It’s not just mosquitoes; gnats, biting flies, ants, and other pests can take the fun right out of any outdoor activity.
Mosquitoes are more than a nuisance, too, as there are many mosquito-borne diseases out there, including viruses such as West Nile, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Dengue, and now Zika.
Mosquitoes and many other insects target their victims by the odors and gases we give off—carbon dioxide, sweat, and smelly feet to name a few. They can be attracted from as far as 100 feet away.
The scent of mint, fruit, and even chocolate can block the receptors that the bugs use to find us.
Since many plants give off these fragrances, why not plant them around your yard or put some pots of them on your deck or patio to ward off the biters? It won’t magically make the area a bug-free zone, but it may help.
Many plants that are listed as “insect-repelling” are, in fact, not. Here are a few plants that I have found repel the bugs that bug us:
• Lemon grass is used to make citronella oil, which has proven mosquito repelling abilities. Since it is hardy only in tropical zones, plant yours in a pot and bring it inside when the temperatures drop if you intend to keep it over the winter.
• While we are on the topic of lemon, any plant with a strong, citrus fragrance will keep bugs at bay. Try lemon-scented geraniums, lemon thyme, or lemon balm. Lemon balm is in the mint family, so confine it to a pot to keep it from spreading crazily.
• Lavender repels moths, flies, fleas, and mosquitoes. Use it fresh or dry some of the flowers to hang around the house or put in with your clothing to keep bugs out. Here’s how to make lavendar sachets.
• Garlic keeps away more than vampires. It repels mosquitoes and cabbage moths.
• Rosemary may prevent flies and mosquitoes from ruining a cookout. If the bugs are really bad, like around dusk, throw a few sprigs of rosemary on the grill and the aromatic smoke will help drive the mosquitoes away.
• Basil is another culinary herb that does double duty by repelling flies and mosquitoes too.
• Peppermint exudes a strong fragrance that ants, mosquitoes, and even mice don’t like. Grow it in a pot to contain its rampant growth.
• Pennyroyal is a groundcover that repels mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, and flies. The trick is to crush it to release its fragrance.
• Catmints including catnip have been found to be even more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes and ants. Just be sure to locate catnip away from plants that can’t take being rolled on by all the cats in the neighborhood.
• Marigolds have long been the gardener’s ally in keeping squash bugs, aphids, tomato hornworms and the like away from our vegetable plants, but they can fend off mosquitoes as well.
These plants may help in fighting the insect wars and most are useful in other ways, too.
I’m sure there are other plants that have acquired a bug-repelling reputation, but I wouldn’t depend on only a few plants to make my yard insect-free. One of the most effective things you can do to cut the mosquito population down is to eliminate any standing water where they breed.