By the time spring has really set in, I’m beyond ready to break out the short-sleeves and capris. There’s only a matter of time before they arrive. First, I see the bites on my ankles. Then I start to hear the odd one buzzing in my ear. At last, the mosquitoes arrive en masse to rain on our warm-weather parade.
Over the years, I’ve made my peace with mosquitoes. They’ll never be my favourite insect, but I also recognize that they serve a purpose like every other creature on this Earth. Still, I really don’t want to make too many blood donations to them this year, so I’ve made a plan. My plan doesn’t involve chemicals, because that’s a bit like bringing a nuclear warhead to a knife fight. It involves sensible prevention, and growing plants that naturally repel mosquitoes. Best of all, my plan is easy—you can do it, too.
Before you start shopping for citronella torches, there’s a lot you can do to check if your yard is actually becoming a mosquito motel.
1. Deal with Standing Water
Check your property for standing water at least once per week. More often, if possible, so you can beat mosquitoes to the punch when they’re searching for a place to lay their eggs. Drain it wherever it collects—clean and empty your bird baths, saucers under your plant pots, et cetera.
This also includes shaking or stirring your rain barrels, which drowns any larvae in the barrel. The maturation process of a mosquito only takes 7 days from egg to adult, but it all happens on the surface (or meniscus) of the water. A good shake is all you need to interrupt that generation’s life cycle.
2. Try a Solar Fountain
These innovative little inventions turn a standard birdbath into a solar-powered water fountain. A lot of birds prefer the gently moving water, but mosquitoes can’t survive in it. Installing one of these adds a little water feature to the garden and prevents mosquitoes at the same time.
3. Preventative Pruning
When pruning plants back, most folks trim back just the unruly outer tips of the plant so the plant has a lot of leaf on the inside. By doing this, you might be inadvertently creating a mosquito hotel. Thin out the inside of the plant as well to allow more airflow. Not only is airflow beneficial for the plant’s development, it also takes away shelter for mosquitoes and other unpleasant insects. Insects, like people, don’t want to live in a drafty place.
Plants that Repel Mosquitos
Even if you do what you can to keep the mosquito population down in your yard, there will always be a few stragglers who decide to pay your yard a visit. They can fly, after all. These plants are known to have compounds that mosquitoes don’t like, which may convince them to pass you by.
- Cranesbill (perennial geranium)
- Lemon balm
If you’re a fan of easy solutions, we carry an awesome product called the Mosquito Planter at Royal City Nursery. It’s made by Freeman Herbs and contains a blend of citronella, catnip, lemon thyme, lemongrass, and lemon balm. It’s a great solution because the plants are so fragrant and effective, and many of them can be used for other purposes as well.
You’ll notice a lot of these plants are edible herbs. Lavender contains a hormone that mosquitoes hate, but it’s a delightful addition to salads and baking as well. Rosemary is used as a mosquito repellent in the Botanical Gardens in New York City, and it’s also effective for cabbage moths and carrot borers. There are a lot of people who don’t know how much multi-tasking these herbs do, so it’s a great idea to plant them in the areas you frequent on your property. Some folks tuck them in the back corners of their garden, but you’ll get so much more benefit from your edibles when you bring them in close to your doorstep.
Facts & Myths About Mosquitoes
The ongoing war on mosquitoes has bred a lot of misinformation around them, so let’s clear a few things up.
MYTH – Planting Cedar Attracts Mosquitoes
The truth is, anything that grows in moist conditions and has a fragrance will attract mosquitoes! Cedars, in particular, are no more attractive to mosquitoes than any other plant that grows in damp conditions.
FACT – Mosquitoes are Important Pollinators
We don’t like to think about it, but it’s true. Mosquitoes, like bees and butterflies, are important to the natural life cycle of our ecosystem. Especially now that we’ve noticed a decrease in pollinator populations, it’s more important than ever that we avoid using chemical fogging and other destructive means to get rid of them.
FACT – Mosquitoes are a Fact of Life
We can do what we can to avoid bites, but at the end of the day, we share the world with mosquitoes. It’s important to me that people don’t refrain from getting outdoors and enjoying the world because the mosquitoes are out. Kids, especially, should be allowed to play outside, even if they get a few bites. It’s good for their immune systems and makes them smarter.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever jump for joy when we see a mosquito, we can learn to live with them peacefully. We can keep them at an arm’s length, and still do our part to preserve the natural balance of our world. Believe it or not, we really would miss them if they disappeared.