Mother Earth Living

Natural Mosquito Control Methods

Protect yourself from mosquitoes with chemical-free, natural methods.
By Barbara Pleasant
July/August 2012
Add to My MSN

Enjoy time outdoors this summer without worrying about pesky mosquitoes.
Photo By Veer
Slideshow


Content Tools

Related Content

Natural Tips on How to Avoid Mosquitoes

With a little know-how, you can avoid mosquito bites this summer.

Repel Mosquitoes with ThermaCELL Outdoor Lantern

ThermaCell’s Outdoor Lantern can simultaneously be used as a mosquito repellent and light, making it...

Natural Insect Repellents: Stay Safe with Natural and Herbal Bug Repellents

Protect yourself against mosquitoes, ticks and other insects with natural insect repellents.

Kill Fungus Gnats with Summit Mosquito Bits

Summit Chemical’s Mosquito Bits naturally kill fungus gnats using the biological control BTI.

While summer’s warm days and long nights afford us ample time to enjoy the great outdoors, summer is also prime time for mosquitoes, bloodsuckers that can both ruin our outdoor enjoyment and carry diseases such as West Nile virus. Perusing the bug-repellent aisle at your grocery store or pharmacy, you’ll find a swarm of mosquito-control products based on the chemical DEET. But before you spray yourself, your family and your yard with these products, consider the health effects. A study by the National Park Service found that test groups exposed to DEET reported side effects including nausea, headaches, dizziness, skin irritation, rashes and numb or burning lips. Researchers at Duke University also found that long-term exposure to DEET can kill brain cells and cause behavioral changes in rats. Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on chemicals to keep pesky and potentially dangerous mosquitoes at bay. Try some of our favorite natural mosquito control methods instead.

Repel Mosquitoes Naturally

Some garden plants naturally repel mosquitoes. Rose-scented geraniums contain the natural insect repellents citronellal and geraniol—some gardeners report swishing their hands through the leaves is enough to deter mosquitoes. Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), which is easy to grow from seed, contains the repellents citronellal, geraniol and geranial. And the essential oil in catnip (Nepeta cataria), nepetalactone, was found to be about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, researchers at Iowa State University found.

Gardeners also report anecdotally that crushing handfuls of basil (Ocimum basilicum), lemon thyme (Thymus x citriodorus) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) can repel mosquitoes for short periods—usually less than 30 minutes. To try these plants, just crush a handful of leaves in your hand and rub them on exposed skin. (Use any herb with caution until you know how your skin will react.)

Another natural solution may be soybean oil. In a study by the New England Journal of Medicine, a soybean oil-based repellent offered protection from mosquito bites for 1.5 hours.

Plants that Repel Mosquitoes

A number of smart yard management techniques can help reduce the number of mosquitoes in an area. First, eliminate breeding places: any objects that can hold as little as a few tablespoons of water for seven to 10 days—the time it takes for eggs to hatch and larvae to mature. Commonly overlooked breeding spots include old tires, clogged gutters and abandoned tubs or buckets. Change the water weekly in bird baths, wading pools, outdoor pet bowls or anywhere else you might find standing water around your property.

If your yard contains large water troughs, ponds or other areas with standing water, you can use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), a naturally occurring bacterium that kills mosquito larvae, yet is nontoxic to people and fish. Many garden centers sell mosquito dunks or granulated products containing this fast-acting biological larvicide.

When it comes to treating your lawn, avoid spraying the area with broad-spectrum insecticides. Many of these sprays contain insecticidal compounds known as pyrethrins. Extremely toxic to bees, fish such as bluegill and lake trout, and slightly to moderately toxic to bird species, these chemicals also have been associated with (in rare cases, dangerous) allergic reactions in humans, and anemia and disruption of sex hormones in lab animals. Along with pest insects, insecticides can also kill natural mosquito predators—most of which take longer to repopulate than the mosquitoes themselves. Keeping backyard chickens also can be an effective way to reduce mosquitoes and other insect pests. Learn about how to select a breed, build your own coop and more in "What the Cluck! Raise Backyard Chickens."

Protect Yourself

A few other outdoor habits can help repel mosquitoes naturally. Fans may be a good way to help shoo the pests off your deck or patio—researchers believe fans work because they help dispel the carbon dioxide we exhale, which is how mosquitoes locate us. If you have an unscreened porch, install an overhead ceiling fan: You’ll be cooler and may get fewer bites. Burning citronella candles is effective and one of the easier natural mosquito control methods. In one study, the candles were shown to reduce mosquito bites for those near them while they were being burned—but their effectiveness is only in the immediate area if wind is low, so it’s best to pair their use with a topical repellent. You will also find commercially available mosquito traps, but The American Mosquito Control Association has determined that the traps, designed to lure and kill large numbers of pests, are only effective against certain species. Placing baited traps on your property could, in fact, attract mosquitoes that may not come otherwise, and at $200 to $500, you will want to get a local endorsement of effectiveness before investing in such products.

You can reduce your personal attractiveness to mosquitoes by avoiding highly perfumed soaps and shampoos and wearing loose-fitting clothing, which helps form an air barrier between you and the bugs. Mosquitoes are most attracted to areas of the body where the skin is thin and blood vessels are close to the surface such as ears, wrists and ankles, so pay extra attention to covering or applying natural repellent to these areas. Opt for light- or neutral-colored clothing, which is less attractive to mosquitoes than dark or bright floral colors.

Be diligent about using your herbal mosquito repellent. Most herbal repellents work for a shorter time period than their chemical counterparts. The key to using any plant-based repellent is to watch how it’s working. Immediately after application, mosquitoes will not light on your skin; as the effectiveness wanes, they will light but not bite. That’s your signal to apply more repellent because the third stage is near—when the mosquitoes light and bite.


Herbal Mosquito Repellent Recipe

To avoid using DEET-based products, make your own herbal mosquito repellent. The following essential oils will naturally repel mosquitoes—for a stronger formula, try mixing several oils together. Experiment to see which oils work best with your body chemistry. Always test essential oils on a small patch of skin before applying liberally, and use extra caution with children. Most essential oils are not recommended for use on children younger than 2.

Essential Oils
• Basil
• Catnip
• Clove
• Citronella
• Eucalyptus
• Garlic
• Geranium
• Lavender
• Lemon Balm
• Myrrh
• Neem
• Palmarosa
• Peppermint
• Pine
• Rosemary

Ingredients
2 1/2 teaspoons total of any combination of mosquito-repelling essential oils
1 cup 190-proof grain alcohol (available in liquor stores)

1. Place ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. Transfer to small bottles for storage. To use, rub a small amount on exposed skin or dab on clothing.


What Doesn’t Work

Several studies have found that installing a bat house, sometimes cited as a mosquito deterrent, is ineffective at controlling mosquitoes because bats prefer to dine on larger insects. Ultrasonic devices and outdoor bug “zappers” also don’t help control mosquito populations.


Resources

Aura Cacia
essential oils

Badger
Anti-Bug balms, sprays and sticks

Burt’s Bees
All-Natural Herbal Insect Repellent

California Baby
Natural Bug Blend Bug Repellent Spray

Greener Days
certified organic bug spray

Jāsön Natural Products
Quit Bugging Me Spray

Lāfes
Natural Baby Bug Repellent

Mountain Rose Herbs
essential oils

Summit Chemical
mosquito dunks nontoxic to humans and wildlife


Previous | 1 | 2 | 3 | Next






Post a comment below.

 

Deborah
6/27/2014 7:49:01 AM
One of the things I enjoy about Mother Earth magazine are the timely and informative articles. I have an abundance of Lemon Balm in my herb garden and catnip gone wild behind the barn (literally). I will most certainly try the suggestions in the article. Thank you once again Mother Earth!

Trish
6/3/2014 7:13:23 AM
What if a person is traveling to a foreign country? What would you recommemnd they take with them for mosquito protection?








Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.