With summer approaching, mosquitos will be out in full force in the Austin and San Antonio area. There are many ways to keep the mosquitos away, but unlike the temporary bug spray and citronella candles, consider planting mosquito repelling plants in your yard.
General Mosquito Characteristics
Mosquitoes rely on their sense of smell to find their prey. Carbon dioxide and lactic acid are the two scents that mosquitos seek out. Carbon dioxide helps mosquitos find prey that uses the cell respiration process (breathing), and the lactic acid (a byproduct of muscle movement) scent helps mosquitos to find blood sources.
How to Deter Mosquitos
Because mosquitoes rely on scent to find prey, the solution to repelling mosquitos is to block or confuse their sense of smell. All plants that are used to repel mosquitos are fragrant and emit a scent that will overpower the smell of carbon dioxide and lactic acid.
You may have used a Citronella candle or incense stick to repel mosquitos in your yard, but planting a Cymbopogon plant will also do the trick. Cymbopogon is the species of plant that is commonly referred to as lemongrass and is used in the production of citronella goods.
The essential oils of a lemongrass plant are one of the main chemicals in a citronella candle. Lemongrass oil is extremely pungent, and it is also used in the culinary and medical industry for its unique taste and health qualities.
You can find a variety of lemongrass plants at your local nursery. Most lemongrass for industrial use is produced in China and Cambodia, but there are many lemongrass species that can live in the Austin and San Antonio climate.
Basil is another fragrant plant that can be used in your backyard to repel mosquitos and other pests. Basil leaf smells very pungent when crushed up, making it a popular herb for cooking which in turn makes it a good choice for mosquito repellant.
Basil is common to find in garden center and is very resilient allowing it to be grown in a wide array of climates. Basil will not grow to be too large so it can make a great planter box or potted plant.
Catnip, or catmint, is part of the larger mint family but has a more pungent smell than the common mint leaf. An American Chemical Society study published in 2001 found that catnip contains a unique chemical compound that is ten times as effective at repelling mosquitos than the insect repellant chemical DEET.
Catnip can grow wild in many parts of the United States, and once rooted in the ground, is relatively easy to maintain. Many local nurseries will carry catnip, but it is not a commonly stocked herb.
Lavender is a great mosquito repelling plant because the scent is desirable to humans while repulsive to bugs. Lavender essential oils are extremely pungent and can be used as a topical medicine.
For centuries, lavender has been used to keep pests away from food shortages, linens, and away from humans. The oils are so pungent they can also be used to repel fleas on your pets and keep house flies away.
Lavender comes in a wide variety of species, but the most pungent varieties are Lavandin, English and Latifolia lavender. These species are fairly easy to grow, require little watering and grow to take up a large footprint. Lavender is fairly standard at a local garden center, but check nurseries to find a wider array of species.
Rosemary’s essential oils are easy to extract and seep out of the plant naturally, making it an excellent choice to repel mosquitos. It is a traditional herb for cooking and only requires a small amount to carry a strong taste.
Rosemary grows fairly easily in dry climates and grows all year long. Garden centers will sell rosemary, and it survives well in a pot where you can limit the amount of watering it gets.