I’d just arrived on the island of Mustique, and after a medicinal rum punch, I slipped off to bed early. Lights off, an electric bug-repelling diffuser by the bedside table, a romantic mosquito net positioned over the bed — I thought I was safe. But then I heard it, like a World War II fighter plane on helium: A mosquito had broached my gauzy defense. It circled, hovered, and dive-bombed. Then, silence (the worst bit is the silence). I knew the little bastard had landed somewhere about my person, inserted its proboscis, and was taking a long old drink of its favored tipple: my very own blood.
A globe-trotter by passion and profession, I’ve pretty much tried all options to avoid the hideous, itchy bites and — more worryingly — the potential, in certain countries, of malaria or zika. I’ve sprayed on natural repellents, lit citronella candles, smothered myself in chemical-heavy lotions, and even tried Avon’s Skin So Soft — which apparently the British Army swears by. But to no avail. Then one day, while preparing for a diving expedition with manta rays in the Maldives, I took to Amazon and searched for something akin to “I wish mosquitoes would leave me the f*** alone.” A product called Don’t Bite Me patches popped up. I mean … my dream! I obviously clicked “Buy.”
When applied to the skin, the transparent, waterproof, two-inch adhesive squares infuse the body with vitamin B1, which mysteriously reduces our natural odors that mosquitoes and other critters find so darn tantalizing. To hungry mosquitoes, I imagine the patches are the equivalent of me having BO, garlic breath, and stinky feet all at once. From balmy nights in St. Tropez to surfing holidays in Indonesia to the toughest test of all — hacking my way through the Amazon jungle — I’ve survived all with nary a nibble thanks to Don’t Bite Me. And even more satisfying, I’ve actually watched a mosquito approach me, linger a while, and then buzz off. The patches can be applied anywhere about the body, but my flesh of choice is a buttock, so that it’s neatly out of sight when I slip into a bikini. While they’re both sticky and waterproof, they probably wouldn’t stay stuck if you were to spend hours in a jacuzzi or swim an Iron Man. Still, I generally find the patches stick to my posterior for their full 36 hours. And when it’s time to reapply, I just slap a fresh patch on the other cheek, and wait for the first to fall away naturally. The more the merrier, right?
The patches are also devoid of the oft-dreaded DEET, and promise to be as effective and safe for kids as they are for adults. The only unexpected side effect is that you smell a bit like Marmite (but those, like me, who grew up eating the B-vitamin-fortified, yeast-extract spread will likely find the smell ambrosial). But be warned: If you’re traveling in a group, make sure you take extra patches. When word gets round you’re holding a miracle mozzie buffer, you’ll be swarmed.
Don’t Bite Me Patch (20/box)
Sawyer Products Premium Insect Repellent with 20 Percent Picaridin
If you’re looking for a DEET-free repellent that doesn’t smell like Marmite, writer Maureen O’Connor likes this lotion formulated with Picaridin (another proven mosquito-repelling chemical), which she says is “more consistently odor-free.”
Repel Sportsmen Mosquito Repellent Wipes, 15 Count, 6-pack
If you’re looking for a powerful on-the-go repellent, but don’t love the idea of a patch stuck to your body for a day and a half, O’Connor also swears by these wipes (which contain 30-percent DEET).
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