The onslaught of mosquitoes can drive you from a relaxing time in your yard or even can make enjoying the warmer weather unbearable.
While they are quite effective in keeping the pesky bloodsuckers away, the toxic chemicals found in commercial repellant are a cause of concern.
Unless you are in an area with high risk of mosquito-borne diseases like yellow fever, malaria or dengue, you need not depend on harsh chemical repellents like diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET). Research has shown that the chemicals contained in insect repellants may cause both short- and long-term health problems and are especially dangerous to young children and small pets.
There is good news, however: Many plants and plant-derived formulation are just as effective as DEET. Knowing what you are putting on your skin and using around your home to repel pests will give you peace of mind this summer.
For direct application on the skin
Many plants contain essential oils that repel biting insects like mosquitoes. They are safe to be applied directly on the skin, too. Some of the most effective ones are:
While it is irresistible to cats, mosquitoes find it extremely annoying. You can grow catnip plants in pots, or better still, reserve a bed in the garden for them. Crush a few catnip leaves and rub on all the exposed parts when you venture out. Some fans claim it is more effective than even DEET in keeping the mosquitoes away.
Citronella oil has a long-standing reputation as an organic bug repellant, and it has been used commercially as an ingredient in skin balms and candles to ward off mosquitoes. Lemon grass gets its name from the lemony smell of its leaves and stem. To use it directly on the skin, chop the leaves and crush them lightly to release the volatile oils citronellol and geraniol. Check for allergic reactions by applying on a small area first. Grow this tall grass in a corner of the garden. If you don’t want to plant this clump-forming grass, you may be able to get lemongrass stems from Asian markets as they are used as flavoring agents in Thai cuisine.
3. Lemon balm
Lemon balm smells similar to citronella, and it is much easier to grow, and less troublesome to apply to the skin. Have them growing near the house in pots that can be brought indoors. All you have to do is crush leaves between the fingers to release the fragrance.
Plants to grow in the garden
Some natural insect repellents can be grown in your garden to reduce the mosquito population around your house. Only female mosquitoes are blood suckers; the males feed on plant juices. Though they are flying insects, mosquitoes usually forage nearer to their breeding grounds. So keeping your garden less attractive to males can go a long way in reducing the mosquito menace.
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Lavender is a great welcome addition to any garden, especially since they thrive on neglect. Grow these on the window sill to keep the mosquitoes away from the house, too.
These bright and happy flowers are often grown in the vegetable garden to control pests. Even if you are not growing vegetables, it’s great to have marigolds around just to reduce the mosquito population.
Plants of the mint family are characterized by the strong smell they release even at the slightest touch. Grow as many varieties as you can, but be sure to have plenty of peppermint.
Rosemary is another must-have in gardens for its mosquito-repellent power, if not for culinary use. These sturdy bushes can be kept in shape by frequent pruning. You can hang the trimmings from hooks to dry them. They’ll keep these insects away.
If you have a water body in your garden, mosquitoes might be breeding in it. While the roots of many floating aquatic plants like water hyacinth and water lettuce provide hiding places for mosquito larvae, growing lotus in the pond can have the opposite effect. They are said to kill off the larvae while being friendly to fish and tadpoles.
Other ways to get rid of mosquitoes
9. Smoke them away
Smoke is a deterrent to mosquitoes and other flying insects. If you have a brass or terracotta incense burner, make it do double-duty in the place of mosquito-repellent coils and mats impregnated with chemicals. Add a few drops of the essential oils of citronella, eucalyptus or thyme. If you are burning it outside, add a few leaves of rosemary or eucalyptus every now and then to drive the mosquitoes away.
10. Burn insect-repellent candles
If you are into candle-making, you can add citronella oil or other essential oils like thyme, peppermint, cedar or pine oil to perfume your candles. It will keep the mosquitoes away besides making the house smell good. Avoid fruity fragrances during the mosquito season.
11. Make an insect-repellent spray
Boil water in a pan and add chopped citronella leaves or eucalyptus leaves and let them steep for some time. Filter it and fill into a spray bottle. Add a few drops of peppermint oil and shake the bottle well. Spray around the house to keep the mosquitoes away.
12. Make your own mosquito-repellent balm
Since the volatile oils in plants are responsible for their insect-repellent action, their effect may not be as long-lasting as chemical sprays. But you can get over this drawback by making balms or oil formulations by incorporating non-volatile natural oils as carriers.
Melt soybean wax flakes in a double boiler, and when it is slightly cooled, add a few drops of peppermint oil, tea tree oil, and clove oil along with soybean oil to get the right consistency for easy spreading. Rub it on exposed skin to prevent mosquito bites.
Neem oil is widely used as an organic insecticide. It is safe for skin application unless you are allergic to it, but the smell may put you off. Mix in a drop of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to mask it.
There is no need to compromise your outdoor time nor risk the unknown when using commercial insect repellants. Let nature help you fight back so you can reclaim your outdoor living space without unwelcome flying guests.
What all-natural ways do you use to fight mosquitoes? Let us know in the comments section below.