As a child in the 1970’s in the Chicago area, I remember going inside and watching from my living room when the mosquito control truck would go down our street spraying chemicals to prevent mosquitoes. Even then we knew those chemicals couldn’t be good for us to breathe in but we didn’t have many natural mosquito repellent choices. We sprayed Off! from aerosol cans and enjoyed our evenings. Wearing a hat seemed to help keeping them away from my head.
I haven’t seen those trucks in decades but they have to exist as without them in some areas, there would be even worse mosquito population problems. Increases in mosquito populations cause devastating public health issues, including increases in Malaria, West Nile, Lyme Disease, Yellow fever, Dengue fever, Encephalitis viruses, and more. There become more problems for livestock and wildlife as well.
So many mosquitos
Did you know that in the US there are over 176 types of mosquitos and over 3,000 types in the world? No matter what area of the country or world you’re in, chances are you may be plagued by these pesky creatures. And if you’re like me, to ward them off you typically reach for mosquito repellent sprays or creams which are all basically chemicals. Traditional Deet-filled mosquito repellent is far from natural. Thankfully, there are preventative measures you can take. There are even plants that repel mosquitoes. They either work by planting them in your garden or by taking a bit of the plant and releasing some of the scents.
Natural mosquito repellent ideas
Whether or not it’s the season for mosquitoes, it is always a good time to think about keeping mosquitos away from your property. There are easy chemical-free steps you can take to ward them off, especially if you live in an area where it doesn’t get below freezing often enough to control their populations.
- Remove standing water from around your home: You can do this by ensuring you don’t have empty buckets or flower pots collecting water. You can also take a broom to “sweep away” standing water in low spots on your driveway or patio. Make sure your garbage cans are always closed.
- Clean out your gutters: Dried and decaying leaves, damp twigs and water are the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos.
- Rake and remove leaves: Damp and decaying leaves blow around your yard and often bunch up under bushes, at the base of trees and fences, and around your house. Though unsightly for my neighbors, I always thought a few little piles were okay and even good; I thought they would break down and enrich the soil. Now I know while they may be good for the earth, removing them eliminates mosquitos from living and breeding there.
- Avoid being out at sunrise or sunset: Especially in the hot summer months, these are times when you are most likely wanting to be outside; however, this is the time when mosquitoes are most active.
- Hang a bat box: When we lived in Indianapolis and in Tucson, we saw lots of bats — probably because there were lots of mosquitoes! We bought bat boxes to encourage them to fly around and feast in our yard.
- Hang bird feeders and man-made nesting boxes: Some birds, like swallows, eat mosquitoes so do what you can to encourage these animals to live near your home. Bird feeders, man-made nesting boxes, and bird baths are helpful. However, if you use a bird bath be sure to empty and clean it frequently because mosquitoes will breed in the water.
- Plant mosquito repellent plants: This is a controversial topic as most research points to the mosquito-repelling benefits only when you rub the leaves on your skin. It is important before doing this that you test a small amount on a small section of your skin for a few days to ensure you are not allergic. Here are some mosquito repelling plants that have been known to help:
- clove oil
- Citronella Grass: Use the oil from Citronella. Ensure the plant you’re buying is not just a “Citronella Plant,” “Citronella Geranium,” or “Mosquito Plant” as these are different varieties and while they may smell similar to Citronella, they are far less effective.
- Catnip: Reported to be up to 10 times more effective than DEET
- Neem Trees
- Lemon balm (a great alternative to Citronella)
- Lemon Grass
- Lemon Thyme (studies show this is about 60 percent effective as DEET)
- Tea tree
Not all of this mosquito repellent plants grow in all climates. Check with your local nursery to find the plants that grow best in your area.
In order for these mosquito repelling plants to be most effective, plant them in potted plants around your patio area. When you’re sitting outside and the mosquitoes are especially bad, break off a piece of your plant that repels mosquitoes, crush it, and rub its oils on your pulse points.
How to prevent mosquitos
Citronella oil to repel mosquitos
The plants that contain the citronella oil in them may deter mosquitos but it is mostly when you crush the leaves and rub them directly on your skin. There is also citronella oil that you can purchase online or at health retailers.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) when used correctly, mosquito repellents that have DEET or picaridin are safe for adults and children over 2 months. Still, many mosquito repellents are in spray form which we inhale as well and if they are aerosol and not pump bottles contribute to ozone depletion. We’re also busy slathering sunscreen on ourselves during these mosquito prevalent months. There are a lot of chemicals being absorbed through our skin.
It seems some people attract mosquitos than others. When we lived in the midwest, my elementary-aged son was what our family calls, a Mosquito Magnet. Since moving to Tucson, I have been given that distinction.
Even better than repelling mosquitoes is preventing them.
Do what you can with natural mosquito repellent ideas to prevent mosquitos. It’s so important to control mosquitos. By removing standing water and having a few plants potted in your backyard you may be on your way to a DEET and mosquito-free spring through fall!