How To Naturally Repel Mosquitoes From An Outdoor Living Space
Mosquitoes are in full force this Summer! The rainy and cool weather has accelerated the mosquito population to one of the highest levels we have ever experienced. It is aggravating enough to have them buzzing in your ear and causing a bothersome skin irritation, but we also must not forget about the threat of West Nile Virus. West Nile Virus is popping up in suburbs all over the Chicago-land area. The battle continues and all we want to do as homeowners is enjoy our beautiful yards and make the most of our short and not so cooperative Summer weather.
How can we repel mosquitoes from our outdoor living spaces? Well today we have access to sprays, wrist bands, air emitters, and much more. What do most of these have in common? Chemicals. Do we really know the long term effect of these potentially harmful chemicals on our bodies? Not to mention, they can be harmful to other insects and wildlife. We can help repel mosquitoes using several property management techniques. These techniques include water management, maintenance of lawn and landscape, using other wildlife, and incorporating specific mosquito repelling plants in your landscape.
First of all, water management is important when it comes to managing a mosquito population on a property. Low areas holding stagnant water is a breeding ground for these pesky insects. Make sure the property has a correct grade that allows water to freely move away from the home and outdoor entertainment spaces. This can be done using swales and underground drainage systems. The water must be dispersed in a way to prevent over load or over-saturation. Don’t allow your underground drainage system to spit all water out in one small area. Stagger the end points and in some situations use perforated pipe near the end point. Use water loving plants to help soak up the water runoff in problem areas. Water wigglers are also great for bird baths and other shallow water features with standing water.
Second, maintenance of lawn and landscape are important. With the moist weather, mosquitoes are hiding out in shrubs, trees, and lawns. Keep your lawn maintained by regularly mowing (if you can find time to mow between the rain storms). Don’t allow shrubs to become over grown especially near outdoor spaces. Keeping up with consistent trimming throughout the year will help.
Third, many communities around the Chicago area are putting up bat houses. Just as they do for birds, these homes encourage a greater bat population to the area. Bats are excellent at picking off mosquitoes in the evening hours when they are at their worst.
Finally, incorporate mosquito repelling plants in the landscape. These plants should be planted specifically near outdoor entertainment spaces. Common plants for the Midwest area include Catmint, Marigolds, Lavender, Peppermint, Citronella, Beebalm, and Ageratum to name a few. Catmint is a popular and easy perennial to grow in our climate. It has a minty smell, therefore is related to mint, but will repel mosquitoes if you are in close proximity to the plant. The foliage can also be crushed and rubbed on skin as a repellent as well. Marigolds, well known for keeping rabbits and other critters from a vegetable garden will also repel mosquitoes. The annual gives off a distinct smell that keeps mosquitoes at bay. Lavender, a marginally hardy perennial for our climate, will keep several insects away from an outdoor living space when planted in close proximity. With the right variety and a little care, this perennial can be successful in this zone. Peppermint, grown as an herb, can be rubbed on skin to prevent biting insects. Beware, that mint can be invasive so it will do best in a contained location. Citronella, grown as an annual, is used in candles and other repellents sold in today’s market. These plants can get rather large and have a strong lemony scent. Beebalm is a well-known perennial and an even better option than Citronella. Beebalm is great for shade, produces a flower, and gives off a scent that masks our humanly smells from the mosquitoes. Ageratum, a perennial, gives off a scent that keeps mosquitoes away and is commonly used in mosquito repellents today. Be advised that this perennial should not be applied on skin.
Try these tips at home and begin to enjoy your yard again. Mosquito repellents and sprays are still important and helpful, but if it can be limited from everyday use to just when truly needed, our environment and health will benefit.