh.

The smell was subtle as we ate our lunch, and I assumed the orange was simply a decoration; how wrong I was.

“The flaming orange is to get rid of mozzies,” our guide from High Tide Tours, Alex, said.

“Orange, cloves, pure alcohol and a flame … it keeps them away.”

And he was right. They were nowhere to be seen.

The orange, which has a small block of pure alcohol sitting in the centre, was sprinkled with cloves before being lit on fire.

The aroma that followed worked as a barrier between myself and the mosquito. It was genius.

Speaking to, mosquito expert Dr Cameron Webb from the University of Sydney said the method wasn’t something he’d heard of, but understood how it could work as a repellent.

“This is an interesting one,” he said. “What you’re trying to do with this is hide the smell of people by using the aromatic scent of cloves and citrus.

“When a mozzie finds us, they are looking for the carbon dioxide and the smell of skin. Anything to reduce or mask that smell can work as a repellent.”

Dr Webb said following recent rain events in Sydney especially, residents should expect a longer mosquito season than normal. Typically, mozzies die off by mid-April, but the recent wet weather and warm temperatures means they will continue to hatch for a few more weeks.

However, despite the creativity behind my flaming orange discovery, Dr Webb insists the best method is still old-fashioned repellent.

“It’s easy to use insect repellents and they work well,” he said. “They hide the smell of the skin, and while home concoctions, citronella in candles and coils will reduce the amount of mozzies, they don’t provide complete protection.

“It (flaming orange) is probably making a contribution, but I wouldn’t say it’s the best way to protect yourself.”

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