STAY AWAY FROM DEET: While the core ingredient in most bug sprays is effective, Deet is not your friend, McGrath warned. "Deet is a nerve toxin that you have to metabolize to get through your system. It leaves your body via the kidney and liver. Mine are getting enough of a workout as it is."
At the other extreme are nontoxic, citronella-infused wrist bands and stickers, like those that Mosquitno sells ($3.99 a package). Gizmo Guy tested their effectiveness one recent summer evening.
Comfortable to apply, served up in cute colors and patterns, Mosquitno Bandz and Spotz retain their lemony odor for up to six days, if you store them in the original, resealable package.
It's easy to convince kids to put them on. But best to use several. Wearing just a couple on my wrist and shirt, I still got bitten on my legs, ankles and earlobes.
"The secret to any mosquito repellent is to cover every exposed area," explained McGrath. "If you leave one area uncovered, they'll be sure to bite you there."
MORE NON-CHEMICAL ALTERNATIVES: Researchers recommend Bite Blocker ($5-$10), made from geraniums and coconut, and Repel Lemon Eucalyptus ($5 and up). Safely smear both liquids all over your body and they'll do the job.
However, some other lotions made from rosemary, clove and cinnamon - sold as healthy, natural insect repellents - "won't do you any harm, but maybe not much good," testified McGrath. "And the way the laws are written, the producers don't have to actually prove they work."
INSECT-SHIELD CLOTHING: While an investment of $100 or more is required for head-to-toe, hat-to-socks outfitting, Insect Shield clothing wards off mosquitoes and ticks, McGrath said. The secret is fabric saturated with Permethrin, a synthetic version of a botanical insecticide made of chrysanthemums. Lasts through dozens of washings.
You can buy a Permethrin spray ($5 and up) to squirt on your own clothing, but it's tough to apply evenly and wears off after a few washes. And it doesn't work on your skin; body heat evaporates it.
THINGS THAT GO ZAP IN THE NIGHT: The sound of frying bugs is satisfying to some, distasteful to others. But its most likely nonharmful, even helpful critters being lured to the deadly light of an electric bug zapper ($20 and up), while those wiley female mosquitoes - they're the biters - go toward human smells.
Better to use exotic gizmos like the Mosquito Magnet ($400 and up) that burn propane to make skeeter-luring carbon-dioxide, then suck 'em into a holding bag.
NO-KILL ALTERNATIVES: Point a fan at yourself. Those weak skeets and gnats can't fight the breeze to land on you now.
Another ecological solution? Run away to Negril, the most bug-free beach zone of Jamaica, where sea breezes work a similar charm. Cost of that summer-extending, itch-free getaway? Priceless.