Q: I recently got an e-mail about using dish detergent in a shallow plate to attract and drown mosquitoes. Is it horticultural pseudo-science or does it work?
A: I would not use the word science anywhere near this recommendation. It is pseudo through and through. Some other false tips making the rounds include: eating garlic, taking extra vitamin B-1, consuming bananas and wiping your skin with either fabric softener sheets, Vicks VapoRub(tm) or vanilla extract. None of these is supported by research. Mosquito experts, who spend lifetimes researching how to prevent themselves from being mosquito food, regard the folk remedies I’ve listed as charming but useless drivel.
University of Georgia entomologist Paul Guillebeau, though, has helpfully synthesized the research on what attracts mosquitoes. He says, “Mosquitoes are less attracted to light clothing than dark. Certain types of mosquitoes prefer pregnant women. Some types of mosquitoes prefer human skin temperatures over 90 degrees F.”
“Therefore, if you are attending an outdoor summer party, be cool, wear light clothes and chat with pregnant women who prefer Gothic styles. Be aware, though, that mosquitoes can bite through T-shirts and other lightweight, tight-fitting clothing. One option would be to attend the outdoor gatherings wearing a heavy, loose coat. You won’t be invited to many parties but maybe you and the pregnant Gothic woman will hit it off.”