My family has a fire pit at their cabin and they were wondering if the smoke did anything to repel bugs and mosquitos. They heard from others that it helped, but they were skeptical and were looking at other solutions. So, are fire pits effective at repelling bugs and mosquitos? I did some research to find out.
Up to 84% of mosquitos and bugs are repelled by wood fire pits. This is largely from the smoke, which acts as an irritant or insecticide and may mask how mosquitos locate their hosts. For best results, burn basil or eucalyptus in your wood fire pits. Gas fire pits are not effective at repelling bugs.
While wood fire pits are effective at deterring bugs, what exactly does it do to the bugs, and what can we do to boost these effects? Let’s take a closer look.
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How Fire Pits Repel Bugs and Mosquitos
There are three primary ways smoke from wood fires repel bugs and mosquitos:
- Acts as a repellent or insecticide
- Masks the carbon dioxide from the hosts
- Reduces humidity in the air, interfering with the bugs’ senses
The first thought that most people have when it comes to smoke and bugs is that of an insecticide. Simply, the bugs die from the smoke particles in the air and the lack of oxygen.
Certain plant smokes contain a number of organic compounds that act as irritants, repellents or insecticides.World Health Organization (WHO)
But what’s not as obvious is that the carbon dioxide from the fire, along with the fine ash particles in the air, masks the carbon dioxide that humans exhale. This is one of the ways bugs such as mosquitos, ticks, and fleas find their hosts (along with sensing body heat).
The final part is the drying effect of smoke and fire, which reduces moisture in the air, further confusing the bugs’ senses.
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Do Gas Fire Pits Keep Bugs Away?
Since natural gas and propane fire pits don’t produce smoke, they don’t repel bugs or mosquitos. The heat and carbon dioxide from gas fire pits might actually attract some bugs seeking shelter or a host. If you have a gas fire pit, it’s best to use other deterrents (more on this later).
What Can You Burn in a Fire Pit to Keep Bugs Away?
|Hyptis suaveolens (Basil-Like Plant)||84%|
While smoke does a great job at keeping mosquitos and bugs away, certain plants work better than others. I put together the above table from various studies to show the best plants to burn to repel bugs.
For example, a study in Siberia in 1939 reported an 85-90% reduction in black flies and mosquitos landing on humans when they carried smoldering thyme sticks.
Another study on PubMed tested the smoke from several plants and found that eucalyptus and wild basil were the most effective.
“Those from Co. citriodora [Eucalyptus] (52-76%) and Oc. suave [Wild Basil] (58-68%) were found to be the most repellent.”Dube FF, Tadesse K, Birgersson G, Seyoum E, Tekie H, Ignell R, Hill SR.
This study also found that burning fresh leaves are more effective at repelling mosquitos and other bugs than dried leaves. This is likely due to the water content in fresh leaves providing more smoke.
So, if you find that smoke from your fire pit isn’t enough to keep bugs at bay, burn some of the wood and fresh herbs mentioned above.
Recommended: 7 Tips to Keep a Fire Going in a Fire Pit
7 More Ways to Repel Bugs and Mosquitos
1. Bug Spray
As expected, bug sprays are one of the most effective methods to deter mosquitos and other bugs. Just about any option found at stores will work.
However, there are some more natural solutions if you’d like.
2. Natural Sprays
More people are finding that natural sprays, especially those made from plant oils are effective at repelling bugs. They can be applied similarly to regular bug sprays.
Here are some of the most successful natural bug repellents:
- Thyme oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Citronella oil
- Tea Tree oil
- Cinnamon oil
3. Bug Zappers
Bug zappers are placed strategically to reduce bug populations in your backyard. They work by emitting a UV light that attracts the bugs, while the center of the zapper is an electronic grid that kills the bugs.
The best placement for bug zappers is about 20-40 feet away from the place of gathering. This helps draws the bugs away from you instead of toward you.
For best results, combine bug zappers with other options on this list.
Clothing blocks bugs from reaching your skin, so wearing pants and jackets help limit them. For example, my girlfriend wears leggings whenever we go hiking and it seems to prevent most bug bites.
I suggest not wearing wool as I’ve had mosquitos flock to me while camping. Maybe it’s because the wool is made from sheep, which attracts the bugs even more. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend wool if you’re trying to avoid bugs.
Certain plants have compounds that naturally repel bugs and mosquitos in the garden. Usually, these are plants with strong or pungent scents. Here’s a quick list:
- Mosquito fern
- Lemon Balm
Mosquito fern is one of the most interesting plants to grow as you can grow it on the surface of any still water. This takes over the surface of the water and dramatically limits the reproduction of mosquitos. It also cleans the water and reduces algae.
6. Flowing Water
If you have a pond or similar body of water, and you’re able to have flowing water, it’s worth it. Installing a pump, diverting a creek, or another similar option is a great way to keep the water moving and prevents most of the mosquitos from spawning.
7. Keep Areas Clean of Debris
Leftover food, wet firewood, soggy ground, and piles of debris such as leaves attract bugs and other critters. Keeping your fire pit area clean prevents many pests from hanging around. Remember, spiders, snakes, birds, lizards, and other predators help to keep bug and rodent populations down.
Instead of exterminating, keeping your fire pit area tidy and relocating wildlife ensures minimal bug populations.
Recommended: Can Fire Pits Get Wet (Do They Need a Cover)?
If you have a wood fire pit, and you’re still getting loads of bugs around you, I suggest burning thyme and eucalyptus. If you have a gas fireplace, try using natural bug sprays or zappers.
While some advocate for burning smokier logs, it often creates too much smoke and prevents you from enjoying your fire pit.
Also, check your property for any standing bodies of water (even small puddles). If an area of your property gets soggy often, consider elevating the soil or plant wet-tolerant plants. Often, tropical plants have natural pest-repelling effects, such as ginger, turmeric, and coconut.
While hiring an exterminator is one option, the bugs will likely come back, and in larger numbers. Encourage frogs, lizards, and other predators to keep bug populations minimal with little to no work on your part.
To see more natural ways to repel bugs and mosquitos, check out this video by Daisy Creek Farms.