Q. I was too lazy to put on jeans yesterday afternoon and went out to weed the garden in shorts. I had no insect repellent, so of course the mosquitoes ate me alive.
I was in a hurry to finish the job, but the bites itched. I got some witch hazel for the itching and poured it all over my legs, then returned to the garden for half an hour. I was amazed: I could see the critters flitting around my legs, but not one lit and took a bite.
I surely learned my lesson about preparation being worth the time. But I was also fascinated that witch hazel served as an emergency repellent. It also minimized the itching from the earlier bites.
A. Witch hazel is an alcohol extract of the shrub Hamamelis. This astringent has been used on the skin for centuries to relieve bruises, sprains, minor injuries and irritations, including insect bites.
This is the first we’ve heard that witch hazel might discourage mosquitoes. The effect is probably short-lived and we wouldn’t suggest relying on it where serious mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus are a threat.