It is June which means it’s time to go outside and have fun (safely this year)! You may be celebrating your graduate, your father, or just the end of the longest winter/spring in history! No matter what the reason, you have earned the right to enjoy time outside, and the last thing you deserve is some pesky bugs nipping at you. If you would rather avoid showering yourself and your loved ones with chemicals, here are some alternatives that will reduce the number of mosquitoes in attendance at your celebration.
First things first, everyone knows about “citronella.” But what many people call citronella plant is not what produces citronella oil. Citronella plant is actually just a scented geranium that smells similar to citronella. Citronella oil comes from lemongrass (cymbopogon), a tender perennial grass. Simply planting either one of these will do nothing to keep mosquitoes away though. In order to repel a mosquito you need to break or crush the leaves of the plant to release the smell or oil. Ideally you should rub it on yourself so that the little buggers steer clear of you.
LEMON BALM, CATNIP, PEPPERMINT, AND SPEARMINT
All these members of the mint (lamiaceae) family give off a scent that is unpleasant to mosquitoes. Studies have offered mixed reviews on their effectiveness, but many people insist that these plants keep mosquitoes away. Additionally, they smell good to people and can be used in drinks and in other medicinal ways. Like citronella, these plants are more likely to work when the smell is physically released. We must caution that the best way to plant lemon balm and any member of the mint family is in a container, unless your plan is to have it take over your yard!
LAVENDER, SAGE, ROSEMARY, AND THYME (AND BASIL!)
Though it is not exactly how the song goes, all these herbs have wonderful smells that mosquitoes do not want to smell. Plant these near your outdoor kitchen or patio and incorporate them in your barbecued meal. (Or just throw some rosemary on the grill or in the fire pit so the smell travels). Another idea is to choose a creeping variety to plant between stepping stones so the scent is released as you step.
LANTANA AND MARIGOLDS
If you are looking for more decorative plants to keep bugs away, these scented beauties will do the trick. Plant them around your outdoor space for color, attracting butterflies, and discouraging pests from visiting.
Growing garlic and/or eating garlic will keep the mosquitoes away from you. (It may keep everyone away from you if you eat too much though.)
ELIMINATE STANDING WATER
We have had a mild winter and a wet spring which means the mosquito population is thriving right now. If you have objects in your yard that collect water, remove them or fill them with something (maybe soil and plants?!?). Keep an eye on where water puddles when it rains and fill in low spots to reduce the number of places where bugs can reproduce.
ATTRACT PURPLE MARTINS
Install some purple martin birdhouses in your yard and create an inviting space for them. Once they move in, they will keep the mosquito, fly, and beetle population low in your area.
DRYER SHEETS AND COFFEE GROUNDS
These may not be ideal long-term ideas, but if you’re hosting a gathering, grab some dryer sheets and hide them in nearby bushes, under tablecloths, or anywhere around your entertaining space so the mosquitoes can smell that they are not invited. Place your morning coffee grounds around the perimeter of the space or in a bowl nearby. You can also put coffee grounds in any standing water that you cannot eliminate and it will kill the mosquito larvae.
CITRONELLA CANDLES OR TORCHES
Candles or tiki torches made with citronella oil can add ambience to your party and keep the mosquitoes away. It is best to keep these on the perimeter of the gathering space, both because of the fire hazard and also because some people may be sensitive to these strong smells.
FANS AND BUBBLE MACHINES
Personally, these are my favorite options for repelling mosquitoes! Those buggers are actually weak, and they don’t fly well in a breeze, so they don’t stand a chance against a fan. Additionally, the fan will dilute and spread out the carbon dioxide people exhale, which is the main chemical mosquitoes are attracted to. A bubble machine has a fan as well as the added benefit of soap smell which is a mosquito deterrent. Your guests will appreciate a fan on a warm summer evening, and who doesn’t love bubbles?
Mosquitoes certainly do not care about social distancing and they are bound to get too close if you don’t take some precautions. So remember, the next time you want to have a fancy, bug-free get-together and you want to impress your guests, throw some leaves in the drinks, rub yourselves down with lemongrass, turn the bubble machine up to eleven, get a fire full of wet herbs cranking out a thick, heavy smokescreen, scatter some coffee grounds around the patio, and don’t forget, it’s not a party until the bushes are stuffed with dryer sheets. Ahh, summer 2020! (Make the drinks strong, because anything is possible!) But seriously, we hope these tips will make this summer more enjoyable for you. We have most of these plants available now, so place an order to get the party started. Wishing you a beautifully sunny, happy season!