Along with the cookouts, volleyball games, hiking, camping and other glories of summer come mosquitoes and ticks. But pesticides or products containing DEET, are associated with a variety of health problems ranging from dizziness to seizures with children being particularly susceptible. There are several safer and effective alternatives.
A garlic spray in your yard provides excellent control. Garlic has natural sulfur which repels insects, including mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and even black flies, yet does not harm humans, pets, bees, butterflies or plants. Mosquitoes are soft-bodied insects and garlic juice is toxic to them in increased concentrations. Mosquitoes are also extremely odor sensitive and garlic can repel them for up to a month or more, as long as they can still detect an odor. Farmers have been using garlic for generations. Organic based landscaping or pest control companies often offer a garlic spray or you can buy a product called Garlic Barrier and do it yourself.
For small areas like patios or decks, certain aromatic plants keep mosquitoes away. Marigolds planted with pungent herbs like catnip (nearly 10 times more effective than DEET) and rosemary are effective and attractive in containers. I planted a “mosquito plant”, really a wild scented geranium, which grows fast and seems to work. It was specifically grown to keep pests away. Citronella candles can be helpful, as well as all natural insect repellent incense sticks.
Two important and effective cultural practices are: 1) Don’t keep standing or stagnate water around where mosquitoes can breed and 2) consider putting up a bat house. Mosquitoes are the primary food source for bats and some species eat up to 1000 of them an hour!
For personal repellents sprayed directly onto your skin, soybean-oil-based products have been shown to provide protection for a period of time similar to a product with a low concentration of DEET (4.75%). Other ingredients usually include pure plant extracts like citronella, cedarwood, eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass and peppermint, which are natural, effective and have a nice aroma. Buzz Away and Bite Blocker are good brands that are potent and long-lasting. You can find them at Whole Foods. In areas heavily infested with deer tick, a DEET product may be needed. Just spray directly onto your clothes, not your skin! For more information on deer ticks, click here.
Ticks and mosquitos don’t have to ruin your summer!