Who does not dread the humming sound that tells you a mosquito is hovering somewhere close by waiting to bite? Dawn and dusk are the favourite times for these insects which is the same time we love to congregate on patios and gardens to enjoy the balmy temperatures.
To save you, your family, and friends from bites, there are many natural mosquito repellents containing DEET and a range of lotions, creams, and machines that all claim to eliminate them but I prefer to try to use natural deterrents.
Studies have shown that mosquitoes do prefer a certain type of blood. In scientific tests at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, mosquitoes preferred to bite blood Type O than A.
This article will explain a bit more about the life cycle of these insects and some ways to protect yourself from them if you are the type they love to bite… First, a little knowledge of their life cycle is useful to understand how to eliminate them.
The 4 stages in the life cycle of a mosquito
Dawn and dusk are peak biting times and they are very attracted to light and will fly miles to reach one as humans, (their prey), tend to have lights on.
Stage 1: Adults
The males prefer pollen and nectar to blood. It is only the female adult that searches for blood and after devouring yours, she happily settles down to lay her eggs. O blood type is more attractive to mosquitoes in tests than A blood. However, it also depends on what chemicals you excrete. If you have been exercising you tend to get bitten more and your weight is another factor.
Tests explain that people who are obese emit more carbon dioxide, which attracts female mosquitoes to you for an aperitif. There is yet another factor to the chemicals preferred. A “secretor” is a person who emits a certain smell that the female mosquito can identify with the blood type so these human “secretors” are more likely to get bitten than somebody who does not secrete this scent.
Stage 2: Eggs
They can be laid as single eggs or groups of them, close to water so that when they hatch, the wriggling mosquito larva can swim away to get to the next stage of the lifecycle.
Stage 3: Larva. (plural larvae)
These are water inhabitants called larvae. These little wrigglers often end up in pots of water left in your garden over the winter and you may not even notice them. Although they grow in water, they frequently visit the surface because they actually need oxygen to survive. Like the hungry caterpillar, the mosquito larva sheds its skin several times, leaving empty, moulted shell cases in the water. They eat as much as a caterpillar and if food is plentiful and the temperature is right, then once the larva reaches a certain size, the next stage is a pupa, like caterpillars.
Stage 4: Pupa
This stage can last for anything from 4 to 14 days and they rock sideways in water as they float. Birds love these pupae as a tasty snack, so if you have an outdoor pond, again the birds are your best friends as they will gobble up the insects before they are ever a threat to your skin!
Up to this stage, your blood remains yours but once the adult hatches from this pupa, these flying insects are literally out for your blood. From now on is danger time so read on for 13 natural methods to keep these pests at bay.
13 natural methods to achieve a mosquito-free garden (and home) this summer.
Remove any standing water in any container in your garden.
Old pot holders, buckets, toy wheelbarrows, old tyres; in fact, anywhere the mother mosquito can find that has sitting water without a current or a stream. In the autumn, empty out any old containers and turn them upside down. Keep doing this and sometimes you may spot a few wriggling black creatures which you can feed to your fishpond, where any pet fish will get a delicious meal.
If you have a pond, then you can breathe a sigh of relief that any eggs laid there will probably be eaten by frogs, toads, and fish.
Keep emptying water out of any container after a summer rain shower and then you break the whole life cycle.
Use a pond pump so that the water is not still.
Mosquitoes prefer a watery area that is not free-flowing. To help with this, use a solar panel and attach it to a water pump which will move the water around your pond. Mosquitoes have also shown a preference for laying eggs in ponds with a lot of leaf fall so remove any fallen leaves in autumn to discourage them even more.
Now for your seating area!
Choose a range of plants that mosquitoes are known to loathe. Smell is key to keeping mosquitoes at bay. Ms Mosquito can smell your blood type depending on the amount of CO2 you exhale and depending on if you secrete that certain scent that identifies your blood type. Use these smells to get rid of her!
- Basil (and its essential oil) work as a plant or sprayed. See more below on sprays. Placing 2 plants with any of the others on this list is fantastic as a physical barrier and a scent deterrent.
- Lavender grows large and smells divine to the human nose but the mosquito avoids it so this is a suitable large physical barrier, close to a dining table. The strong aromatic oily smell is not good for the mosquito and you should be fairly safe surrounded by them.
- Rosemary is another excellent choice. You can also make your own Rosemary herb oil and use this in lotions and creams.
- Peppermint is another herb known to keep mosquitoes at bay.
- Tomatoes have poisonous leaves and we humans know never to eat them but did you know that mosquitoes also shy away from tomato leaves? So a Mediterranean herb list of basil, tomatoes, and rosemary along with a few tall lavender plants should discourage the critters from landing on your skin.
Trees like Eucalyptus are known to be avoided by mosquitoes and you can also use the essential oil in a spray for double protection. If you are lucky enough to have an established eucalyptus tree, then enjoy the scent and know that is helping to keep your garden mosquito-free. If you don’t have the tree, then use the essential oil which you can buy in any health food shop. Tea tree is another useful mosquito deterrent but if you don’t live in Australia, then just use the essential oil.
Twigs of Elder can be put in a bottle or vase and doubtful though it sounds, these work! Simply prune a few fresh twigs with leaves from your Elder tree about an hour before your dinner party and sit them on the table in water. The leaves emit a scent easily picked up by the mosquitoes and they will veer away from them. Add a few tomato leaves and you will have double security. Dried elder twigs are used to burn as well – see fire below.
Lemons and mosquitoes do not mix well. Think of the citronella candles sold in many gardening shops and you get the idea. If you have a lemon tree, then make sure its pot is right next to you!
Lemongrass flavoured Joss sticks (Burning incense sticks in the US) or citronella flavour will do the job nicely. Or cut some lemons and float them artistically in a bowl of water and hey presto! Your centrepiece of the dinner table can work to keep mosquitoes away.
Pick a handful of peppermint leaves or Lemon Balm leaves and crush them. This fresh smell is loathed by mosquitoes. Leave the leaves close to where you are eating and drinking.
Vanilla or cinnamon skin lotions
Many people will be surprised to hear that vanilla sticks are used all over the world as a deterrent. You can either grind a stick of vanilla into powder (or use vanilla extract). Use this fresh powder added to your favourite moisturiser (or even baby lotion), and mix well together.
Apply this generously to ankles and shoulders or any skin part exposed to the elements and it should protect against mosquitoes. Star Anise and Cinnamon do the same trick in countries where they grow. Apply this homemade lotion with vanilla, cloves, or cinnamon mixed with moisturiser to your ankles before you sit down.
How to make a homemade mosquito spray
This is useful if you spray this into the air at regular intervals so that the smell lingers. I spray the whole area shortly before my guests arrive and then whenever anybody notices that humming sound in their ear!
You will need a clean, recycled spray container.
- Use a base oil such as olive or sunflower.
- Put 50 – 60 ml of the oil into the empty spray container.
- Then add 10 drops of the essential oil of your choice. This can be Rosemary, Peppermint, Citronella, or Lavender. Clove oil or Eucalyptus are other good mosquito deterrents.
- Use boiled water to top up the mixture and shake the whole mixture well.
When I lived in Spain, smokers never seemed to be affected by mosquitoes and it may be true that mosquitoes avoid both smoke and certain smells. So if you burn twigs they hate, the scent released with the smoke will drive them away.
Good wood to use includes Eucalyptus, Elder branches, Cedarwood (if you are reading this in the US), Juniper twigs, or dried Rosemary twigs. The gorgeous scent of Rosemary and Eucalyptus will add a real Mediterranean touch to the dining area as well.
If you have some in your cupboard, this simple household ingredient is one of the most effective against most bugs as well as mosquitoes. Put a small container or bowl filled with it on the dinner table or your window sill and it keeps away the bugs while you eat or sleep.
Darker colours attract mosquitoes so wear brightly coloured clothes! White or colourful patterned clothes are best but if anybody in your party has dark clothes, then that is where the mosquitoes are headed first!
Physical barriers are useful too
When I visited Brazil, I learned a lot about how to keep mosquitoes out of the house in the first place. Over there, mosquitoes are dangerous because as they bite, they share diseases like malaria and Dengue fever, which is an infection found in tropical climates.
It can cause death and a flu-like illness. Brazilian homes, businesses, and cafes are all very vigilant about keeping these deadly insects away. All doors have the first window protected with a mosquito net covering, which allows air through but does not permit insects to enter.
Next, this door with the window is secured shut before going outdoors. In this way, the insects never make it into the house in the first place.
Where I live in Kent, there is a real problem with mosquitoes but not the ones that carry deadly diseases. In Brazil, mosquitoes cause death but here in the UK, they cause open wounds, bleeding, and itchy sores. So if they like to bite you, then learn from Brazil and Europe and fix physical barriers to keep them out at night time.
A mosquito net can hang from a doorway into your outdoor space. Everybody likes a window open when it’s hot but if mosquitoes are a problem, then try to fit mosquito netting inside the window frame before the summer months.
That way, you can leave the window open with the netting in place. Try to encourage everybody in your household not to leave doors open. In Spain and Southern France people were always telling me the country summer houses have thick walls to insulate in winter but to keep the house cool in summer and with the net coverings, the air can still circulate through the net but mosquitoes cannot fit through.
Going to sleep in peace.
Put a lemon or Lemon Balm plant outside or a basil plant on the window sill, just in case. The smell will put them off before they even try!
There is no doubt that mosquitoes do seem to prefer a particular type of blood. You hear jokes about them loving people with sweet blood.
It is not actually the sweetness, it is the amount of carbon dioxide you breathe out and some people also release a chemical that provides a female mosquito with a smell that identifies your blood type.
The study in the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene showed that called these mosquito attractors “secretors” and in tests, mosquitoes did prefer Blood type O over A. Bad luck if that’s you!
By now, your outdoor seating area should be full of Mediterranean herbs that each smell delightful, while your hands and skin may be smelling of crushed mint or Lemon Balm.
The smouldering fire pit may have a smoked scent of burned Juniper or Rosemary and there may well be a faintly lemony smell from your balcony or patio table. You will have learned that the mosquito life cycle can be halted at any stage before it becomes the deadly female Dracula searching for a blood donation and that she is less likely to bite you if you have A blood rather than O.
So empty the water from containers, plants lots of sweet-smelling herbs and make your own lotions and sprays to keep the mosquitoes out of your garden so you can enjoy the summer in peace.