Best Ankle Biter Mosquito Repellent: What Works On Aedes Mosquitoes?
Aedes mosquitoes, better known as ankle biters, are tiny insects that can deliver a debilitating, sometimes fatal bite. Healthline has identified natural ingredients that repel mosquitoes, but the key to keeping these pests at bay is using an Aedes-specific repellent. The best ankle biter mosquito repellents have concentrations that work without causing allergic and other reactions.
Thriving in tropical, subtropical, and some temperate climates, the CDC distinguishes between Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. While both these subspecies of bloodsuckers feed on human hosts, the latter can tolerate a broader temperature range and survive at cooler temperatures. Aedes albopictus, unlike its cousin, also feeds on animals, and because of these differences, is less likely to spread the four viruses with the greatest impact on human health: Zika fever, dengue fever, yellow fever, and chikungunya. Ankle biters could also be a potential vector of the Venezuelan Equine Encephalitis virus and transmit the West Nile virus.
The National Environmental Agency says that the average lifespan of an ankle biter in nature is two weeks. During that period, it can lay eggs about three times, producing around 100 each time. Prevalent globally, the larvae of mosquitoes live in water, providing food for fish and other wildlife, but many survive to adulthood, and produce 300 or so eggs as part of the cycle of life. To counter this prolific breeder, the best ankle biter mosquito repellents are key.
What Are the Aedes Mosquitoes?
This mosquito is one of the most widespread in the world.
Adult Aedes mosquitoes are quite small, with black and white patterning. They could be confused with other invasive or indigenous species but the distinctive feature is the silver scales in the shape of a lyre on the dorsal part of the thorax.
Called "ankle biters" because they prefer biting humans near the feet, these mosquitoes will in fact bite any part of exposed skin that doesn't have a repellent like bug bite patches applied.
Preferring humans to other mammals, the ankle biter feeds multiple times during an egg-producing cycle and is highly efficient at transmitting inter-human viruses. Found living and breeding as close as 100 meters to human homes, some studies show that they also breed away from human dwellings. However, the ankle biter prefers the resting and host-seeking possibilities human habitations offer, and without Natural Outdoor Protection will bite during the day (diurnal) and at twilight hours (crepuscular).
Understanding Aedes Mosquito Behavior and Habitats
With a flight range of an estimated 200 meters, the ankle biter has a limited dispersal capacity. While rainfall does affect their abundance, they don’t rely on the rain exclusively for breeding, as they prefer artificial water containers like bird baths and water features. But their habit of feeding and resting indoors means they’re less susceptible to the negative effects of rain.
Feeding through the day into the twilight hours, they thrive in urban environments and find many places to lay eggs. Driven largely by human activities, the best ankle biter mosquito repellents like mosquito patches for kids are as critical to repelling these insects as mosquito patches for adults.
Top 5 Ankle Biter Mosquito Repellents
Here are five of the best ankle biter species-specific mosquito repellents currently available:
- Natural Patch Buzz Patch: A natural, safe solution, the Buzz Patch incorporates specially blended essential oils that alleviate swollen, itchy skin. The Buzz Patch adhesive patches, which claim to be the best ankle biter mosquito repellent, are made from medical grade tape. The protection is activated when the patch is opened, wearing down over a 24-72 hour period. Full protection lasts for 12 hours. The product received good reviews, with the main complaint being that sometimes multiple patches are necessary.
- Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent: DEET-free, this product repels mosquitoes for up to six hours. The scent is pleasant and the product doesn’t leave a sticky feeling, but some customers have found that it isn’t effective.
- Ben's 30% DEET Mosquito, Tick, and Insect Repellent: Available in different sizes, Ben’s30 delivers seven hours of protection and contains 30% DEET. Some people experience rashes or irritated skin after using DEET and it could irritate the eyes if sprayed too close. While most users like it, the Ben’s30 spray bottle could leak, especially from the spray mechanism.
- Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent: Off! provides long-lasting protection against biting insects and also repels fleas and no-see-ums. It comes in an aerosol spray that is available in four sizes and is formulated with 25% DEET. Lasting up to eight hours, on the downside, users have complained that it leaves a white film behind that is noticeable on clothes.
- Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion: With a 34% DEET component, this repellent gives protection against insect bites and is proven to repel mosquitoes. Its stable formula lasts up to five years but some users find it sticky, and too thick to apply.
How to Choose the Right Repellent for Aedes Mosquitoes
Finding a species-specific insect repellent can be daunting. However, it’s critical to take a closer look at the ingredients as well as the concentration of the active ingredient in a repellent product to determine its efficacy. Some are known to cause allergic dermatitis in sensitive people and the U.S. EPA recommends using low concentrations of these ingredients in repellents.
Scientific Nature journal has researched the repellent efficacy of 20 essential oils on Aedes and identified five essential oils with long-distance mosquito repellence. Using an arm-in-cage method to measure protection time from mosquito bites, certain natural substances provided complete protection for longer than an hour. Citronellyl butanoate was one of the top-performing essential oils.
The botanical oil citronella applied directly on human skin resulted in a protection time from mosquito bites between nine and 120 minutes. Establishing citronella as an effective repellent, the relatively short period of protection can lead to periods of vulnerability to ankle biters. By using bug bite patches, the time can be substantially extended.
Other essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, lavender, and cinnamon oil are difficult to assess and may offer little more than a placebo effect. Honing in on the formulations, the report criticizes the fact that the percentage of the active ingredient can be misleading.
DEET, another popular ankle biter mosquito repellent ingredient, has a bad reputation. The reason being, it was developed by the military and is perceived as a product only for rugged men, or possibly because many people have adverse reactions. Some European countries have banned DEET following reports of toxicity, but the product is still popular nonetheless.
Killing ankle biters on contact, Permethrin is used widely but isn’t an insect repellent per se. Sometimes used to treat fabrics, it does act as a deterrent in areas that are covered, but exposed areas such as ankles won’t enjoy protection.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't recommend using insect repellents on children younger than two months. Proven to be safe and effective when used as directed, even for pregnant or breastfeeding women, EPA-registered insect repellents generally have labels with product-specific warnings if applicable. Label directions should be followed carefully and shouldn’t be applied to damaged or irritated skin.
The right product is the one most suitable for the person using it. Considerations such as the length of time protected, the efficacy of the product, and the possible side effects are paramount.
Skin Sensitivity and Allergies
Reactions to ingredients can differ from person to person. When a repellent is applied to the skin, about 3%-19% may be absorbed into the body. Mixing an insect repellent with sunscreen can affect how your skin absorbs both products. Using both can increase repellent absorption through the skin. However, the effects of using both depend on which sunscreen and which repellent is used. Few or no studies address using IR3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus with sunscreens.
Duration of Exposure
The choice of repellent will be determined by the amount of time spent outdoors. The efficacy of ankle biter repellents is mainly affected by the primary ingredients used and their concentration. For example, an ankle biter spray with 20% DEET will protect for about five hours, whereas a spray containing 7% percent DEET will only protect for two or three hours.
Any activities in water will wash away topical sprays and lotions making it essential to reapply more frequently.
Ankle biter repellents aren’t on the EPA's list of contaminants, but water from washing clothing and bathing flows to local water treatment facilities. Repellents washed off skin and clothing into rivers and lakes during recreational activities tend to travel with water if dissolved, but could travel downstream in the water or through soil. DEET and picaridin are soluble in water and dissolve easily, whereas oils like lemon eucalyptus are moderately soluble.
As they move through the environment via water or air, most repellents are moderately volatile and release vapors. But with a duration ranging between seven and 15 hours, the vapors don’t stay there for long.
When it comes to wildlife, DEET is slightly toxic to birds, fish, and aquatic invertebrates. The effects of small amounts of DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on natural water and small organisms such as snails, mayflies, or water fleas had not yet been established. Because of the low toxicity of Citronella oil, the EPA doesn’t consider it harmful to the environment.
Age and Health Conditions
Babies under two months of age should not use ankle biter repellent. As an alternative, a net can be placed over a cot or pram to keep ankle biters at bay. DEET-based products should be used sparingly until they are at least two years old and lemon eucalyptus oil-based products should only be used on children older than three years.
The CDC confirms that EPA-registered repellents can be used during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, particularly as they reduce the risks from viruses carried by ankle biters.
Research suggests that the toxicity of repellents depends on the route of exposure as well as the level of doses. Furthermore, multiple applications of insect repellents may trigger undesirable hazardous interactions with biological systems, but the research is still inconclusive.
Activity Type and Repellent Form
Using some form of repellent to deter ankle biters is suitable in certain situations. If trekking through a rainforest, for instance, it's essential to use ankle biter repellents and reapply regularly. Similarly, Insect repellent must be reapplied if engaged in water-based activities, or any type of activity that produces a lot of sweat.
Ankle biter repellents in oil, cream, or lotion form can feel greasy when applied, making it difficult to play ball games. DEET and IR3535 can damage synthetic materials, including types of vinyl and plastics, making these products unsuitable for use in certain environments.
The form in which the ankle biter mosquito repellent is sold often limits where it can be used. Aerosols tend to be less effective outdoors, whereas bug bite patches are suitable in most circumstances.
Preventive Measures to Control Aedes Mosquito Populations
Here are some practical tips for homeowners to control mosquito breeding sites:
- Use the best ankle biter mosquito repellent: One of the most effective measures, ankle biter repellents come in different forms, using a variety of active ingredients.
- Spray indoor living spaces with pyrethrin: Pyrethrins are pesticides occurring naturally in certain chrysanthemum flowers and are toxic to insects.
- Introduce predators into the larval habitats: Irradiated or genetically modified mosquitoes (sterile male release) or the use of Wolbachia bacteria can suppress or eliminate virus transmission.
- Wear protective clothing: Clothes that cover the body reduce exposure.
- Take advantage of personal protective gear: It also reduces the risk of mosquito bites.
- Sleep under mosquito bed nets (preferably insecticide-treated ones): Used successfully in developing countries, the cost is substantially less than ankle biter repellents.
- Stay in screened or air-conditioned rooms where possible: With screens, very few or no ankle biters will gain access to a host, and air conditioners lower the temperature, making the room less attractive to Aedes mosquitoes.
- Empty water containers regularly: As ankle biter larvae can survive for long periods, cleaned containers should also be disinfected.
An ankle biter mosquito trap can be made with a quarter cup of brown sugar dissolved in a cup of hot water with a little dish soap. A gram of yeast can also be added. But without all the other measures, such an ankle biter mosquito trap is unlikely to yield the desired results.
Impact of Climate and Seasonal Changes on Aedes Mosquitoes
The Aedes mosquito used to live in forested areas, using tree holes as homes. As they adapted to urban domestic habitats, they learned to use a wide range of artificial containers such as water tanks, vases, tires, and underground aquatic sources like as septic tanks as their abodes. Adapting easily to indoor and outdoor water container habitats in the same areas, the population numbers have increased to the point where implementing effective control methods is difficult.
Since the Aedes mosquito prefers warmer temperatures and is intolerant to winters, climate change has significantly increased their population distribution. During ankle biter mosquito season, they are now likely to appear in places they hadn’t been seen before.
Community Efforts and Public Health Initiatives
As no vaccine has been developed, the best course of action is prevention:
- Mosquito-avoidance: When high virus activity levels are detected or at times when mosquitoes are most active, staying indoors is recommended.
- Remove mosquito sources: Empty, cover, or throw out items that hold water once a week. Bear in mind that tires, flowerpots, buckets, toys, planters, birdbaths, pools, and trash containers are ideal breeding grounds for ankle biters.
- Personal insect repellents: Use EPA-registered insect repellents or wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover most parts of the body when outdoors.
Public health organizations should factor the following into their programs:
- Messages should be clear and consistent with the recommendations of coordinating agencies and include a call to action.
- Develop prevention strategies for high-risk groups.
- Prioritize public education and risk communication activities.
- Cultivate beneficial partnerships with the media and the community.
- Communication and community engagement are key.
- Community mobilization and outreach improve education and help to achieve behavior change goals.
- Online resources provide information that leads to better-informed decisions.
- Social Media is an important communication platform.
Comparison of Repellent Technologies
Annually, 700,000 people die from complications associated with etiologic disease agents transmitted by mosquitoes. Here are some repellent technologies designed to arrest that alarming figure:
- Prophylactic measures, mass drug administration campaigns, vaccinations, and antibiotic drugs and antivirals: While successfully controlling some disease carriers such as ankle biters, some strains are resistant to several drugs. The lack of antivirals and vaccines for many disease agents limits the success of this technology.
- Control involving the prevention of disease by using biting deterrents like repellents: Successful in limiting the spread of mosquito-borne diseases throughout the world, the appearance of insecticide-resistance in many wild mosquito populations jeopardizes this approach in the future.
- The need for new control strategies and chemistries is becoming increasingly important and should be incorporated into integrated pest management approaches. In the meantime, the best ankle biter mosquito repellents will keep the mosquitoes in check.
Case Studies: Success Stories in Managing Aedes Mosquitoes
The International Atomic Energy Agency published the CRP Success Story: Mosquito Handling, Transport, Release, and Male Trapping Methods in 2022. Advocating the sterile insect technique (SIT), a method that controls major disease-transmitting mosquito species, the overall aim was to improve human health. Involving 22 scientists from 19 countries, certain key goals were reached:
- New, more efficient trapping methods were developed.
- A novel large-scale insect marking technique was also developed and evaluated. Using Rhodamine-B, the method marks the tissues of the mosquitoes and can estimate the sexual competitiveness of sterile male mosquitoes.
- The effect of temperature, time, and compaction levels for the handling, shipment, and transportation of chilled males was assessed, establishing ideal environmental conditions for the shipment of various Ardes mosquitoes.
- Methods for ground and aerial releases were developed, concluding that drone aerial release is a powerful and cost-effective tool for mosquito releases.
These developments mean that sterilizing mosquitoes and transporting them to the release sites when chilled can be executed more easily.
In Australia, a successful control program protects the whole country from Aedes albopictus expansion. The control strategy, implemented between 2005 and 2008, targeted larval habitats. Several adjustments were made to the program as progress was made in some areas, but not others. Using an additional harborage spraying strategy adopted by the quarantine program in early 2011, the vegetated, well-shaded nesting sites of adult Aedes were treated with a residual pyrethroid insecticide. Within two years, there was a 97% decline in ankle biters. The frequency of container treatment was then increased and by 2015 and 2016. As a result, Aedes on two islands were undetectable and a surveillance network hasn’t identified established populations of this species on the Australian mainland.
The two methods focused on different goals: eradication and sterilization. But it appears that both groups were successful.
In a paper on Mosquito Repellents: Efficacy Tests of Commercial Skin-Applied Products, prices and favorable rates of repellents are taken into consideration. The paper answers certain critical questions about precautions to be taken with insect repellents:
- Only use a repellent in ways that are described on the label. By following the label directions risks can be minimized.
- Avoid over-applying repellents and use just enough to cover exposed skin, following label directions to see when to reapply.
- Don’t use under clothing, on open cuts, irritated, or sunburned skin.
- Never spray repellents directly on the face, in the ears, or near the eyes or mouth. First, apply it to your hands and then rub it onto your face.
Natural Patch: Your Shield Against Ankle Biters
Aedes mosquitoes carry dangerous diseases. While many experts suggest preventative measures such as covering up with clothes, staying indoors in low temperatures, and joining community initiatives, this isn’t always practical. Using personal mosquito repellents, especially bug bite patches for natural outdoor protection, is the most effective preventative measure.
How do I keep ankle biter mosquitoes off my ankles?
Wearing long pants tucked into socks helps, but that's not always practical. Staying indoors, especially in a screened, air-conditioned room will also help. However, the best method is using an effective ankle biter repellent. Buzz bug bite patches are perfect for keeping ankle biters at bay and are the best ankle biter mosquito repellent.
What deters ankle biters?
Keeping areas clean around bird baths, ponds, and even tires, will prevent ankle biters from laying eggs that eventually hatch into adult Aedes.
What can I put on my legs so mosquitoes don't bite me?
What is the best thing to stop mosquitoes biting you?
When dealing with these pesky intruders, a comprehensive approach is needed. Control measures such as keeping still water vessels empty or protected, combined with the use of insect repellents such as mosquito stickers are essential.
What is the best advice on how to get rid of ankle biters?
Natural Outdoor Protection has a range of products to get rid of ankle biters.