The City of Ottawa hasn’t started counting its traps yet, but for many this is already the worst spring ever for mosquitos.

“It’s been horrible,” says self-professed mosquito magnet Jennifer McGahan. “This year they are a lot worse than they ever have been before.”

She, like many people, uses bug spray containing DEET. Most experts agree that sprays or lotions containing DEET in a concentration up to 30% is still the most effective way to repel mosquitos and ticks.

Some mosquitos can carry West Nile Virus and some ticks can carry Lyme Disease.

But not everyone likes the idea of using DEET. It is a solvent that can damage some synthetic fabrics. And there can be side-effects.

There are plant-based alternatives that, while not as effective as DEET, do work. Health Canada includes soybean oil and citronella oil among its list of repellent ingredients.

Stephanie Spiess is using other ways to protect her young family. She uses the popular mosquito coils. She has a hand-held electric bug zapper. And this year she’s trying something new – a plant.

“My mother gave it to me last year,” says Spiess. “It’s some kind of citronella plant. I’m not sure exactly what kind, but it’s supposed to keep the mosquitoes away.”

She even has an alternative for her dog – feeding it garlic.

A quick internet search reveals there are dozens of creative ideas for keeping mosquitoes at bay, from bay leaves to vitamin B1. They might not have a lot of scientific veracity, but some people swear by them.

Steve Dowser used DEET for years as a land surveyor. Now he’s trying to get by with mosquito coils. And he’s planning to try a repellent he found on line. “A half litre of rubbing alcohol, a hundred grams of cloves, and a hundred millilitres of baby oil,” he explains. Apparently, you have to marinade the cloves in the alcohol for several days, stirring regularly, and then add the baby oil. Rubbing a few drops on your skin is supposed to repel mosquitoes.

His wife, Lori, has an even more interesting idea – one she heard from her mother. Instead of mosquito coils, you can burn a Tim Hortons drink tray. “You cut them in four. You burn a piece in each corner of your patio and they repel the mosquitos as well,” she says.

It might work. After all, a lot of people use the smoke of a bonfire to drive mosquitos away.

If it doesn’t, you still get the coffee it came with. A lot of people would no doubt prefer a caffeine buzz over a buzzing mosquito any day.