The backyard is the place to be in the summertime, but those idyllic evenings can be ruined as soon as the mosquitoes come out. Not only are mosquito bites annoying and itchy, mosquitoes can also carry bacteria and viruses that pose serious health risks. You want to do whatever you can to protect yourself.
Are You a Mosquito’s Favorite Item on the Menu?
Ever wonder why some people are being eaten alive by mosquitoes around a campfire while others peacefully admire the flicker of the flames, oblivious to the miniature pests lurking around? Certain people are biologically more attractive to mosquitoes than others. It’s science.
According to Earlexia Norwood, M.D., “Everyone has unique body chemistry, from blood type (Type O seems to be mosquito-preferred), level of uric acid (high levels attract mosquitoes), the amount of CO2 a person emits (a mosquito magnet), to their propensity to sweat (also appetizing to mosquitoes).” Pregnant women exhale more CO2 and are more likely to attract mosquitoes, and if you’re trying to enjoy a can of beer, you might as well just invite the mosquitoes in for a drink, too.
Like it or not, mosquitoes are picky insects. It helps to know if you’re a natural mosquito magnet, so you can begrudgingly accept that fact and equip yourself with the appropriate protection.
Whether you’re the mosquito’s favorite item on the menu or one of many compassionate souls just trying to ease the discomfort of the hot dish next to you, God has provided a wide variety of natural mosquito repellents that can reduce your chances of being devoured this season. Here are some ways you can address the mosquito population and ward off this pesky insect.
Eat More Garlic
This is an easy one for me: I adore garlic. Not only is the flavor amazing, it’s a natural antibiotic, and now you’re telling me it also might repel mosquitoes?! I’m winning all over the place. If eating garlic isn’t for you (which, I mean, who are you anyway??), you can rub garlic on your skin, take a garlic pill, mince cloves of garlic around your yard, or apply a garlic spray to surrounding plants.
When garlic extract is used in a landscape, it can repel unwanted insects for up to one month, and while the mosquitoes might be turned off, humans can’t smell the odor. “In short, plants are provided with a long-lasting case of ‘garlic breath’ that causes insects to move elsewhere,” says Patrick Parker, SavATree Plant Health Care Program Director.
Mosquito Repellent Plants
Certain plants that might look nice and smell pleasant to us are repulsive to mosquitoes. Brighten up your landscape with a lively variety of mosquito repellent plants, such as citronella grass, African or French marigolds, basil, lemon thyme, catnip, sage, pennyroyal, rosemary, geranium, and lavender. An herbal planter of basil, lemon thyme, sage, and rosemary would come in handy for summer cooking, too!
Make Your Yard Friendly for Mosquito-Eating Animals
Birds, bats, frogs, fish, turtles, and dragonflies are among the mosquito’s natural predators, so, naturally, having more of these critters around can help control your mosquito population. Not all of these creatures are realistic to have in your urban or suburban backyard, but there are ways to attract some of them to even the smallest yard to benefit your entire neighborhood.
Bats can consume thousands of insects a night, and mosquitoes are just one of their chosen entrees. Installing a bat house can welcome these nocturnal hunters into your neighborhood to reduce the mosquito population and bring balance to your local ecosystem.
Bird species like purple martins, swallows, geese, ducks, and migratory songbirds are especially great mosquito hunters as they eat both the adult and larvae stages of mosquitoes. We will offer more tips on how to attract more of these species to your yard in our article, “Inviting Nature into Your Backyard.”
If you’re already considering it, adding a small fish pond or water feature to your yard can provide the added benefit of some mosquito control. Goldfish and other species like to feast on mosquito larvae. Your water feature can also draw dragonflies to your backyard. Otherwise known as “mosquito hawks,” dragonflies are especially great for preventing a mosquito population from flourishing, since their favorite snack is mosquito larvae. Any tall, wispy water plants in your yard will draw dragonflies in. Fish and dragonflies might not coexist well, since fish also like to dine on dragonfly nymphs.
Natural Sprays and Essential Oil Repellents
In lieu of DEET and other harsh (but effective) mosquito repellents, consider mixing up a natural, essential oil-based product. These will need to be reapplied every one to three hours to maintain its effectiveness, and just like anything you put on your body, do so with caution and moderation. Recipes for natural mosquito repellent are abundant online, but most include some combination of citronella, lemon, and peppermint oil. Researchers at Iowa State University have also found the essential oil of catnip (yes, your cat’s favorite herb), could be ten times more effective than standard insect repellents at repelling mosquitoes!
If you aren’t into aromachology (or being a professional oil mixer-upper), most drug stores sell mosquito repellents made with natural ingredients.
Citronella Candles (in Small Spaces)
While citronella oil is an effective repellent for mosquitoes, its effectiveness wanes when the candle is burnt in a large, open area. This may be most effective if you’re all gathered around a picnic table.
Cover Up and Wear Light Colors
Put a layer of clothing between you and the mosquitoes. Even if it’s hot out, wearing long sleeves, long pants, socks, a hat, and closed-toed shoes can create a physical barrier between you and bugs. Mosquitoes also prefer dark colors like blue and black, so opt for lighter colored clothing, which reflect sunlight and help you stay cooler.
Create a Breeze
The best times to avoid mosquitoes are on windy days, but if you’re sitting outside on a deck or patio and there’s no breeze, consider plugging in a fan to create air movement. Mosquitoes have a hard time riding the breeze, and it’ll help you stay cool in all of those clothes you’re wearing.
Stay Indoors at Dusk and Dawn
Hey, if all else fails, sometimes the best form of defense is to use that God-given brain of yours and retreat. Mosquitoes are the most active just as the sun is rising and setting. When you know your enemy’s habits and routines, you can best work around them and live a peaceful, weltless, chemical-free life.