Over 200 types of mosquitoes can be found in the continental U.S. and U.S. territories. Not only do these pesky creatures cause itchy, painful bites, some (9.3%) carry dangerous diseases like malaria and the Zika virus. If you’ve noticed mosquitoes in or around your home this summer, there are natural methods you can try to curb the problem.
Read on to learn about the best plants that act as natural bug repellents for mosquitoes and other insects (and might just look pretty in your yard’s seating area or vegetable garden too).
The scent of crushed lavender flowers is soothing and pleasant to humans, but has been shown to repel adult mosquitoes. Thanks to its antiseptic, antifungal, and analgesic qualities, lavender oil can also be healing to the skin–an added benefit. Lavender is about 80% effective on its own as an anti-mosquito plant, and even more effective when combined with other plants and herbs (i.e. a companion plant).
Citronella oil can be distilled from a type of lemongrass (citronella grass), and is one of the classic “natural” mosquito repellents. It’s often put in spray or candles to keep with you during an outdoor gathering.
Citronella plants’ scent interferes with mosquitoes’ olfactory receptors, masking the scent of lactic acid and carbon dioxide that attracts them to humans and causing them to move on from the area in search of food elsewhere.
However, be warned that getting citronella candles to be optimally effective may be tricky, as the smoke from the candle itself has to physically pass between you and a passing mosquito in order to work.
The scent of beautiful marigolds also deters mosquitoes. These flowers are notoriously easy to grow and low-maintenance, so place them in pots on your patio or porch in order to keep these pesky pests away. Marigolds are also a natural repellent for other common bugs, like whiteflies, aphids, thrips, and Mexican bean beetles.
Any minty scent is a natural mosquito repellent. For this reason, peppermint essential oil or crushed fresh peppermint leaves are good to keep on hand in order to deter bugs. You can even rub peppermint oil or crushed peppermint leaves on your skin as a form of natural bug spray.
As an added bonus, the menthol in peppermint creates a cooling effect on your skin that feels nice on hot summer nights outdoors on the deck or by the fire pit.
The strong scent of basil leaves repels mosquitoes as well as flies. Basil contains 2.8%-9.2% eucalyptol, a natural liquid compound found in mouthwash and cough medicine. Eucalyptol (mainly found in eucalyptus) naturally repels mosquitoes, and can even be effective at killing mosquitoes and mosquito larvae.
The scent of rosemary repels mosquitoes, flies, and cabbage moths. This plant thrives in containers and in hot, dry weather, so it’s perfect to keep around your garden or lawn throughout the summer to ward off bugs during outdoor gatherings.
Lemon balm is a member of the mint family that acts as a natural mosquito repellent. Many people also use lemon balm to aid with cold sores, insomnia, stress, anxiety, and even dementia.
Lemon balm also contains eucalyptol, meaning it may kill mosquitoes and their larvae. It also contains citronellal, meaning it emits that citrusy scent that critters hate. If you have a lemon balm plant in or outside your home, trim it regularly to encourage growth.
Catnip (aka catmint) is good for more than just a soothing treat for your cat. It also produces chemicals that repel bugs like mosquitoes, flies, and roaches, which are released when your cat chews the plant.
It’s been known that catnip repels insects for millennia, but only recently did researchers discover why–catnip triggers a chemical receptor that makes insects feel sensations like pain or itch (similarly to a human coming in contact with tear gas).
This irritating reaction makes mosquitoes flee the area. So if you’re dealing with a mosquito problem, try having your pet chew on some catnip in the vicinity–a win-win!
Gorgeous chrysanthemums contain pyrethrum, a natural insecticide. This means that their scent repels bugs like mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, flies, and moths, and can even kill them. Pyrethrum activates a particular olfactory receptor that happens to be found in all disease-carrying mosquito species.
Their reaction to this chemical is so strong that researchers believe it could one day be used to create an unprecedented super mosquito repellent. So be sure to keep chrysanthemums around your yard this summer!
The scent of garlic alone is likely not too effective at repelling mosquitoes–that’s a myth that’s been busted. However, the scent of garlic on your skin is. Squeezing a fresh clove of garlic over your skin will likely be effective at repelling mosquitoes for 20-40 minutes.
Sulfur compounds in garlic, like allium or the amino acid allicin, are to thank for its insect-repellent properties, as well as many of its other benefits (i.e. antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiprotozoal (anti-single cell parasite) properties).
While these plants are proven to help repel mosquitoes, these DIY remedies alone may not be enough to curb a full-blown infestation. If you’ve tried using plants to repel mosquitoes from your home and you still notice a problem, it might be time to call a professional to help with mosquito control.