8.02.2009

Mosquito Repellant Plants

Growing up in the midwest, I have a healthy respect for Mosquitos; hence the capitalization. I thought that I would get a break in Charleston due to the intense heat, but I was sorely mistaken. Shoo Fly Handmade Soap is en route and highly anticipated. Tiki torches have been purchased and are thus-far treating our courtyard well, but seem to attract walker-bys of the fraternity kind. I have yet to determine their effects on our dog (both the citronella smoke and the uninvited frat boys), so the jury is still out on their practicality.

Plants seem like the most obvious and renewable option to pursue. When it comes to fresh plant oils as natural Mosquito repellants, there is every reason to have the plant in your yard if they will grow in your area. It is an inexpensive and attractive way to boost the appearance of the landscape and have natural mosquito repellants on hand as well.


Catnip (Nepeta)  $2.49

Oil isolated from catnip by steam distillation is a repellent against insects, in particular mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites. Research suggests that in a test tube, distilled nepetalactone, the active ingredient in catnip, repels Mosquitoes ten times more effectively than DEET. It is a short lived perennial throughout most of the United States. It is easy to grow from seed, and quickly reseeds. Aside from its intoxicating effects on cats, the leaves make a very soothing tea.



Horsemint aka Spotted Beebalm (Monarda punctata)

Horsemint grows wild in most of the Eastern United States, from Mexico, Texas up to Minnesota to Vermont and is partial to sandy soils. Native Americans used it as a treatment for colds and flu and has a scent similar to citronella.. It has natural fungicidal and bacterial retardant properties because it's essential oils are high in thymol.





Hummingbirds Mint or Wild Hyssop (Agastache cana)

This is a 36-inch-tall hyssop with showy rose-pink flower spikes in late summer and fall and licorice-mint scented foliage. It is native to New Mexico and western Texas and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Grow in a border, herb garden, rock garden, or butterfly garden. Rubbing the foliage on skin reportedly "repels" Mosquitoes.





Rosemary  $4.99

This garden herb also has an oil that "repels" Mosquitoes. If you live in a frost free area, you can grow rosemary in the ground year round. Where the winter temperatures dip below 30 degrees F. these plants will have to spend the winter indoors, as they are Mediterranean in origin.






Lemongrass (Cymbopogon)

Lemongrass contains citronella, a natural oil that "repels" Mosquitoes. It is an ornamental grass that reaches 2 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide in one growing season that also makes a good container plant that is often used in the kitchen.






(Pyrethrum$2.29

Certain species of Chrysanthemum (cinerariifolium and C. coccineum) have insecticidal properties when dried to create a sort of insect deterring powder, and the oil derived from the flower is currently used in commercial repellant coils.






Marigolds  $2.29

Organic gardeners have used marigolds as companion plants to keep aphids away. Mosquitoes don't like its scent any better (and some humans feel the same way). Marigolds are sun-loving annuals that come in a variety of shapes and sizes for almost any landscape and are easy to grow from seed.





Ageratum  $3.99

This charming little bedding plant contains coumarin, and Mosquitoes detest the smell. It is used in the perfume industry and is even in some commercial mosquito repellants. It has some other less desirable elements that you don't want to keep on your skin in quantity, so I would plant it rather than wear it.




English Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

Simply grab a handful of the fresh herb, and rub it on the skin to repel flies, Mosquitos, gnats, ticks, chiggers, and fleas. The slightly rosey-minty smell is much more pleasant than smelling like a chemical insecticide. You can hang dried bunches to minimize flies, gnats or other winged creatures in the house. Scatter some leaves among (preferably under) your pet's bedding to combat fleas.




While there is no such thing as Mosquito ‘repellent’, you can definitely confuse the little buggers. Mosquitos key in on carbon dioxide signatures of warm-blooded creatures, namely mammals. Humans have a CO2 signature of their own, and Mosquitos love them best; there is no hair or hide to get through and blood is close to the surface of the skin). Citronellal or citronellol sprayed and misted into the air confuses the Mosquitos because it interferes with their ability to ’smell’ CO2.

With all of these plants, the leaves must be crushed to release the aroma and may be rubbed on your skin and clothing to enhance the immediate effect. To make your own infusion, combine two or three large handfuls of the stalks and leaves, cover them with olive or canola oil, heat very gently for 15 minutes and let sit overnight. Then strain the solids out, and refrigerate the oil. If you cannot or do not want to create these oils, you can purchase a concentrated essential oil and extend it's life by mixing 4 drops with 1/4 cup olive oil (store in a cool, dry place). Wear a dab of infusion or oil to keep fleas and mosquitoes at bay, and dab some on your pet's collar to do the same.






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