Bug Off!

Often, when people find out I’m a foreigner, the first thing they ask is « so, do you like Reunion? » My usual response is « I love Reunion! It’s a shameabout the mosquitoes, though ».

I don’t know anyone that loves these tiny insects, but my experience with them has been pretty terrible. When I first arrived on the island, any time I got bitten by a mosquito I’d develop a red lump the size of a marble where the bite was. Multiply this by the dozens of bites I’d receive each day and it wasn’t pretty. This reaction lasted for my entire first year in Reunion.

Today, my body has adapted to mosquito bites but nevertheless I’m always searching for techniques to repel them. Here are the results of a mosquito repellent road-test I did recently just for fun.

First, I borrowed a mosquito net from a friend, thinking I would get a good night’s sleep without being bitten. The next morning, I had several red spots on my legs. It’s surprisingly tricky to keep the net completely closed…especially if you get up during the night and forget to put it back in place.

Plan B was a natural mosquito repellent. I’m very sensitive to chemicals, so using a conventional product wasn’t an option. I chose the best-selling(and most expensive) organic insect repellent I could find at the pharmacy and sprayed it on liberally. That evening, we ate dinner outside and I didn’t notice any mosquitoes on me. But for the price, I’d need to pay the equivalent of a movie ticket each week just to keep myself bite-free. I also tried a homemade version of the spray, using geranium, eucalyptus and lemongrass oils mixed together with alcohol and water. It was just as good as the pharmacy version, and far less expensive.

Method number 3: garlic. An article online advised me that crushing a clove of garlic and rubbing it on my skin would repel mosquitoes effectively. So, for my experiment I did exactly that. I rubbed the clove on my wrists, ankles, neck and behind my knees, all places that mosquitoes generally love. This was by far the most effective method I’d tried so far. But my family and friends weren’t impressed. When leaning in for a kiss, my husband asked me if I’d been making pesto.

Next, I tried citronella candles. As I said, I can’t use conventional products filled with chemicals, so using mosquito spirals wasn’t possible. Instead, I lit a couple of citronella candles in my living room. It smelt great, but in the evening there were still plenty of mosquitoes flying around.

Finally, a mosquito trap. Another idea I found on the internet, the mosquito trap is made out of an old water bottle, inside which you put a mixture of sugar, water and yeast. After making my trap, I left it for two weeks on the balcony. There wasn’t a single mosquito inside.

So, to sum up my experiment, the natural mosquito repellent and garlic method were the most effective. But the garlic is definitely not for anyone with a social life. I guess I’ll be sticking to the repellent spray, either shop-bought or homemade.


A foreigner – un étranger
A shame – dommage
A marble – bille
A road-test – un essai
To borrow – emprunter

A Net – un filet
Tricky – difficile
Lemongrass – citronnelle
A clove of garlic – une gousse d’ail
Yeast – levure

To sum up – pour résumer

Normal Version

Slow Version


Normal Version

Slow Version