When the weather warms up and the water stands still, mosquitos are sure to follow. Whether you’re spending time on a tropical island in Indonesia, hiking through the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota, or planning an epic backyard garden, mosquitos can turn an otherwise perfect evening into a living nightmare.
But if you’ve done your research, you know that using common mosquito repellent products like DEET and OFF can be toxic for birds, insects, and aquatic invertebrates and you’re looking for some alternatives. As is so often the case, the answer lies in nature.
There are tons of mosquito repellent plants you can surround yourself with to deter those blood-sucking buzzers. Keep reading for an introduction to some plant allies sure to get you through the buggier months of the year. And if you aren’t a gardener, or you’re needing stronger protection, there are also a couple helpful (and eco-friendly!) recipes to try out on your skin:
Even the United States Center for Disease Control agrees – Eucalyptus is an effective mosquito repellent plant, especially when in oil form. It can provide a staggering 95% protection rate according to some studies. Even better news: Eucalyptus can also be used to ward off spiders in your home. The same chemical compounds that this plant creates to protect itself can be used as a potent protective spray for you.
Lemon balm, or Melissa officinalis, is a deliciously aromatic plant for many humans, but mosquitos disagree. It is a member of the mint family. In times of dire need, you can simply pluck the leaves from the plant and crush them in your hands and rub it around on your exposed skin. Chemical compounds in the plant will deter the mosquitoes. All the while, you’ll smell fresh as lemonade. It’s an easy plant to take care of and it is also known to calm nerves, improve digestion and help with sleep. Heck, why not plant extra to have on hand when you need it?
Ever notice how little critters tend to avoid munching on your lavender plant, even after they’ve demolished all your other garden plants? Lavender is a mosquito repellent plant, but it can also work to slow down the onslaught of moths, fleas, and flies too. One trick to try is placing linen bags of dried lavender inside drawers where you keep your clothes. This will infuse the fabrics with a relaxing, comforting smell and be mosquito repellent. You can also place bouquets of lavender around the house to help keep insect pests outdoors. Outside, lavender loves sunshine. Plant this mosquito repellent herb in sunny patches near gathering spaces (like patio chairs) to help ward off those tiny blood-sucking vampires. If you want to take things one step further, try this recipe:
Chances are that if you live in a mosquito-heavy location and enjoy spending time on porches and outdoor BBQs, you’ve already smelled this herb as the smell emits from candles, torches, and store-bought bug sprays. There is some discrepancy in the scientific community as to how well this herb actually works to repel mosquitoes, especially in relation to its popularity. At the very least, the fragrance of citronella is understood to mask the smells that mosquitoes are attracted to, though we need more investigation on the matter to confirm if the folk-knowledge is true or not.
Rosemary is an important ally for any gardener. Not only is rosemary a mosquito repellent plant, but it also wards off other insects that are harmful to your vegetable patch. Additionally, scientific research has also indicated that the smell of rosemary can improve your cognition and memory and stimulate hair growth.
If you’re wanting to use something more directly on your skin than a spray, you can mix essential oils with carrier oils to create some amazing-smelling and mosquito repellent oils. For example:
Important to remember – when using these homeopathic and natural recipes for mosquito repellent approaches, be sure to test small amounts on your skin before drenching your entire body, even if the mosquito attack is particularly vicious. Everyone reacts to certain plants differently. It’s important to use caution and avoid allergic reactions when getting to know new herbs. Be smart when incorporating new plants into your routine.
You may not have realized it while stuffing your face with a steaming slice of margherita pizza, but basil – a popular herb to cook with – is also a mosquito repellent plant. If your space allows for it, aim to place a pot of basil in the sun-filled windows of the kitchen. You’ll be able to have a delicious, fresh addition to almost any meal within arm’s reach and also deter unwanted insects from flying through the open window. When working with basil, keep in mind that the plant can be sensitive to frost. If temperatures dip below 50 degrees at night, bring that baby indoors to help maintain healthy growth all season long.
For all the buzz around getting rid of mosquitoes, they are an important part of our ecosystems. Eradicating mosquitoes from our landscape is not an option for a thriving environment. However, there are really helpful resources out there to educate yourself further. It is so possible to enjoy the outdoors without getting eaten alive, contracting a deadly disease or ruining the planet. The Environmental protection agency has a helpful list of repellents, which is a really good place to start.