By Malissa, Contributing Writer
Growing up in the country, warm weather meant mosquitoes, bites, and and endless supply of spray applied to us daily to prevent additional bites. Now that I am the Mama, I try to cut down on all the chemicals in my house, especially those that are applied topically.
My girls and I love to be outdoors in the summer and now that Baby Boy is here, we”re trying to spend more time outside at home to make life awhat arelittle easier. Our backyard, however, harbors lots of bugs — mosquitoes, ants, and gnats to name a few — that enjoy a good human snack.
When we first moved here, I still used sprays on myself but avoided using them on Miss Moo, instead opting for candles hung in jars. After Miss Roo was born, I began using coils and oils on cotton balls to repel the bugs when we were outside.
Now that we have a baby again, I want to find the safest solution for everyone as well as for our environment. I spent some time looking into plants to repel bugs, and here’s the 3 that I have come up with to use this year.
My first choice is basil. Basil is effective in repelling mosquitoes and is pleasant to smell. Basil plants are very easy to find, both locally at a Farmer’s Market and in many main stream grocery stores. Seeds can be purchased at most garden centers and grow quickly in my experience.
Basil is one of the plants the girls chose to grow this summer, so we are using it for multiple reasons. Not only can you cook with basil, but you can crush a leave on a fresh bite to help stop the itch. In a pinch, using crushed basil leaves from the store can keep insects at bay.
Another herb with many uses is mint. Mint helps to repel mosquitoes, as well as flies in some cases. Mint provides another pleasant aroma in your yard, helps add flavor in the kitchen, and keeps the biters away. Crushing a few leaves when you are outside for a period of time increases the potency of the repellent.
You can also rub crushed mint leaves on your four legged family members when they are outside to keep them from being bitten. This added step, in turn, keeps biters out of your house, too. Mint, like basil, is relatively easy to find and can be grown rather easily.
I have to find one flowering plant that was helpful and pretty. Lavender has always been a favorite of mine and has been used in my family to keep bugs from biting. It’s pretty purple flower helps to add a richness of color to your outdoor space.
Lavender is very hearty and can survive drought conditions — so forgetting it for a few days won’t wilt or kill it as you might have with herbs. (This heartiness was important to me because I tend to forget to water plants daily.) Lavender can also be dried to use later to create a bug repellent spray.
I have found the following “recipe” of lavender combined with white vinegar and will be trying it this summer.
Lavender Bug Repellent
- 1-2 tbsp dried lavender
- white vinegar
- bottle with lid
- Add the dried lavender to a bottle.
- Pour vinegar into the bottle to cover the flowers and fill the bottle.
- Shut the bottle tightly and shake.
- Let the solution sit for 1-2 weeks to develop potency.
- Strain the flowers using muslin or cheese cloth.
- Use the solution as a spray to repel insects or as a topical treatment to soothe bites.
Enjoy the Outdoors
With our plants settling into our space, we plan to enjoy many more mornings and evenings outdoors. While our plants are simple and easily found, there are many more plants that can be used to keep pesky insects at bay. No matter what you choose, know that using plant based sources are safe and effective ways to mange bug, especially for families with young children. It can”t hurt to set a few pots around and see the difference it makes.