Buzzing biting mosquitos have added to their repertoire of issues with the evolution of the Zika virus. While no cases have been reported in Georgia to date, health officials and landscape companies are upping the game when it comes to minimizing these pesky insects.
More and more pest-control firms offer to mosquito-proof patios, decks and back yards, a temporary and sometimes-costly process. As a homeowner, there are some things you can do on your own to reduce the presence of mosquitos so that you can enjoy your back yard in the early evenings.
The No. 1 way to keep mosquitos away is to eliminate standing water on your property. Perhaps you’ve got buckets by your garden, empty flowery pots, or even areas that puddle after a heavy rain that collect water that stagnates. Be vigilant about turning over containers that may hold water, because that’s where mosquitos lay their eggs.
For ponds and water features, use a mosquito “dunk,” a tablet that’s available at big box retailers, such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, and at garden stores including Pike Nurseries. They look like little beige/gray bagels and come in multi-packs that last about 30 days and treat about 100 square feet of water. The chemical in the dunks kills the tiny little squiggly eggs before they hatch.
Check out the three most popular plants that are known for repelling mosquitoes and add them to your landscape. All three are available at Pike Nurseries. Citrosa-scented geranium is a main source of citronella oil that’s used in many repellents. It is a true geranium that looks good planted in containers or flower beds. However, for it to work, the leaves should be crushed to release the citronella scent. You can rub the oil from the leaves on your skin.
Lemongrass is a lime-colored grass that’s also used in cooking, in tea and in lemonade. It contains citronella oil as well and can grow in well-drained soil and full sun. You may be familiar with lemongrass if you eat Thai food.
Lavender, a member of the mint family, is often used because of its calming aroma. One of my friends makes cream-filled lavender cupcakes, and garnishes them with a sprinkling of delicate dried lavender blossoms. They’re edible. The smell of lavender, which is pretty easy to grow, repels mosquitos and keeps bugs away.
Citronella candles and Tiki torches filled with citronella oil both repel mosquitos, although their range is fairly compact, typically a radius of about 15 to 20 feet.
Don’t keep slapping, scratching
With the variety of personal repellents on the market, there’s no reason to keep slapping and scratching. Different products affect people in varying ways. Some people swear by the pleasant-smelling Skin So Soft by Avon that’s available in lotion and individual wipes. REI sells a number of products, including a DEET-free organic brand called Repel. It’s made with lemon eucalyptus and also has a nice non-chemical smell.
Brands such as Off and Bug Off! have been around for years. Johnson & Johnson recently introduced a clear anti-mosquito baby lotion. For me, anything that’s safe enough for babies, especially lotions and sunscreens, is a safe choice.
If you’re bitten
The age-old remedy of rubbing alcohol or witch-hazel on mosquito bites works for some people, but not others. Try an antihistamine cream or gel applied to the bite, or use a bit of aloe lotion to soothe the bump. Cool damp green tea bags or a cool cloth can also help ease the itching.
The internet is filled with home-remedy suggestions, but here’s one that sounds reasonable: travel guru Johnny Jet has a recipe for all-natural mosquito repellant, 30 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil, 1 tsp. vanilla extract and 4 ounces of witch hazel. I haven’t tried it yet, but it surely sounds like it smells better than DEET or other repellents.