Mosquito Defense Update

A mosquitoI’m happy to update my previous post due to new information about the war on mosquitoes.

I hate mosquitoes. I think the little creatures came from the pits of hell to annoy us. I believe I have tried every possible solution to rid my garden from mosquitoes. I’m unlucky enough to have a chemical makeup that is allergically sensitive to their hateful bites, so when I am bitten the area around the bite swells to the size of a baseball.

In my previous blog post, I talked about many different ways of dealing with them. Sprays and lotions that contain DEET are reported to work well, but recently DEET has been reported to be a neurotoxin (damaging to the central nervous system). We need to stay away from products that are dangerous to our health. Citronella candles, tiki torches, and lanterns work well, but I have found you need quite a lot of them in a large area. Next, let’s talk about those huge, propane guzzling monsters. You know the ones – costing a fortune and promising to rid your entire yard of the little blood sucking beasts. Well, they do exactly as promised. They act as a “magnet” for mosquitoes.

Now that I have pointed out dangerous and ineffective products, let me tell you about really successful things I have tried.

Catnip! Hooray for catnip! Yes, once again we find an incredible use for a herb! What an incredible group of plants. Herbs! Hooray for herbs! An article on Science Daily reported a scientific finding by researchers at Iowa State University. It turns out that catnip repels mosquitoes more effectively than DEET. Why are we not hearing this shouted from the rooftops?! No animal or human tests are yet scheduled for catnip, although researchers are hopeful that will take place in the future. If subsequent testing shows the essential oil in catnip is safe for people, it should not be difficult to commercialize for an insect repellent.

I would like to offer up my own findings as a human guinea pig for the good of mankind and all mosquito haters worldwide. I have rubbed catnip all over myself in an attempt to try an experiment of my own. As you know, I love herbs, so I do have a pot of catnip growing beside our back deck. Does it work? Does it repel mosquitoes? Yes, yes it does! Once again our exceptional Creator has given us a plant to solve a problem. I have tried this experiment probably 12 times so far this summer. It really does work! And from experience it seems to last quite a long time, maybe even a couple of hours.

I have even felt safe putting it on my children. Many naturopaths suggest catnip tea for children with an upset tummy. My family and I have experienced no skin irritation or problems of any kind. I do recommend caution in trying this as everyone is different in their own chemical makeup, but I am really encouraged in how well this worked.

Herbs have microscopic oil glands all over their leaves and stems. These oil glands contain the natural chemicals which give the plant its particular scent. Simply rub the catnip leaves on your skin to release the oil from the plant. The oil will stick to your skin. It does not feel sticky or greasy like lotions and sprays.

I hope to see insect repellent made from catnip on our store shelves sooner rather than later. My plea to the scientific community: please, don’t take years to research this compound.

While we are on the subject of herbs, let’s talk about lemon balm. It is wonderful for mosquito bites. Rub lemon balm on a mosquito bite and it will reduce the itching and in my case some of the skin swelling associated with the bite. I suspect the oil in the lemon balm, the same one that makes it such a relaxing tea, helps as a sort of anesthetic on the bite. Another wonderful herb to solve a problem!

I’d like to comment on the ThermaCELL that hunters love to use. It is powered by a butane cartridge and dispenses a small amount of repellent into the air over a long period of time. It claims to create a 15 x 15 feet mosquito free zone. Our family bought this last year and tried it. It does work, and works well. I would recommend not sitting where you may breath in the repellent being dispensed into the air. As with any chemical repellent, it is a trade-off. I don’t like using chemicals, but I also hate being bit. Our family uses this about 6-8 times a year when we are having a barbecue or working on a large outdoor project, such as when my husband and I built our fruit cage. I recommend caution when using this, as it is a chemical.

How about a safe, effective, and organic substance to spread on your grass that repels mosquitoes and other biting insects? It’s called Mosquito Beater Granules by Bonide and it seems to work very well. We spread it over the entire lawn area and flower beds, too. It’s effect lasts for 4-6 weeks. The only down side is your yard will smell like an ethnic restaurant for a few hours, but then the smell dissipates. The odor is due to the ingredients: citronella oil, garlic, cedar oil, and lemon grass oil, among others, which mosquitoes seem to hate. The effectiveness lasts even after the smell is gone. The only down side to this product is scheduling. You must reapply after heavy rains, so schedule your application when you have at least 3-4 days of upcoming dry weather.

Things are looking up for mosquito sufferers everywhere! My sympathy to all the red, itchy bitten people out there. I know how rotten it feels. Try catnip and tell me what you think. Happy gardening!

Mosquito picture was taken by Alvesgaspar and is available on Wikimedia Commons.

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Ouch! Mosquitoes!

I don’t think there is anything I hate, in this world, as much as mosquitoes. I bet there is no one in America that has tried as many things as I have to rid my garden of mosquitoes. Especially, since I am allergic to their itchy bites. I swell up like a softball wherever I am bitten. It amazes me when I talk to people that are hardly ever bitten by mosquitoes. I don’t know if it is because of my natural red hair, but I feel most of the time like I have a bull’s eye tattooed to my forehead for them to find. Now, after many years of painful (and itchy) research, I have found some ways to at least control this problem. Let’s talk about a few of the many things that didn’t work and a few that I have found that do.

First, let’s talk about sprays. I have tried many different body sprays to ward off mosquitoes. Unfortunately, I have found the sprays that contain DEET seem to work the best. I try to be health conscious and not put anything toxic or dangerous on my body. It goes without saying I don’t put this stuff on my children either. A lot of “natural” sprays that do not contain DEET either do not work at all, or if they do, it is for a short period of time. You must reapply. You must reapply. You must reapply. Apply, apply, apply – Argg!

Second, let’s talk about mosquito candles, lanterns and tiki torches. Citronella candles can work fairly well but I have found you need a lot of them in a small area. Also, lanterns will work but, the little cartridges in them constantly need to be replaced and constantly dry out. Tiki torches work well but you need a lot of them so you better love the tiki torch look.

Next, let’s talk about those huge, propane guzzling monsters. You know the ones – costing a fortune and promising to rid your entire yard of the little blood sucking beasts. Well, they do exactly as promised. They act as a “magnet” for mosquitoes. Just as women are drawn to shoe sales, every mosquito in your neighborhood will be drawn to this machine. You can’t stand near it to change the propane tank (which you have to change every 21 days!!!) without getting eaten alive. I know from experience, I had one for two summers. The only way I can see this being effective, is if the family has a large property and puts this on the edge of their land far away from any sitting areas or the house itself. Most of us nowadays have small yards and gardens. I do not recommend these machines for anyone with a small to medium sized yard (or bank account).

Next, there are exterminating companies that will come and spray your yard. (I know because we hired a company for a couple of years to do this.) It works well. And will last about a month. They will come back and spray again – every month. I have no complaints about the effectiveness of this – it does work, but at what cost to you, your family, and the wildlife around you. The exterminating company will tell you it’s safe for birds and some insects, but I notice they do not recommend this for gardens with ponds. It will indeed kill your fish. And it will strike a significant blow to your bee population. I have sadly walked out into the garden the day after a “spray” and literally had a dead bee fall out of a rose blossom onto the ground. It really made me think and grieve for what I was potentially doing to the world around me. Not to mention, how could I ever eat food out of the garden with this going on. I started vegetable gardening in containers and draping them with old bed sheets when it was time to spray the garden. The last straw was a surprise visit from the exterminating company. They were supposed to call to give me notice a day before they were coming. It made me look suspiciously at all of my beautiful ripe tomatoes hanging on their vines. They were beautiful, but I wouldn’t eat them for fear they had been sprayed with the mosquito repellent.

Now that I’ve discussed a few of the things that didn’t work very well, here are a few successful items.

First, do not underestimate a ceiling fan. That’s right! Companies have made fortunes convincing us of the need for “usable” space underneath our decks. Under deck weatherproofing is installed and a seating area is then established. Put an outdoor ceiling fan in these areas. Mosquitoes do not like to fly in the wind caused by the ceiling fan. Also, if you have a deck with a pergola over it, think about adding a ceiling fan to it. On our family deck, I have gone as far as plugging in a box fan and pointing it toward our outside table and chairs. This has been very effective.

I’ve already told you that I don’t like to put toxic sprays on myself, but I have found a mixture of essential oils to be very effective. I use a mixture of Lavender, Peppermint, Citronella, Lemongrass, Thyme, and Cedarwood. These can be bought individually from a health food store or sometimes you can find them pre-mixed for this purpose.

How about a safe, effective, and organic substance to spread on your grass that repels mosquitoes and other biting insects? Well, I have found it, and tried it this year in my garden. It’s called Mosquito Beater Granules by Bonide and it seems to work very well. We spread it over the entire lawn area and flower beds, too. Its effect lasts for 4-6 weeks. The only down side is your yard will smell like an ethnic restaurant for a few hours, but then the smell dissipates. The odor is due to the ingredients: Citronella Oil, Garlic, Cedar Oil and Lemon Grass Oil among others, which mosquitoes seem to hate. The effectiveness lasts even after the smell is gone.

Well, I hope I have given you some field tested suggestions to help you rid your garden of mosquitoes. As for me – what’s next to try for mosquitoes? I have heard of a product called ThermaCELL that hunters love. It is powered by a butane cartridge and dispenses a small amount of repellent into the air over a long period of time. It claims to create a 15 x 15 feet mosquito free zone. After I try it, I will tell you my honest opinion. As always – have fun gardening!

Have any questions? Please contact me.