Plants and flowers can help repel pesky mosquitoes

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by LaSalle Blanks, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 6:32 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 8 at 6:42 PM

NORFOLK-- If mosquitoes bug and bite you every time you have a backyard barbecue, or if they attack the kids when they're outside playing in the yard, you can fight back by "planting one on them."

There are several mosquito-repellent plants and flowers you can plant in your yard or garden to keep the mosquitoes away.

Les Parks from the Norfolk Botanical Garden has been in gardening and horticulture for almost 20 years and says the key to the mosquito-repellent plants is the scent they emit.

While some might be pleasant to us, they're downright disturbing for mosquitoes and  the bugs won't go near them.

"If you planted a combination of them in a small area around your deck or patio, you'd probably have the best results," said Les Parks of Norfolk Botanical Garden.

At the Norfolk Botanical Garden, they planted marigolds in the vegetable garden specifically to keep mosquitoes away. Marigolds contain pyrethrum, a compound used in many insect repellents.

"A lot of people are familiar with them just as a flower to grow every summer, but a lot of people don't know that they repel insects," Parks said. "If you crush the foliage or smell the flower it has a very aromatic scent to it and it's not attractive to mosquitoes, so they go somewhere else."

Parks also suggests basil, rosemary,  and American beautyberry.  Ageratum is another option because it secretes coumarin, which is widely used in commercial mosquito repellents.

Also on Parks' list is catnip. A researcher at Iowa State University says catnip is ten times more effective than DEET. That researcher, however, doesn't know why.

Parks says the most common mosquito-repellent plant that workers sell at garden centers are citronella plants (lemongrass) and citronella geraniums.

According to Eartheasy.com, citronella is the most common natural ingredient used in formulating insect repellents, because of its smell. It masks other attractants to mosquitoes, making them harder to find you.

Citronella is used in scented candles and torches, and gardening centers usually sell them in small pots.  Citronella is a perennial clumping grass which grows to a height of 5 to 6 feet and is considered to be low maintenance.

Parks adds nothing is foolproof but these plants are good weapons to use to fight off off pesky mosquitoes.

Tips to fight mosquitoes:

  • Don't let empty containers fill with standing water, which mosquitoes need to breed. Dump out any water in trays from underneath potted plants, empty open buckets, make sure your roof gutters drain and keep birdbaths fresh.
  • You can use "mosquito dunks" in larger puddles, stagnant ditches, small ponds or anywhere else water is too difficult to empty. These dunks are large tablets dropped in water, and they contain a bacteria that is completely harmless to humans, but deadly to mosquito larvae.
  • Put up special houses to attract bats to your yard. One bat can eat over a thousand mosquitoes in a night.

 

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