What with all the rain this summer, you can bet it's been a bonanza for mosquitoes. And for those of us who have even the tiniest patio outside on which to gather for eating, drinking and relaxing, keeping the bugs off of us is always a plus. But how?
The bug zappers from days of yore are energy hogs as well as death-dealing distractions. The coils that you light on fire produce a plume of smoke that works as long as you're enveloped in it. Growing gigantic citronella plants to create an organic fortress is probably the all-around greenest solution, but it takes a lot of forethought and waiting time (not to mention enough fertile ground) to make it work.
The ThermaCELL Mosquito Repelling Lantern ($25 at hardware / home & garden stores) is trying to bridge that gap, keeping the bugs at bay without completely altering the environment, and even providing low-key lighting functionality.
I tried a Patio model on an outdoor dinner - once we could have one what with all the rain this summer - on our own patio. The system is a butane cartridge that heats a mat that releases allethrin, which ThermaCELL explains is "a sythetic copy of a natural insecticide found in chrysantheum flowers." All right then. But isn't a synthetic copy of something natural, you know, synthetic?
Either way, the device produced a only very subtle smell from up close and didn't alter the general atmosphere or distract us from our meal. It was a lovely evening, except for one thing. The mosquitoes.
Hang on though, this was only at first, and I realized it was likely because I didn't get the thing up and running a half-hour before we sat down (so see, this method also requires a little bit of planning ahead) but only allowed a ten-to-fifteen minute ramp-up period - because we were hungry! So during the first few minutes we each found a mosquito still venturing into the 15x15' "comfort zone" and onto our bare legs (hey, science, right?). But then after that initial period, when the comfort zone started kicking in as per - ahem - the instructions, everything was nice and bug-free.
All in all the lantern seemed a good value, and performed as its literature said it would. It seems like it would appeal to those who aren't fundamentally anti-bug, but who just don't want them on us.
We left it going for the next phase of the evening, which involved moving a decrepit oversized couch out the back door, which was just on the edge of the ThermaCELL "zone." Although the task took a while we didn't get bit during that whole period either. We did, though, manage to knock the unit to the ground while moving the couch around a corner.
So, having damaged the lantern I couldn't keep testing on another outdoor meal the next weekend day I had free.
Besides, that day, it rained.