We are excited that spring is finally here after a long and cold winter. But with spring & summer comes those annoying mosquitos and other bugs. I have been doing some reading about natural bug repellants, with four kids of my own I don’t like having to spray everyone down with chemicals every day before going outside.
I was able to find some exciting news about two plants we already grow at the farm – Catnip and Lemon Balm.
From ScienceDaily.com, “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.” I also read that some farmers & scientists “made pellets of catnip oil, soy, and paraffin wax, and spread them in a cattle feedlot. Within minutes, the pellets shooed the flies away, with the repellent action lasting for about three hours. Pellets without catnip oil, in contrast, had no effect.”
It is suggested to crush the leaves in your hands and rub the oils on your skin to use an insect repellant. Of course, you would need to test a small area of your skin first to ensure you wouldn’t have an allergic reaction. And if you have cats, you’d better be prepared for the magnet effect catnip has!
A second plant that has also shown to be a good insect repellant is lemon balm. I just love the lemony scent, that might be a bit more palatable to rub on my arms while I’m working outside. Some forms of lemon balm are high in a chemical compound called citronellal, very similar to the well known citronella. This could also be crushed and rubbed onto exposed skin.
Other plants that have known mosquito repelling qualities are marigolds, basil- especially lemon basil and cinnamon basil, lavender, and Citronella grass. If you have space around your deck or patio, you might consider planting some of these herbs close by. The catnip and lemon balm are both members of the mint family and therefore will spread prolifically and come back year after year. They also both get to be quite large in one year, but can be easily cut back. Especially if you are using some as a “bug spray.” If you didn’t want to chance having your garden overtaken by these herbs, leave some in a pot near your favorite outdoor seating area. That way it would be convenient to move around with you. And if it does die over the winter, don’t worry you can come back to us for more. We do have both catnip and lemon balm in the ground and it is very happily spreading all over the bank where I originally planted it.