Does a Campfire Keep Mosquitoes Away? If So, Why?

Camping is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors and unwind, but unwanted mosquitoes can make your trip less than enjoyable.

Many people say that mosquitoes don’t like smoke, but does a campfire really keep mosquitoes away?

In this article, I’m going to talk a bit more about how, and why a campfire can be an excellent natural bug repellent.

Does a Campfire Keep Mosquitoes Away?

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Does a Campfire Repel Mosquitoes?

A campfire keeps mosquitoes away because smoke is a natural repellant for most bugs. Numerous studies have found that smoldering or a smoking fire repels mosquitoes. However, scientists are still debating on why bugs avoid smoke.

Insects don’t have lungs, so it isn’t factual that mosquitoes avoid the smoke for fear of filling their lungs with carbon dioxide. 

However, experts over at Clegg’s Pest Control note that most insects avoid the “smokescreen” because it inhibits their ability to take in oxygen, making their respiration process difficult. Mosquitoes will avoid smoke and fire whenever they can. 

When camping, it can be hard to relax when you’re busy swatting away bugs. Fire is an easy deterrent for bugs.

Why Do Mosquitoes Avoid Fire?

Most pest control experts agree that it is the direct fire or flame that mosquitoes avoid, but instead, the smoke and odors put off by the burning of wood and other natural materials. This may inhibit their ability to absorb oxygen or disorient them.

In the same way, humans have to pay extra attention when walking through smoke, or airplanes have to navigate through clouds a little differently. Insects may need to adapt to going through the smoke coming off a campfire. For bugs, it might just be easier to avoid altogether. 

While you may need to refer to a qualified entomologist to find the true answer, the proof is in the pudding: Mosquitoes and many other insects avoid fire.

That is why a campfire, bonfire, fire pit, or any controlled flame is a great way to provide pest control in a small area.

What Do You Add To A Campfire To Keep Mosquitoes Away?

The smoke created from burning regular firewood (oak, alder, poplar, etc) is often enough to repel mosquitos, but there are other natural ingredients you can add to assist even further.

You can put aromatic scents in a fire to keep mosquitoes away. Ingredients like, lavender, mint, citronella, and eucalyptus are some great examples of aromatic natural herbs you can throw directly into the fire to ward off mosquitoes.

You can also use other strongly scented herbs such as cinnamon or thyme oil to keep mosquitoes away. In the United States, one of the most popular forms of mosquito repellant is citronella

Citronella is made of the oil of lemon-scented geraniums or a citronella plant. These plants alone aren’t effective in repelling mosquitoes. Instead, extracting the oil and applying it topically or burning it is what repels mosquitoes. 

You can find citronella in candle form in most outdoor stores, grocery stores, or online. Optionally, you can buy citronella herbs and throw them directly into the fire.

Don’t just throw anything into the fire, though. Always be sure to look up the properties of a herb before burning it, as some may be harmful to inhale. Eucalyptus, for example, is dangerous for dogs and can lead to liver failure.

Being conscious of others’ allergies is always a good rule of thumb, too, as throwing an allergen into the fire may be worse than getting bites from mosquitoes.

And when lighting up your campfire, avoid making a big fire, as this can potentially be dangerous to you and your surroundings. You don’t want your campfire to produce too much smoke that your unable to enjoy it.

To reduce the amount of smoke your campfire creates, avoid green wood and use dry or ‘seasoned‘ firewood instead.

Does Burning Sage Keep Mosquitoes Away?

Burning sage itself doesn’t keep mosquitoes away. No heavy body of research has confirmed that sage repels mosquitoes. However, one study found that sage can help ward off some other insects.

Considering that bugs are known to avoid smoke, the smoke from your campfire may be enough to keep your camping zone bug-free on its own. However, if there are swarms of mosquitoes at your campsite due to damp conditions, natural smoke remedies have been found popular. 

Sage is a pretty popular recommendation when it comes to mosquito repellants, and there are two likely reasons for that. 

The aromatic properties of sage are pleasant to smell. Its an abundant plant both found in the wild or at your local home and grocery store.

When using dried sage for its smoke, a stick lasts a relatively longer time than a dry twig you found on the ground. It has a great ability to ‘smolder’.

The sage satchels also burn more effectively, without having to relight constantly. The reason sage seems to be a preferred go-to solution is perhaps due to its ease of use and popularity in and around the home or during spiritual retreats.

What Other Things Can You Burn in a Campfire for Mosquitoes?

Though there are many other remedies for repelling mosquitoes, smoke is an effective and easy method of deterring mosquitoes and other bugs.

But if you don’t want to keep mosquitoes away using a campfire, consider burning other things for the job.

Other things you can burn in a campfire for mosquitoes are fragrant herbs like mint, lavender, or eucalyptus. Additionally, materials like sandalwood or citronella are great for keeping mosquitoes away. Or, consider burning camping paper plates or towels that you don’t need to shoo the bugs away.

Dry satchels of these herbs can be purchased on or at your local grocery store. There are also products made with mosquito-repelling specifically in mind that you can toss directly in your fire. You can also find incense and logs with the oils of these herbs crafted into them. 

As discussed earlier, you can also burn paper plates or towels to keep mosquitoes away. This is especially great if you’re sensitive to scents or just don’t want a campfire that smells too strong.

You can also use paper egg cartons, old laundry lint, or old newspaper (non-colored and non-glossy) to help a fire become more smokey. 

Be careful always to ensure the materials you’re burning are not toxic and always be sure your campsite allows fires before starting one. 

Other Effective Ways To Repel Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are annoying guests when camping and can make relaxing difficult, not to mention how hard it is to deal with itchy mosquito bites long after you pack up. Mosquitoes pose an even bigger problem than itchy bites, though.

They can carry deadly diseases, such as: 

  • Zika 
  • West Nile Virus 
  • Malaria 

For this reason, much research has gone into figuring out how to repel mosquitoes.

Understandably, there are times when a campfire may not be ideal.

Some camp spots experience dry seasons and can be on high alert for wildfires. Other times, you may not have camp wood. Rain could also make it impossible to light a campfire.

Luckily, thanks to all the research done by scientists, there are a few other ways you can repel mosquitoes without relying on fire or gross over-the-counter chemicals and ointments.

Light Up Incense and Candles

A good amount of the research points to using fires, smoke, and herbs to ward off mosquitoes. However, many companies make specific products that you can use if your campsite doesn’t allow fires or your county is in a dry season.

For example, you can buy a citronella candle or mosquito repellent incense for your campsite, which requires just a lighter. Oftentimes, campsite hosts will have a stash of incense specific for bugs. 

Use A Thermacall

I still remember when the Thermacell units hit the consumer market in the late 1990s. It was taking the outdoor industry by storm and was especially popular with hunters.

Thermacell Unit to Repel Mosquitoes

These portable units operate off a butane gas and heat up a repellent pad soaked with a chemical to repel mosquitoes.

The result is a fume or scent, that radiates around you and the unit and keeps away biting bugs. I find these units to work really well, especially when I’m hunting out of a ground blind or semi-enclosed area.

However, if you are just camping, hiking, or even on your outdoor patio these units are a great alternative to a campfire or other mosquito control devices.

Thanks for reading!