You Can Grow These 18 Effective Mosquito Repellents

When I had my nursery, I used to dread springtime when the mosquitoes and black-flies would roll out from the nearby cedar trees. They’d make our working lives a living hell and customers who ventured too close to that area were often seen being carried away over the trees by hordes of flying blood-suckers.

We trialed more kinds of insect repellents than you might want to know about – and a bit of news caught my eye lately and I thought I’d pass it along. Now, if you don’t have mosquitoes, then no worry but here’s the deal for you gardeners that do.

Male Versus Female Mosquitoes

First –

  • The male mosquito is an easy-going pollinator of flowers. He doesn’t suck blood.
  • The female on the other hand is a major blood-sucker and does all the biting when humans are the target.

Not only that but this female predator homes in on carbon dioxide and the 60-ish hormonal smells that are common to all humans. There are 300-350 compounds found in human scents and there is some thought that some mosquito species use some but not others – so you may have your very own personal blood sucker. 🙂

From a very practical point of view, there are several things you can do. First, you can use commercial products but there are concerns some folks have with DEET as an active ingredient.

Other Mosquito Repellants

The botanicals are great for shorter periods of time and simply require refreshing.

Figure an hour between refreshing with botanicals.

If you want an hour of repellant action – and are willing to refresh to avoid chemical use then plan on using one or more of these products (approved by the CDC as effective)

Lemon eucalyptus products, including Quwenling from China, get high marks from the CDC.

Daniel Strickman at the USDA-ARS in Beltsville, MD, and others have compiled long lists of botanicals good for about an hour of repellency, including:

  • clove,
  • geranium (geraniol),
  • citronella,
  • celery,
  • lemon,
  • lime,
  • neem,
  • pyrethrum,
  • fringed rue,
  • patchouli,
  • pennyroyal,
  • soybean,
  • thyme,
  • niaouli (Melaleuca viridiflora),
  • makaen (Zanthoxylum limonella),
  • Mexican tea (Chenopodium ambrosioides),
  • Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum), and
  • lily-of-the-valley.

Here’s A Caution Though Even With Botanic/Natural Products

Having said that. The important point to remember here is that while a product may be natural – there is no guarantee your skin will accept it without problems. (poison ivy is natural but how many times do you want to go rubbing it on your skin?)

So rubbing the raw botanical on your exposed skin may indeed prevent insect bites but at the cost of a skin reaction. I note the palms of your hands are one of the toughest places for products to penetrate through the skin but your scalp is one of the easiest. 

So putting these products on the inside of the wrist (a tender spot) as a testing area before you put it on your face or scalp area is a very good idea.

Test a small area.

I used to keep several large lemon geraniums growing in one part of the wholesale plant range because our staff would pick a leaf every hour or so and stick it in their hat or shirt pocket and everybody swore this worked.

Fresh lemony leaves replaced regularly; mind you the geranium plants looked pretty sick by the end of the season. 🙂

So that’s the latest word on mosquitoes.

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