Grow Safe, Natural Mosquito Repellents

These natural mosquito repellents, such as mosquito-repellent plants and homemade mosquito traps, will help you have a less buggy summer.

| June/July 2012

Natural Mosquito Repellents

Your outdoor spaces will be clear of mosquitoes if you plant one or more of these natural mosquito-repellent plants.


Summertime, and the living is ... too mosquitoey and itchy? It’s a common complaint. And mosquitoes are not only a nuisance — they can also spread West Nile virus.

Wearing loose, light-colored pants and long-sleeved cotton shirts is helpful in fending off mosquitoes. On particularly muggy and buggy days, you can wear a head net, though sometimes that’s more than one can bear.

For many people, the solution is to reach for a DEET-based repellent before venturing outdoors. DEET has been around for more than 50 years, and the Environmental Protection Agency has assured us this chemical is safe if “used as directed.” DEET has been the standard against which all other repellents are measured — but is it really safe?

A 2001 review of 17 cases of suspected DEET toxicity in children concluded that “Repellents containing DEET are not safe when applied to children’s skin and should be avoided in children. Additionally, since the potential toxicity of DEET is high, less toxic preparations should be substituted for DEET-containing repellents, whenever possible.” In 2009, a French study reported that “Excessive doses of DEET could be toxic to humans and could cause severe seizures and lethality when combined with other active ingredients, such as pesticides.” The French researchers (read their full report at BMC Biology) studied DEET’s effects on insect, mouse and human proteins and showed that the chemical disrupted the action of acetylcholinesterase, a key enzyme in the central nervous system of insects and mammals — including humans.

The thought of slathering on a neurotoxin scares many of us, so the editors at MOTHER EARTH NEWS and I explored the research on natural mosquito repellents (there is a ton of it!) and put together this report on natural alternatives to DEET. To make our list of effective, nontoxic options, a natural mosquito repellent had to meet two requirements:

1) The material(s) involved needs to be “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS), and be nonhazardous to people, pets and other non-mosquito living beings.

7/28/2014 6:42:56 PM

Other mosquito repellant tips: Cutting long grasses, most definitely and adding plants such as lemon balm, clary sage and red thyme may help. Landscaping Ideas Gallery:

7/22/2014 4:53:43 PM

I am asking jvandix to reread the instructions for the mosquito trap. "Drill or punch several 1/16 inch holes in the container lid (the small holes will let mosquitoes in while excluding beneficial insects such as bees)." Mother Earth News is concerned about bees.

7/12/2014 9:18:13 AM

Mosquito control opens a wide range of techniques. We all know the basics. I had the same problem a few years ago. Mosquitos living, hatching and thriving in wet grass. It was mowed short, good drainage, nothing worked. All approaches were considered. The solution was so simple, cheap, effective, good for grass and lasted a few years. I called the farm supply to have LIME applied 2 tons / acre. The mosquito problem was gone. I had the same problem at home in the suburbs, went to the local hardware and bought 40# bags of LIME, applied it and had the same positive results.

7/11/2014 1:01:16 PM

I am concerned that Mother Earth News would propose a "mosquito trap" that so blatantly would draw bees and kill them. I am very disappointed that you are promoting this as a solution for mosquitos when our bees are in such dire straits as it is.

10/25/2013 7:09:21 PM

I would love to know what I can plant here in Florida that is dog safe and mosquito repellant I just tore up a big area in my backyard and I just got done Mulching it and I put newspaper down to kill of the weeds so they do not come back up through it and I need some ideas what I can plant that flowers and is safe around my 2 Jack Russells... Thanks Deb in Sarasota Fl

8/21/2013 2:57:24 PM

Like Christine I need a plant that repels mosquitos that will flourish in the shade. Unfortunately I don't live in the mountains like her but I do have a great deal of natural area in my yard and a forest of trees. Due to the higher than normal rainfall we have had this season and the unusually mild winters the last few years we are all having a huge mosquito problem in my area. All of the plants that were suggested in the article although great were all for either partial sun or full sun. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The last thing I want to resort to is pest control companies for relief but we have got to get this problem under control. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

7/17/2013 6:05:02 AM

7/17/13 Living in the mountains with total tree coverage, I need a plant that repels mosquitos that will flourish in the shade.   

6/19/2013 2:36:41 PM

I have a great method for trapping Mosquitos, you cut the top off a 2 liter soda bottle and stick it into the base upside down secure the end with tape. Next you need a vigorous ferment inside the container, I'm a home brewer so I use the yeast sludge from the bottom of my fermenter mixed with fresh water with sugar added, if you're not a brewer just use baking yeast. This trap draws the Mosquitos to the carbon dioxide and when they enter the bottle they get trapped and drown in the liquid. My family has used this for years and it really reduces the mosquito population around our house. This trap also works great for wasps if you change the bait to apple juice or soda.

5/29/2013 11:33:14 PM

It would be really nice to have the actual references at the back of the article. Everybody has some theoretical way to repell mossies, fleas, and such, but I have yet to meet anyone that can provide studies to support their contentions. 


I saw in a few places that the author mentioned in passing that reserch had been done or even which journal the studies were supposedly published, but skeptics such as myself always like to go to the actual source even if only to read the abstract.  ;)

Steve Klemish
3/16/2013 4:34:26 AM

What about Lantana? (Lantana camara L.) Check out the study from 2011: PLoS One. 2011; 6(10): e25927. Several mosquito-repellent plants were considered for installation as "house screens," but lantana was ultimately selected because of its "size and vigor, year round growth, and known repellency towards the African malaria vector Anopheles gambiae s.s."

earth mama
8/28/2012 3:51:29 AM

And lets please remember that the "zap lights", those blue lights people turn on at night that zap bugs, do not attract mosquitoes!! Mosquitoes are not attracted to light, so please dont kill off the beneficial insects that ARE attracted to light by using one of these!

7/13/2012 5:40:14 PM

I made a tincture using scented geranium (grows like crazy in my So Calif backyard), basil, and cinnamon (both from the pantry), in a vodka base. Seems to be working so far. Repels mosquitoes, gnats, and flies. Let the mixture sit for 2 weeks, strain it and put it in a little spray bottle. I spray it on my skin, or even on the table when I'm eating fruit.

Jennifer Lawver
7/11/2012 10:44:51 PM

Lemon Grass essential oil is what I've been using as mosquito repellent for years now. Dragonflies love lemon grass, and dragonflies eat mosquitoes, so growing some lemon grass near the patio and applying the oil to skin seems to work quite well.

Michele Mullins
7/2/2012 11:20:11 PM

I made the mosquito traps, and upped the size of the holes to 5/64 but I don't see any mosquitos on them, some gnats but that's all.

Paul Mathieu
6/26/2012 10:50:52 AM

Is the 1/16 inch diameter for the holes in the top of the mosquito trap accurate? I doubt that the mosquitos around here (New Hampshire) could get through such a small hole.

Elm Whitewillow
6/25/2012 10:23:04 PM

very interesting. Can't wait to plant these in my garden!

Peter Gallo
6/20/2012 12:35:12 PM

Can't wait to try out these repellents and traps. Our little farm located next to the Rio Grande is under attack and my wife, who spends the most time out in the garden has sensitive skin.

Christy McElligott
6/18/2012 8:35:38 PM

I think lemon balm works well. I take a few leaves and rub them on my skin. Strong lemon scent, but I like it.

Jani Hall
6/3/2012 3:54:29 AM

Mix 1Tbsp vanilla extract and 1 cup of water in a spray bottle and spray on your skin. It repels mosquitoes, black flies and ticks. It is not scientifically proven but it works great for us and it smells good and no chemicals.

5/23/2012 5:13:24 PM

And what abou neem oil?

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