Why not beautify your garden with some practical plants and herbs and at the same time keep the mosquitoes away? This learning suggests 6 plants you should grow in your garden in order to keep the mosquitoes away, including mums and basil and other plants you could be happy to enjoy in your garden regardless .
This learning also suggests some all-natural homemade sprays to rub on your skin, some using oils like eucalyptus and tea tree oil, others using ingredients made from those same 6 plants you just added to your garden.
Natural Ways to Repel Mosquitoes
Every summer, mosquitoes drive me inside more than anything else. Even if I’ve been having a great time outside all day long, as soon as the mosquitoes start to bite, I know it’s time to head for home. I could easily spray on a chemical-based repellent, but I can’t stand wearing something so fumey. Besides – I’d rather not expose myself or my loved ones to DEET, especially since it’s toxic and easily absorbed by the skin.
The great news is there are many natural repellents for mosquitoes. Since all of these are natural – and actually pretty healthy remedies – pick one to try before you head outside again:
You might want to consider planting herb gardens by the doors of your house (container gardening would work well) because many herbs ward off mosquitoes. Basil is one of the herbs that acts as a natural mosquito repellent.
Even if you’re not too keen on the idea of bats flying around your yard every night, one bat eats hundreds of mosquitoes each night. Consider investing in a bat house to hang from a tree and see if the small addition makes a dent in your mosquito problem.
Catnip is an especially handy mosquito deterrent – it’s about ten times more effective than DEET. Mosquitoes can’t stand nepetalactone, the essential oil found in catnip. By planting catnip around your patio and yard, you’ll keep mosquitoes away – then dry the catnip and entertain your favorite cat.
There’s a reason citronella candles are popular mosquito repellents – mosquitoes hate citronella. Instead of the candles, though, you can try rubbing citronella oil on exposed area (make sure you’re not allergic to the oil, first) or grow your own citronella plants.
One effective natural repellent that deserves to be tried is garlic. Depending on how much you enjoy garlic, you can take a garlic supplement (no-odor varieties are available), eat lots of foods with garlic (I’m thinking of a big loaf of fresh garlic bread along with a spaghetti dinner – including sauce made with basil and garlic). You can even rub a cut clove of garlic over your exposed skin – you should be able to ward off both mosquitoes and Dracula.
If you’re looking for another anti-mosquito plant to try, you should invest in lemongrass. Simply break off a stalk, peel off the outer leaves and rub the juicy pulp over your exposed skin. (Personally, I think it’s more pleasant smelling than raw garlic.) You’ll also be able to use the lemongrass when you cook.
Marigolds and mums
You don’t have to stick to planting herbs when you’re avoiding mosquitoes. Try planting marigolds. They have a scent that repels most bugs, including pesky skeeters.
While not all insects are repelled by the scent of mums, mosquitoes are. Plant a bunch and reap mosquito-free living.
Grow rosemary in your garden this summer (like all of these plants, it’s another plant perfect for container gardening) to keep the mosquitoes away. You can cook with rosemary, and if you’re looking for a way to repel mosquitoes while you’re grilling, throw a few sprigs on your charcoal. It should do the trick.
Tea tree oil
If you don’t mind the scent, apply tea tree oil to your skin. Mosquitoes will mind the smell and stay away.
Take one vitamin B-1 tablet a day to repel mosquitoes, as well as flies and gnats.
Can Plants Really Repel Mosquitoes?
Yes and no. Many people are filling their patios up with various mosquito-repelling plants, but by themselves, they're more placebic than repelling.
Certain plants contain essential oils that are known to repel mosquitoes and other insects because of their smell, but the plants themselves don't keep bugs away just by being there. They don't naturally release enough oil into the air to actually "repel" bugs, though they can, to a certain degree, mask the smells that mosquitoes are attracted to so they can't find you as easily.
How Plants Can Actually Help You Repel Bugs
In order for the oils to work as an actual repellent, they must be released into the air by crushing or bruising the leaves and stalks of the plants. But the most effective way to use them is to rub the oils on your skin as a wearable repellent. Just make sure to do a patch test on a small area of skin first, in case you have any sensitivity or allergic reaction to the oils.
Also keep in mind that these essential oils don't last as long as some store-bought repellents. If they're the only protection you're using, be sure to reapply once every hour or two.
Another way to use these oils as a repellent is to burn them. If you have an outdoor fire pit, throw in a few leaves or stalks, or take some with you to the next time you go camping and burn them in your campfire. You can even drop some in the fire when you're out grilling.
The Essential Oils That Keep the Pests Away
Dozens of plants are claimed to have mosquito-repelling qualities, but some of them work better than others. Citronella oil is one of the best for repelling mosquitoes and has been proven to be effective by several research teams. When combined with vanillin, researchers in Thailand found it to be as effective as standard repellents including DEET.
Lemongrass & Citronella Grass
Citronella oil is found in various species of lemongrass (pictured below) and citronella grass.
Lemon Balm & Lemon Thyme
Lemon balm (pictured below) and lemon thyme are two of the plants with the highest concentration of citronella (38%), so those would make the most effective repellents. Ironically, the so-called "mosquito plant" contains only .09% citronella.
Surprisingly, a study by the American Chemical Society found that nepetalactone, the essential oil found in catnip, is ten times better at repelling mosquitoes than DEET. Other studies have had very mixed results, but overall, catnip oil is considered an effective repellent.
Pro-Tip: Create a Window Planter
If you want to cover all your bases, just grab a bunch of plants with insect-repellent oils and throw them in a pot together.
If you put them in a window planter, you'll be able to keep your windows open during the day (your lights will still attract the bugs at night). It might not keep them all out, as they plants are just masking your scent, not repelling, but it can greatly reduce the amount that make it in.
Either way, it'll spruce up your deck or patio, keep mosquitoes from zeroing in on your scent, and give you a bunch of options for actual pest repellent while you sit outside (although, you may want to explain to your guests before you start rubbing leaves all over yourself).
Going Pro: Extracting the Essential Oils
If you actually want to extract the oils into a liquid solution, the process can get a bit complicated as you'll need to make a still. To give you a little idea of how it works, check out this guide by Andrew Fletcher.
You can find a few more tips on keeping mosquitoes away in Yumi's guide to DIY repellents. If you have a favorite trick we didn't mention, share with us in the comments.
Catnip leaves via Of Feathers and Ink, Lemongrass via Scoro/Flickr, Lemon balm via color line/Flickr, Catnip plant via Bobolink, Mosquito control pot via Salisbury Greenhouse, Mosquito via Shutterstock
Mosquito busters for your backyard
In much of the country, Swat Season is in full swing, and the shelves sag with products that claim to help you survive in comfort. Unfortunately, most of these items are little better than the pests they purport to defeat, homing in on your desperation like a female skeeter chasing carbon dioxide.
We asked some of the nation's foremost mosquito experts to evaluate the claims of popular products now available. You may be surprised at what truly delivers relief.
Give yourself a fighting chance
When it comes to dealing with mosquitoes, the best defense is a good offense, experts say. That means removing mosquito-friendly habitat from your yard. Here's what to do:
Tip and toss. Mosquito larvae need to float atop still water in order to grow and hatch. So don't let water pool in flowerpot saucers or pet dishes for more than two days, advises the American Mosquito Control Association. Toss tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools and other containers that collect and hold water. Clean rain gutters. Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week.
Think like a mosquito. After the obvious spots, look for random places that hold water: plastic or canvas tarps used to cover boats or pools, and even places like broad-leaf plants. Got wet spots in your yard? Plant vegetation that likes "wet feet," advises Marina D'Abreau, horticulture agent for the Hillsborough County (Fla.) Cooperative Extension Service.
Check the deck. The dark area under backyard decks is often moist -- perfect for growing skeeters. Dry it out by putting sand under the deck.
Attack! Finally, take the fight to the little buggers. Stock ornamental pools with small, top-feeding minnows called mosquito fish, advises the AMCA. Another effective and perfectly safe option is to sprinkle BT (bacillus thuringiensus) in standing water, such as swimming pools or fish ponds. "Basically, it's a naturally occurring bacteria that attacks mosquito larvae," says D'Abreau. BT can be bought at home-and-garden stores in granule form or as so-called "dunks," which look like "spoiled little rotten green doughnuts," D'Abreau says. Best of all, she says, it's not toxic to humans or animals.
Or, try a new method of larval control: the LarvaSonic, which transmits sound waves into water at the resonant frequency of the mosquito larvae air bladders, rupturing the internal tissue and causing death, according to the company.
So What Gives You a Mosquito-Attracting Scent?
Why do mosquitoes bite some people and not others?
Some people get ravaged by mosquitoes if they so much as take a walk at dusk. Others can walk through clouds of the insects and not get a single bite. What's the difference? A lot. Scientists have figured out many reasons why mosquitoes can't seem to resist some people, but are repulsed by others.
Mosquitoes are sources of severe infection in many parts of the world, there has been a lot of research done about why some people are mosquitoes' favorite snack.
It starts with the types of people who attract mosquitoes in the first place. Although mosquitoes can smell blood for miles, they mostly locate their prey by tracking the carbon dioxide that animals exhale. People who exhale more carbon dioxide - large people and pregnant women - are more obvious targets. There is also evidence that mosquitoes prefer women because their skin is thinner, allowing for an easier bite.
Mosquitoes also uphold the old joke about vampires looking for people who are their "type." Different blood types either attract or discourage mosquitoes. If you have found yourself the sole person among a camping group bitten up, you're probably an O blood type. A group of scientists in Japan exposed people to groups of mosquitoes which had had their biting and sucking parts removed. The mosquitoes landed again and again on the O blood types, ignoring the A and B blood types.
Mosquitoes also have a sweet proboscis. They prefer people whose body chemistry secretes saccharides, which people who remember saccharin know taste sweet, on their skin. Then again, the saccharides might only be involved because they feed other animals that encourage mosquitoes. Bacteria live on the skin, and help give sweat its disgusting smell. Dutch scientists found that a high abundance of only a few types of bacteria encourage mosquitoes. A large variety of bacteria living on the skin, though, tend to discourage mosquitoes, as does a low overall number of bacteria. Basically, you want your skin to be an island ecosystem. There aren't a lot of overall animals, but there is a diverse range of unique species.
Some scientists and companies are attempting to analyze and combine the scents of these elements to manufacture a bug spray that will effectively deter mosquitoes. (I wouldn't mind wiping myself down with harmless skin bacteria if it would keep mosquitoes off me.) However, going is slow, and mosquitoes are canny. Hopefully, those with O blood types who have noticed that their skin tastes relatively sweet will simply decide never to venture into nature again.
The home testing approach of the first learning is very valuable, but when there's actual scientific testing out there to look at, that's even better. Scroll down to the slideshow to find out what results scientific studies have found for the following attempts at mosquito blocking:
- eating garlic
- avoiding floral-scented soaps and perfumes
- burning candles (citronella or regular)
- eating vitamin B-1 to change your scent
- getting rid of standing water in your garde