By Jimmie Gibson Jr. | Special to the Prosper Times-
I am generally not a big fan of chemical products that harm our environment and avoid using toxic chemical insect repellents, yet the mosquitoes seem to find me tastier than ever. My profession, however, requires me to be outside around clients’ residences and my solution is to wear what I call my ‘DEET sheet’, which is an old cotton sheet that had been sprayed with S.C. Johnson’s Off — Deep Woods formula. While this is highly effective, it isn’t practical for use around kids and some clients, so I did research into safer, natural mosquito repellents. I learned that many so-called natural mosquito repellents don’t repel mosquitoes (e.g., ultrasonic electronic devices), but some are backed by reputable research and really do work.
Mosquitoes have complex methods of detecting hosts and different types of mosquitoes react to different stimuli. Most mosquitoes are active at dawn and dusk, but there are also mosquitoes that seek hosts during the day. You can avoid being bitten by making sure you aren’t attracting mosquitoes, using attractants to lure mosquitoes elsewhere, using repellent and avoiding actions that diminish the effectiveness of the repellent.
- Dark Clothing: Many mosquitoes use vision to locate hosts from a distance. Dark clothes and foliage are initial attractants.
- Carbon Dioxide: You give off more carbon dioxide when you are hot or have been exercising. A burning candle or other fire is another source of carbon dioxide.
- Lactic Acid: You release more lactic acid when you have been exercising or after eating certain foods (e.g., salty foods, high-potassium foods).
- Floral or Fruity Fragrances: In addition to perfumes, hair products, and scented sunscreens, watch for the subtle floral fragrance from fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
- Skin Temperature: The exact temperature depends on the type of mosquito. Many mosquitoes are attracted to the slightly cooler temperatures of the extremities.
- Moisture: Mosquitoes are attracted by perspiration because of the chemicals it contains and also because it increases the humidity around your body. Even small amounts of water (e.g., moist plants or mud puddles) will draw mosquitoes. Standing water also allows mosquitoes to reproduce.
These natural products will effectively repel mosquitoes, but they require more frequent reapplication (at least every 2 hours) and higher concentrations than DEET. Because of the differences between types of mosquitoes, products that contain multiple repellents tend to be more effective than those containing a single ingredient. As you can see, natural repellents tend to be volatile plant oils.
- Citronella Oil
- Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
- Cinnamon Oil
- Castor Oil
- Rosemary Oil
- Lemongrass Oil
- Cedar Oil
- Peppermint Oil
- Clove Oil
- Geranium Oil
- Possibly Oils from Verbena, Pennyroyal, Lavender, Pine, Cajeput, Basil, Thyme, Allspice, Soybean, and Garlic
Another plant-derived substance, pyrethrum, is an insecticide. Pyrethrum comes from the flowers of the daisy Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium.
Things that Lower Repellent Effectiveness
- Many Sunscreens
- Dilution from Rain, Perspiration, or Swimming
- Absorption into the Skin
- Evaporation from Wind or High Temperatures
Keep in mind that ‘natural’ does not automatically imply ‘safe’. Many people are sensitive to plant oils. Some natural insect repellents are actually toxic. Therefore, although natural repellents provide an alternative to synthetic chemicals, please remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using these products.
Your back yard favorite spot…
Consider some container plantings around that spot that will repel Mosquitoes. All those oils in natural products come from these plants you can buy locally and strategically place around your patio, outdoor living area, or anywhere you enjoy time with family and friends! Plants will include but are not limited to Rosemary, Horsemint, Marigold, Lemon Balm, Citronella, Ageratum, Catnip, Basil, Lemon Thyme and Lavender!
Question: Jimmie, My Hydrangea plant seems healthy but has only put out one bloom in the last two years. Do I need a second plant to make it flower?? Thank you for your time, Samantha, L. in Prosper.
Answer: Hi Samantha, you do not need a second plant to make a Hydrangea flower. You need ACID!! Hydrangeas are an acidic type plant that need to be fed acid and need very good drainage, they hate “Wet Feet.” After blooming you can cut it back. This fall after it defoliates add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to one gallon of water or I cup of Vinegar to a gallon of water and pour around the base of the plant. Repeat this next spring when it’s starting to leaf out. That generally works for us! Also, if you happen to be a coffee drinker you can pour the old grounds around the base of the plant. Any natural form of acid is a great food for those types of plants. Until next time…Happy Gardening!!
Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at http://www.absolutelybushedlandscaping.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmie is a Prosper resident and the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company, an award winning, family and veteran owned and operated business created in 1980 to provide the highest quality custom Outdoor Renovation available to homeowners in the Dallas Ft. Worth metroplex.