Friday, May 4, 2018

Bloodsucking Culicidae

Usually, in the mornings, I spend a few minutes walking around the yard - looking at plants and flowerbeds - deciding what I need to do outside that day.  It’s kind of a relaxing way to start the day.  During March and April, the mornings were cool and nice, however May arrived with very warm, humid mornings and the annoying pest we all hate! 

Today when I walked outside I glanced down at my legs to find not one but half a dozen small black mosquitoes ready to dive in for breakfast.  I went inside. 

Mosquito season here ranges from annoying to horrendous depending on how much rain we’ve had.  So, far, we’ve had between 13-15 inches (a little more in some places, a little less in others).  And, I’m thinking this year our mosquito problem will be horrendous. 

Now, everybody knows mosquito sprays don’t actually kill mosquitoes. They work by making people less attractive to them, so they're less likely to bite you.  And depending on your outdoor activity, you may have some options about repelling them.

There are a number of plants that make an effective repellent when planted nearby, like

Basil emits its aroma without crushing the leaves. Any variety of basil can repel mosquitoes but it is advisable to use lemon basil, cinnamon basil, or Peruvian basil since they have the strongest fragrances.

Lemon Balm also keeps the mosquitoes at bay as its leaves contain citronella compounds in large amounts. The citronella plant is popularly used in commercial mosquito repellants and there is up to 38% citronella content in some varieties of lemon balm.

Catnip also has the ability to repel mosquitoes as a member of the mint family. Simply grow catnip near the backdoor or patio of your house. Since many cats love the aroma of catnip they’re apt to crush the leaves and release its fragrance to ward off mosquitoes.

Rosemary contains an essential oil which acts as a natural mosquito repellent.  To keep them away from my face, I’ll put a sprig of rosemary in the brim of my hat!

Lavender is loved for its flowers and fragrance and mosquitoes don’t like it.  I almost didn’t include lavender because it’s difficult to grow in our area (that whole heat and humidity thing).  However, try pots of lavender you can move to more shaded areas during August and September. 

Tansy can be used as a bug repellent in general and that includes repelling mosquitoes.  However, I wouldn’t rub it on your skin.

In fact, you should be careful rubbing any plant directly on your skin.  The essential oils from the plant can irritate skin and eyes.   You can make your own version of mosquito spray though. 

Vinegar of the Four Thieves Insect Repellent
1 32-ounce bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar
2 TBSP of dried  or  1 TBSP of fresh Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Basil,  any of the Mint family – I’d recommend using at least 3 or 4 different herbs together for the best result.
At least quart size glass jar with airtight lid

Put the vinegar and dried herbs into large glass jar. Seal tightly and store on counter or place you will see it daily. Shake well each day for 2-3 weeks.  After 2-3 weeks, strain the herbs out and store in clean glass bottles, preferably in fridge.  To use on skin, dilute to half strength with water, then, in a spray bottle use as needed.

Something else to keep in mind, if you live in an area that is heavy with mosquitoes and you will be outside for a prolonged time or you are prone to bites that turn the size of a quarter, you may not want to take any chances. Conventional mosquito repellents containing higher concentrations (23.8%) of DEET or picaridin offer the best protection.  And, while you may hate putting chemical repellents on your skin, it may be better than the alternative.

Planting mosquito repelling shrubs is a good way to help discourage these pests in the yard in general with the added bonus of being wonderful herbs to use in many other ways and being pretty to boot!

Take care

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