Natural Mosquito Repellents and Myths

What works and what doesn’t when it comes to those pesky flying insects and natural mosquito repellent and mosquito deterrents? It’s not just a matter of annoyance, but also health. With news flying around about the mosquito-borne “Zika” Virus , the topic does merit attention.1)


Apart from the fact that they’re so annoying, these mini airborne hypodermics also transmit dengue fever, West Nile Virus, malaria, heartworms, etc. We can at least be thinking about what to do before mosquito season arrives, and those of you in warmer regions may already be contending with the problem. Fortunately, there are measures we can take that will minimize their presence.

Recommendations abound as to how to deal with mosquitoes. First, let’s do away with the popular recommendations which, according to scientific testing, are not as effective as advertised.

Are Bats Good for Controlling Mosquitoes?

Here are some mythbusters!

Myth #1  Bats consume a multitude of insects including mosquitoes, therefore you can combat mosquitoes by installing specially designed bat house(s).

Reality: True, bats are huge consumers of insects. All kinds of insects. However, studies have shown that when given the choice of insect to devour, mosquitoes are at the bottom of their menu–less than 1%.

Do Birds Help Control Mosquitoes?

Myth #2 Purple martins consume vast amounts of mosquitoes.

Reality: Like bats, purple martins prefer other fare. Only about 3% of their intake is mosquitoes, plus they eat dragonflies that DO enjoy mosquitoes in quantity.

So, bats (and purple martins) are good in general for natural insect control (thus good for the garden) but not specifically for mosquitoes.

Do Specific Plants Act as a Mosquito Repellent?

Myth #3 Certain plants, like the popular citronella-scented citrosa, are believed to repel mosquitoes automatically. Similar claims have been made about lemon grass, mints, and other herbaceous varieties having strong anti-mosquito properties.

Reality: While these plants contain certain essences that mosquitoes actually avoid, they have to be activated by crushing and to further the effect, rubbed on the skin.  Planting these around gathering areas where people can brush by and “activate” the repellent or grab a few leaves to rub on the skin can be effective.2)

Other mythical deterrents and exterminators include: dryer sheets (fabric softener), bug zappers, lemon joy dish soap and Listerine, and those “sonic” electronic devices. None produce the desired results.

The above information is referenced from

“Researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.”4)

catnip is 10 time more effective than DEET.

…But... planting it near your outdoor area, aka “fifth room”, won’t likely deter mosquitos. It’s the oil that repels them. However, we’re all for growing some nearby to see, and at the very least crushing a few leaves and rubbing that on exposed areas as a better, natural alternative to the sticky sprays, including the natural ones.

As for citronella candles and incense, they work best if you are in close proximity to the “fumes”, but even then the effects are marginal. 5) As far as concerns about the toxicity of the fumes, if they irritate you, stay away. Otherwise, the more natural sticks, such as those that also contain other mosquito repelling herbs like rosemary, thyme and/or lavender, (other natural herbal mosquito repellents), should be safe, but of course don’t use them if they bug you.

See page 2, to learn which natural mosquito remedies actually work.

References   [ + ]

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Coleman Alderson is author of the Mountain Whispers series and frequent blogger on "I see myself as an outlier, a free-market entrepreneur, an eclectic reader and devout learner, a devoted family guy, a plantsman, a home designer-builder-remodeler, a conscious environmentalist, and a friend to humanity." He holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. "But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And the beauty of gardening is that those lessons never end!"