Growing Prosper

Natural Mosquito Repellents

I am generally not a big fan of chemical products that harm our environment and avoid using toxic chemical insect repellents whenever possible. However, my profession requires me to be outside around client’s residences and my solution has been to wear what I called my ‘DEET sheet’…an old cotton sheet that had been sprayed with S.C. Johnson’s Off! Deep Woods formula. While this was highly effective, it wasn’t practical for use around kids and some clients, so I did some research into safer, natural mosquito repellents. I learned that many so-called natural mosquito repellents don’t repel mosquitoes, 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.

Mosquito Attractants
Use this list of items and activities that attract mosquitoes as a list of things to avoid or that can be used as bait to lure mosquitoes away from you.
• 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.
Natural Repellents
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
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.

Question: Jimmie, my Hydrangea plant seems healthy but has only put out one bloom in the last 2 years? Do I need a second plant to make it flower?? Thank you for your time, Amy, C in Prosper.

Answer: Hi Amy! You do not need a second plant to make a Hydrangea flower. However, 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. Until next time…Happy Gardening!!

Question: Jimmie, I have a Bald cypress tree that I absolutely love! It reminds me of my childhood days growing up at my parents’ house near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I had the builder install those trees rather than what everyone else in my neighborhood has for that reason. I have no idea why they seem to struggle so much! They always seem dry, they lose all their leaves before all the other trees do and they have not grown much. Do these trees not do well here? Should I have been like everyone else and just settled for whatever it is the builder put in around the area? I really want to be a good tree parent!!
Marcia W. in Prosper

Answer: Hi Marcia! The Bald Cypress tree is for sure a species of Beauty! I understand those childhood memories that instantly make you smile! However, there is a reason they do so well where your parents’ house is. Bald Cypress trees require TONS of water!! I can almost bet you guys lived near a water source where the trees were growing! Here in Texas, you see them only really doing well at the edges of lakes, ponds etc. They absolutely love wet feet!! If they are planted in your front yard in a regular neighborhood, you will have trouble getting enough water to them year-round without drowning your grass. Again, I love the tree, but only in its correct habitat. You will probably be better off long term with a more native tree selection like an Oak or Elm variety. Feel free to contact me if you need more specific suggestions.

Happy Gardening!
Jimmie

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Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at http://www.absolutelybushedlandscaping.com or jimmie@absolutelybushed.com
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 area.

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