Natural Mosquito Control in Gardens
Summertime means mosquito time! Here are some tips on how to mitigate the mosquito population in your gardens and yards.
First, some fun (or maybe not so fun) facts about mosquitoes:
Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite humans? Male mosquitoes get all their meals from plants.
Reaching speeds of up to 1 to 1.5 miles per hour, they are one of the slowest flying insects around, despite their small body weight.
Mosquitoes find us because they can sense the CO2 that we breathe out.
Mosquitoes bite us, but they don't have teeth - they use their proboscis, a mouthpiece that looks like straw.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists four widely used chemicals as being proven effective for repelling mosquitoes: DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (or its synthetic version, called PMD) and IR3535. Read their guide for children under 3 years old.
Tips for Mosquito Control:
Get rid of stagnant water! Mosquitoes lay eggs and breed in still, stagnant water. Even small pools of water, like a bottle cap full of water, can attract them. Every 2-3 days, tip over any upside-down plant pots, shake out wet tarps, and any other surfaces where water can pool. This can be a fun activity for kids to do! Mosquitoes won't fly more than 100-200 feet from a water source, so check the area surrounding your garden as well.
Keep your garden neat. Overgrown gardens and crowded garden beds attract mosquitoes. It is best to keep open, clear spaces in your garden where possible.
Buy mosquito dunks. They target only mosquitoes, fungus gnats and some other biting flies. They are not harmful to other wildlife (and are safe for pollinators!). Although mosquito dunks do technically contain a pesticide, it is a natural soil bacterium with a specific target. They are also relatively affordable.
Encourage natural mosquito predators. Dragonflies, damselflies, bats, spiders, and frogs are natural mosquito predators. Pollinator plants and bat houses may help attract these natural predators. Leave your spiderwebs intact!
Garden during the day, not at dusk. Mosquitoes are most active at dusk, and on cloudy days. Plan accordingly.
Activate the oils in mosquito-repellent plants. Simply growing a repellent plant in your garden won’t repel mosquitoes. If you go outside, you can start off by rubbing those plant leaves to activate the oils. Although the scientific data of the effectiveness of these plants varies, here is a list of plants that are thought to have mosquito-repellent oils:
citronella grass, lavender, basil, catmint, rosemary, garlic, bee balm, cadaga trees, cedars, clove, floss flower, lemon scented geraniums, lemon balm, lemongrass, lemon verbena, lemon eucalyptus, lemon thyme, Mexican marigold, nodding onion, pineapple weed, wormwood, pitcher plant, mint, snowbrush, sweet fern, tansy, stone root, tea tree, wild bergamot, and vanilla leaf.
*TIP: do not plant citrosa geranium. It is commonly called the “mosquito plant” because it attracts so many mosquitoes!
Natural methods won’t get rid of 100% of your mosquitoes, but neither will harsh chemicals. It’s best to stay away from toxic chemical treatments for mosquitoes in your garden, especially since it’s not safe to ingest the chemicals or have kids or pets around them. Spraying insecticides to kill mosquitoes could impact other wildlife such as declining bee species and monarch butterflies.
It is best to mitigate the mosquito population using natural methods, and keep a good, healthy balance of nature in your garden. Start a conversation of beneficial bugs and pest bugs. For example, you may consider spiders to be a pest in your house, but in a garden, they can help keep a healthy bug balance!
BUG BITE TIP: When you do get bug bites, you can try putting mint toothpaste on your bug bites for temporary relief. The menthol acts as a cooling agent, and can distract your mind from the urge to scratch. Ice or a cool compress can also help you keep from itching.