Mosquitoes find their blood meals by detecting carbon dioxide, lactic acid and body heat. They are also attracted to darker colors. They find their other food, nectar, using similar methods. Since some things attract mosquitoes, it isn’t too surprising that other things repel them. In fact, there are several plants that do a great job of keeping mosquitoes away, at least from the plant itself and a foot or so around it.
Mosquito repelling plants are highly aromatic. Some have appealing scents, while others will repel people as well, so choose wisely! Extracts of these plants are used in various combinations to produce lotions, sprays and pesticides, including the product that Mosquito Squad uses in our Natural treatment.
Many mosquito repelling plants come from the mint family, including catmint or catnip, horsemint, lemon balm, bee balm and peppermint. All of these also have additonal uses, as well as fragrances that are appealing to people. Some of these plants have the added benefit of attracting bees and butterflies. In my garden, the bee balm, sage and agastache (hyssop) plants are always covered in bees.
Some of our favorite culinary herbs also have mosquito repelling qualities, including rosemary, basil, mint, sage, lavender, various thymes, and hyssop. Citronella, which has a very recognizable scent and is well known to repel mosquitoes, comes from the citronella plant, which is very closely related to lemon grass. Lemon grass also repels mosquitoes and grows well here in Texas, while the citronella plant is harder to find, grows bigger, and can have very sharp leaves. They can also be invasive and are cold sensitive. Strangely, the mosquito plant, or citronella geranium, shares the scent, but not the mosquito repelling property.
Other mosquito repelling plants include marigolds, artemsia, tansy, cedar, eucalyptus, ageratum, onions and garlic.
With all these plants available, you would think that there would be hardly a mosquito around any herb garden, much less anywhere else in your yard. However, while all of these plants do repel mosquitoes, most just keep the mosquito off the plant itself, and perhaps the few plants right around it. If you enjoy working in your garden, you may get some relief from mosquitoes by planting them around your other plants, and it is a great idea to put them in window boxes or around doors to discourage the mosquitoes from flying inside. Of course a screen is still more effective.
Rubbing these plants on your skin will also repel mosquitoes for a short time, but they are most effective if you extract the oils and use them that way.