The mosquitos have been particularly bad this summer. Normally a pest early in the morning or at dusk, mosquitoes seem to be everywhere all the time.
Some people think they can ward off pesky skeeters by surrounding their seating area with plants, such as lavender, basil or lemon grass, and of course, citronella-scented geraniums. In reality, the oils may be repellents, but not the plants themselves. Of course, there are tiki torches, stakes, citronella candles, foggers and other devices to keep bugs at bay.
It pays to be serious when combating mosquitoes because they carry disease, including West Nile virus, which is bad for people and birds. Dogs can get heartworm disease from mosquitoes.
We all know it’s the female mosquitoes that bite, drawn to us by the carbon dioxide and other gases we emit. Some people are more susceptible than others. Mosquitoes can sometimes bite through clothing, but it doesn’t hurt to add the extra protection of long sleeves and pants, socks and a hat. There is also clothing you can buy that has been treated with repellents (and sunscreen).
The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine examined 11 studies that looked at the effectiveness of citronella oil as a mosquito repellent, in laboratory settings. The researchers found “citronella products are less effective than DEET (diethyltolumide) products in terms of duration of protection. Adding vanillin (an artificial vanilla) to citronella oil products could prolong the protection time.”
There are several natural and synthetic repellents on the market. DEET is commonly found in many spray-on repellents, but some people are concerned about applying the chemical to their skin or on their children. Some repellents are sprayed on clothing, rather than the body. There are citrus oil wipes, bracelets and pins laced insect repellents and clip-on devices. Which ever product you use, be sure to read and follow the label directions.
People with ponds, water gardens or areas where water pools know to use Mosquito Dunks, which contain a bacteria that is toxic only to mosquito larva. It’s always a good idea not to let water stand in plant saucers or other items. It’s a good practice to put fresh water in the birdbath every day or two to eliminate any mosquito larva that might be living there.
There are companies that will come and spray your landscape periodically to control mosquitoes. Several use organic or natural compounds, such as garlic oil. Ask the company rep what products are used and what potential harm might come to ornamental and edible plants, furniture and desirable wildlife, such as bees, butterflies and birds.