If you live in an area with a heavy mosquito population, you know just how annoying the pests can be. Outdoor activities aren’t much fun when you’re dodging biting insects. Many commercial mosquito repellents are available, from chemical sprays like the popular Off! brand, to mosquito traps like the Mosquito Magnet. However, if you’d rather avoid those chemicals, and save some money, try natural mosquito repellents. Whether it’s including a certain plant in your garden, or mixing your own personal repellent, you can find a natural solution that works for you.
These flowering plants are often included in gardens for their fiery reds, oranges, and yellows. The great thing is, many insects, including mosquitoes, find their scent objectionable. In fact, a lot of people don’t like how they smell either, which is why they’re planted for their colors and not the way they smell. Plant them in your garden, or place pots of them at regular intervals around your patio or deck to keep mosquitoes at bay.
Several years ago, the Iowa State University Department of Entomology performed a study on catnip. Their findings indicated that the oil in catnip is a mosquito repellent ten times more effective than DEET, the active ingredient in most chemical insect repellents. It’s possible to make a repellent spray from catnip oil, but growing the plant around outdoor activity areas seems to work pretty well too. Just be sure your cat doesn’t uproot it!
Tea Tree Oil
This essential oil is very strong and can actually cause a rash if applied to the skin at full strength. It’s best to dilute it in another oil, called a carrier oil. Grapeseed oil is an excellent choice for this because it has very little scent, and is a light oil, easily absorbed by the skin. Tea tree oil is also good for treating mosquito bites should one or two get past your repellent. Apply the diluted oil directly to the bite to alleviate itching and redness.
Rosemary and Sage
Rosemary oil is another good mosquito repellent when mixed properly, but a quick and easy solution requires either or both of these herbs in their fresh state. When barbecuing, simply toss a few sprigs of rosemary and sage onto the coals. As they burn, they’ll release their oils and scents, which will be dispersed into the air with the smoke. Mosquitoes will keep their distance, allowing you to enjoy your barbecue pest-free.
Thai lemon grass also contains citronella oil, and is generally thought to be more effective than citronella grass-derived oil as an insect repellent. To keep mosquitoes away, you can break a stalk off the plant and rub it between your palms until it releases enough juice to rub over exposed skin. It can also be made into a spray, but planting it around your patio will also provide some benefit.
True citronella is derived from several types of plant, most notably citronella grass. You could plant this around your property, but it can grow to a height of six feet, so it may not be the best suburban solution. Citronella oil is used in many topical repellents, but is most often seen in candle form. Citronella candles are available at grocery stores and drugstores. Home improvement centers carry them, and also offer torches that use citronella oil, an economical alternative because they’re refillable.
Things to keep in mind
With essential oils, a little goes a long way. It’s best to dilute them not only to reduce the harshness of the oil, but to cover more area and be more economical with the oil.
Any mosquito repellent you apply to your skin—natural or otherwise—will become diluted and less effective as it is absorbed into the skin, if you perspire or swim, or if you’ve also applied a sunscreen. The repellent should be reapplied about once an hour. If you’re going to be away from home, be sure to apply repellent before you leave, and take some with you for all-day protection.
“Natural” doesn’t necessarily mean safe. Many natural substances can still be harmful if ingested, or if they get in your eyes. Some can even harm the skin if they’re not diluted. You may even be allergic to a substance you’ve never come into contact with before. Educate yourself on the plant or oil you plan to use to avoid discomfort, injury, and illness.
A little time and effort is all it takes to address a mosquito problem with a natural solution.