Natural Mosquito Control Methods

Protect yourself from mosquitoes with chemical-free, natural methods.


| July/August 2012


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.

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?








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