After slapping away the 1,000th flying vampire to feast on us this summer, we got an itch to learn more about nontoxic mosquito repellents. Turns out the subject has long nettled the HOMEGROWN community.
Past suggestions for preventing bites from these bloodthirsty pests—or as we like to call them, needles with wings—have included:
• rubbing crushed lemon balm leaves onto arms and legs, according to Cynthia
• steeping catnip (pictured at right) in alcohol or a light oil before massaging into the skin—or, as with lemon balm, simply crushing a handful of leaves and rubbing them on vulnerable areas, as advocated by PepperReed
• lighting citronella candles and wafting smoke, as Emily does
• letting bats handle some of the legwork; learn how to build your own bat house with the
• applying rosemary oil to the skin and spritzing clothes and hair, courtesy of Cammy; there’s a similar recipe beginning on page 5 of this article from Mother Earth News.
FROM OTHER SOURCES
• The same article offers suggestions for a few other types of leaves to crush and apply topically (basil; lemon thyme, pictured below; lemongrass; and mountain mint—although avoid the latter if you’re pregnant), in addition to some common-sense tips for curbing the greater mosquito population. (That bucket of standing water in your backyard? Dump it.) Other ideas include turning a fan on any outdoor areayou’re planning on occupying (several portable models run onrechargeable batteries, alleviating the need for an outlet) and delegating some of the work to mosquitoes’ natural predators, such as dragonflies, ants, spiders, water striders (a.k.a. mosquito eaters), and frogs.
• A more recent story from Mother Earth News article debunks the myth of the so-called mosquito plant and recommends installing a few other varieties in your garden that might work better, including rose-scented monarda. (HOMEGROWN Facebook friend Dusty Canyon
recommends consulting this rundown of mosquito-repelling plants from Alderleaf Wilderness College.)
• Good Housekeeping’s The Daily Green offers a couple of recipes for homemade mosquito repellents
, including a soap to use before and after going outside, as well as tips for finding the right human- and pet-friendly concentrations of essential oils.
IF YOU DO GET BITTEN
Sometimes the enemy will thwart even your best efforts. If you
• Lifehacker recommends using Scotch tape or nail polish to take the itch out of a mosquito bite.
• To avoid swelling or itching, HOMEGROWN member Nicelle applies a swab of tea tree oil directly onto the bite as soon as possible. “By the next day, the bite is diffused to a mere speck,” she says. “No scar, no nothing.”
• Farmers’ Almanac offers a few ideas for topical salves, including a diluted mixture of tea tree oil and aloe vera gel, a fresh-cut onion, crushed parsley, and toothpaste.
RELATED: THE TICK
Speaking of things that bug us, we're looking for advice on another bloodsucker, the tick. Have ideas for how to check for, avoid, and remove these shiver-inducing critters? Post a comment below, then visit the Herb Lovers!
group for tips on how to grow your own mosquito-repelling basil and lemon thyme. Plus, find more DIY projects in the Make and Craft archive of HOMEGROWN 101s.
My neighbors had an all natural mosquito repellant that contained cedar scented essential oil... just bought myself some today, I will have plenty of chances to test it out soon!
Aliza: When you try out the cedar-scented mosquito repellent, let us know what it's called and how it works—and best wishes for a bite-free weekend!
One thing I've found to be pretty amazing when you do get bitten is a common "weed". It's called plantain (no, not the banana!). Pick a leaf, chew on it, and slap the soggy chewed-up leaf on a mosquito bite, bee sting, ouchie scratch, and it'll help out. After putting on a chewed up plantain leaf, the mosquito bite stops itching completely in less than 10 minutes (maybe even 5 minutes, i never actually counted) and never itches again. It's purdy awesome :) You can even eat the leaves like spinach, best to cook it lightly first.
Here's a marvy link about plantain :)
Lemon eucalyptus has the repellent power of DEET and has the benefit of being natural. In studies, the lemon eucalyptus oil actually repels mosquitoes BETTER than DEET, but over a shorter period of time. I've used the Repel version of this oil, which is really just ethanol (alcohol) and the essential oil, and it works really, really well even in the swamps of Central Florida.