Fire pits do a great job of providing a gathering space to catch up with family and friends and keeping us warm. Unfortunately, some guests show up uninvited and have to be “convinced” to leave. I’m talking to you mosquitoes!
Nothing can ruin a get together faster than your guests getting bit-up by mosquitoes at every turn and the few options you have rarely get the job done.
So the question is, do fire pits keep mosquitoes away, and if so, how can you maximize the effects?
Yes, fire pits can be very effective in keeping mosquitoes away; the mosquito repelling effects of using a backyard fire pit during a gathering can be further enhanced by using certain types of firewood, which are known to keep mosquitoes away; alternatively, certain herbs commonly used in the kitchen can be burned in a fire pit to keep mosquitoes away.
Does Smoke Get Rid of Mosquitoes?
Smoke has long been used as a natural repellent for flying insects and its best way to get rid of mosquitoes in your backyard that I am aware of.
The fine particles in smoke, along with certain chemicals inherent in wood smoke is not an environment mosquitoes want to play in.
I’m talking about smoke from all wood in this case, but some types of wood (and plants) have additional properties that make them extra effective in repelling mosquitoes. We’ll get into those in the next section.
Studies cited by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that significant reductions in bites from mosquitoes occurred during test burns. Compared to other methods such as the application of repellents to the skin, smoke was more effective.
In the end, smoke does not necessarily eliminate the risk of mosquito bites but it is very effective in repelling them from an area, with some types of mosquitos more affected than others.
What to Burn to Keep Mosquitoes Away
As mentioned there are certain types of woods and plants that when burned are very effective in helping you get rid of mosquitoes in your yard naturally. My list below consists of 2 wood options and 2 plant options that can be used in your outdoor fire pit. Check availability near you as the wood options I mention are somewhat localized, at least in the U.S.
Using Pinyon as Firewood to Repel Mosquitoes
Pinyon, or Piñon as it is sometimes referred to, is a popular firewood option, that is commonly available in the U.S. Southwest.
For whatever reason, mosquitoes do not like pinyon. When burned in a fire pit, pinyon is very effective at making mosquitoes keep their distance.
Even though mosquitoes hate it, pinyon smells pretty good and I’ve found that most people agree. It gets mixed reviews as a smoking wood for meat and fish, with some loving it and others not so much.
As with all pines/junipers, Pinyon is a softwood, which is typically inferior to hardwoods (oak, ash, hickory, etc) as the main fire pit (or fireplace) fuel source.
With that said, pinyon shares many of the characteristics of hardwoods when used as firewood as it burns very hot. It’s BTU rating of 27.1 million BTUs/cord is on par with many of the hottest burning hardwoods.
Pinyon is also very clean burning which is a nice feature as pines typically don’t burn very cleanly due to their high pitch content.
Using Eucalyptus as Firewood to Repel Mosquitoes
When burned in your fire pit, eucalyptus can give you an extra edge over most firewood types when doing battle with mosquitoes in your backyard.
The active natural ingredient eucalyptol (or cineole as it is commonly called) found in eucalyptus tree bark is commonly used as an insect repellent.
Eucalyptus (or gum trees in some locales) is not native to the U.S. but has been cultivated throughout the country since the late 19th century after being brought in from Australia. Although less localized than pinyon, it is typically grown in warmer portions of the country.
Like pinyon, eucalyptus smells great and burns very hot, among the highest of all firewood types at 34.5 million BTUs/cord. There are complaints about sparking and recommendations that it not be used indoors (it gums up chimneys) but otherwise, it performs very well as outdoor firewood.
Burning Rosemary or Sage On a Fire Pit to Repel Mosquitoes
Who knew mosquitoes don’t like rosemary…or sage? For this to be the most effective in warding off mosquitoes around the fire pit, I recommend you pick up a couple of bundles of either rosemary or sage from the supermarket.
Use them one at a time as needed on your lit fire pit. The dry kind of either herb in your cupboard is probably not going to cut it.
Fun Facts About Mosquitoes
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, a public health advocacy organization, drinking beer outdoors, wearing perfume and going barefoot, all attract mosquitoes.
I don’t think this will stop anyone from drinking a beer around the fire pit anytime soon, but ditching the perfume and putting some shoes on doesn’t sound like a bad idea. ; )
Conclusion: Do Fire Pits Keep Mosquitoes Away?
The answer is most definitely yes.
A campfire mosquito repellent itself, fire pit smoke is effective in keeping mosquitoes away from your gathering to a significant extent compared to other methods.
Adding either of the two fire pit firewood options I mentioned, pinyon or eucalyptus, or the herbs sage or rosemary, will bring the game up a notch by adding something else to the mix that pests don’t like and will help you get rid of mosquitoes in your yard naturally.
For the mosquitoes that make it through your defense, I recommend trying a few of the more “natural” topical mosquito repellent options on the market to plug the gap.
Sawyer Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin or REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent specifically. Those links will take you to those two options on Amazon.
Both have one of the two CDC recommended natural ingredients, Picaridin or Lemon Eucalyptus, that were approved in the aftermath of the whole Zika/West Nile virus situation a few years ago.
For more on keeping everyone safe and healthy around the fire pit, check out my article Fire Pit Safety 101: A Primer.
Enjoy your time around the fire pit and don’t give mosquitoes the chance to spoil the party.
Take care and thanks for reading! – John
NIH Studies on Effects of Smoke on Mosquitoes: