As outdoor enthusiasts search for ways to enjoy cookouts and gatherings without being interrupted by these unwelcome guests, one popular solution comes to mind: citronella candles.
But do these fragrant candles genuinely work to repel flies, or are they just a pleasant addition to your outdoor decor?
Yes, citronella candles can repel flies. The scent of citronella oil, released when the candles are burned, is known for its insect-repellent properties. However, effectiveness can vary based on factors like wind and fly species. Strategic placement and combining it with other fly control methods may enhance repellent effects.
The strong, lemony scent is said to mask the odors that attract insects, in turn keeping them away from you and your space. Citronella candles, in particular, are a popular choice as they are easy to use and create a relaxing ambiance.
How Citronella Candles Work
Citronella candles are a popular natural method for repelling flies and mosquitoes. These candles are infused with essential oils derived from two specific plants: Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus.
The extracted oil, known as citronella, has a distinct scent that is quite effective in keeping insects at bay.
The key component in citronella oil is citronellal, which is responsible for the unique fragrance. When a citronella candle is lit, the heat disperses this scent into the surrounding area.
The aroma interferes with the insects’ ability to sense and locate humans and animals by confusing their olfactory receptors, thus making it harder for them to find their targets.
While citronella candles may not completely eliminate the presence of flies and mosquitoes, they can significantly reduce the number of these pests in your vicinity.
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of citronella candles can be influenced by factors such as wind, the size of the area, and the concentration of citronella oil in the candles.
In the United States, citronella candles are widely available for purchase and are often considered an eco-friendly and natural alternative to chemical bug repellents. Moreover, the citronella plants used for essential oil extraction can also be grown in your home garden, offering an additional, aesthetically pleasing option for insect control.
Citronella’s Efficacy Against Flies
Citronella candles are a popular natural method to repel various types of flies and insects. Citronella oil, which is extracted from the stems and leaves of the Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus plants, has a strong, distinctive scent that is known to be unappealing to insects, including flies.
The effectiveness of citronella candles in repelling house flies and fruit flies has been documented in various studies. The oil’s scent masks the odors that attract these types of flies, making it difficult for them to locate their preferred food sources. As a result, flies are less likely to linger, decreasing their populations in the area.
Biting flies, such as horse flies and black flies, can be more challenging to repel. These flies rely primarily on heat and carbon dioxide to locate their prey. Citronella candles may have some efficacy in repelling them.
However, their impact is likely to be less pronounced as the candles primarily target the scent attraction rather than the heat and carbon dioxide emitted by potential hosts.
When used outdoors, citronella candles can also help in warding off gnats. These tiny insects are attracted to moisture, and the citronella scent can disrupt their ability to locate breeding sites. However, it is essential to note that citronella candles may have reduced efficacy in windy or open spaces, as the scent disperses more quickly in these environments.
While citronella candles have shown some success in repelling flies, their efficacy can vary depending on factors such as the concentration of citronella oil and the specific types of flies being targeted.
Additionally, it’s important to consider that the candles are most effective when used in combination with other preventative measures, such as removing standing water and maintaining a clean environment to reduce the appeal of the area to flies.
Other Natural Repellents for Flies
In addition to citronella candles, there are several other natural repellents that can help keep flies at bay. One popular method involves using essential oils. These aromatic compounds, extracted from plants, are known to have insect-repellent properties.
Some commonly used essential oils for repelling flies include:
- Eucalyptus: This essential oil contains compounds that irritate and repel flies. Eucalyptus oil can be applied directly to your skin or used in a diffuser to keep flies away from indoor spaces.
- Mint: Mint and its various forms, such as peppermint and spearmint, produce a strong aroma that is unappealing to flies. Planting mint around your outdoor areas or using a mint-based essential oil in a diffuser can be effective in repelling flies.
- Lavender: Known for its calming scent, lavender oil can also deter flies. Hang dried lavender in your home, or use lavender essential oil in a diffuser to keep flies at bay.
- Lemongrass: This essential oil, which is closely related to citronella oil, helps repel flies. Use lemongrass essential oil in combination with citronella oil for a more potent repellent.
- Rosemary: Rosemary plants can be grown in your garden to repel flies, or you can use rosemary essential oil in a diffuser for indoor protection.
- Basil: This herb is not only useful for cooking but also has fly-repellent properties. Plant basil in containers near your doors and windows or apply basil essential oil to your skin for added protection.
- Pine: Pine essential oil has a strong scent that can ward off flies. It can be used in a diffuser or added to DIY natural fly repellents.
- Lemon Eucalyptus Oil: This essential oil is known for its effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes, but it can also help keep flies away. Apply lemon eucalyptus oil to your skin or use it in a diffuser for added protection.
Citronella Vs. Alternative Repellents
Citronella oil is a popular natural ingredient found in many insect-repellent products, including candles. Derived from the leaves and stems of the lemongrass plant, it emits a pleasant citrus aroma.
While citronella is known for repelling mosquitoes, its effectiveness in repelling flies is less well-known.
In comparison to chemical-based insect repellents, citronella is a more eco-friendly and safer option. Products with DEET, picaridin, or permethrin are examples of synthetic chemicals found in many insect repellents.
- One 4 oz can of Coleman 100 Max DEET Insect Repellent Spray
- Bug repellent spray contains 100% DEET for strong protection against ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers, biting flies, gnats, fleas and flies
- Bug spray with DEET protects against mosquitoes that may carry Zika, Chikungunya or West Nile Virus for an ideal addition to your camping gear
While these chemicals are generally more effective than citronella, they may harm sensitive skin or the environment.
Natural alternatives to citronella exist in the form of essential oils like lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, or lavender.
Specifically, lemon eucalyptus oil contains PMD (paramenthane-3,8-diol), a powerful insect repellent with comparable effectiveness to DEET. These essential oils can be used in different forms, from candles to sprays, as a means to keep insects at bay.
Insect-repellent sprays with a combination of essential oils offer a more versatile way of repelling various insects, including flies. Sprays can be applied on exposed skin or outdoor gear to create a protective barrier against pests.
For instance, some sprays on the market combine citronella with other essential oils to increase their effectiveness in repelling a wider range of insects.
Safety and Precautions
Citronella candles are often recommended as natural fly repellents, but it’s essential to prioritize safety during their use. While citronella is considered a non-toxic alternative to traditional chemical-based repellents, it is still crucial to exercise caution.
First and foremost, consider the potential for skin irritation. Some individuals may experience mild skin rashes or irritation when in direct contact with citronella oil. It is advisable to avoid direct skin contact with the candle or the oil itself. To further minimize the risk, make sure your hands are clean after handling the candle.
As for pets, take extra care with citronella candles. The key ingredient, citronella oil, is derived from plants like citronella geranium and has a strong fragrance. This oil may be harmful to your pets if ingested, causing gastrointestinal issues.
To avoid this, ensure that the candles are out of your pets’ reach and never leave them unattended while burning.
Citronella candles also emit VOCs (volatile organic compounds), especially when the candles burn. Although the risk of inhaling these compounds is low, it’s crucial to maintain proper ventilation in the area where the candles are in use. This can help prevent any health issues related to inhaling the compounds.
When it comes to extinguishing the candle, be extra cautious. Extinguish it properly and allow the candle to cool down completely before touching it. The molten wax may cause burns if mishandled.
Another potential concern regarding citronella candles as fly repellents is the use of cinnamon in the formula.
Although rare, some people might have allergies or sensitivities to cinnamon. If you have any known allergies to ingredients in a citronella candle, opt for alternatives such as fans or fly traps to avoid any complications.
Additional Fly Prevention Tips
Citronella candles have been known for their ability to repel mosquitoes, but they can also be effective against flies due to their strong fragrance. The citrus scent emitted by citronella grass confuses the fly’s sense of smell, making it difficult for them to locate food sources.
However, effective fly control involves more than just relying on citronella candles.
Here are some additional tips to keep flies at bay outside and inside your home:
- Smoke: Both flies and mosquitoes tend to avoid areas with smoke. Lighting a small, controlled fire pit or a few smoking incense sticks can help keep these pests away from outdoor gatherings.
- Vinegar traps: Apple cider vinegar is an effective natural repellent for flies. Pour a small amount of apple cider vinegar into a container, cover it with plastic wrap, and poke small holes in the wrap. The scent will attract the flies, but they will become trapped in the container.
- Insect screens: Installing screens on doors and windows prevents not only flies but also other insects from entering your home. Ensure that the screens are tightly sealed around the edges and are free of holes or tears.
- Fans: Flies have difficulty flying in strong air currents, so using fans in outdoor and indoor spaces can help deter them. Position the fans so that the air blows across the areas where flies are likely to gather.
- Mosquito repellent: Many mosquito repellents also work well as fly deterrents. Consider applying an insect repellant spray, or using insecticide-treated mosquito nets, especially in areas where the presence of flies is particularly bothersome.
- Citronella grass: Planting citronella grass around your outdoor living spaces can double the benefits of citronella candles. The natural fragrance of the plant helps to mask the presence of humans and food, keeping flies at bay.
Effectively Using Citronella Candles
Citronella candles can be an effective addition to your fly-repelling strategy, especially when used outdoors.
Made from the essential oil of the citronella plant, these candles emit a lemony scent that is pleasant to humans but repels flies and other insects like ticks.
To maximize the effectiveness of citronella candles, it’s important to eliminate other attractive factors for flies. Ensure that trash is securely sealed and stored away from your outdoor living space to remove any potential food sources.
Additionally, empty standing water from containers or puddles as it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and attract flies.
When choosing your citronella candle, consider a deet-free option for a safer and more eco-friendly alternative. Another natural repellent you can incorporate with citronella candles is lemon eucalyptus oil.
Just like citronella oil, lemon eucalyptus oil can deter flies effectively without any harmful chemicals.
For an evergreen solution, consider planting the citronella plant in your garden or outdoor space. This plant, when grown nearby, can help further repel flies. As a bonus, it also acts as a natural ornament, enhancing the ambiance of your area.
If you don’t have the space to grow a citronella plant or prefer something portable, citronella bracelets are available. Wear these bracelets while outdoors to keep flies away in a stylish and fuss-free manner.
Lastly, using an aromatherapy diffuser with citronella oil is an excellent option, especially when entertaining guests. This ensures that your outdoor space is not only free of flies but it also provides a pleasant and refreshing aroma for everyone to enjoy.