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Fending off the manic mosquito. September 28, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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The wet weather we all seem to have been having this summer and fall has been a bonanza for mosquitos. Not only can we not so much as set foot in our yard here at Hawk’s Haven to take our puppy Shiloh to the bathroom without being attacked (forget about enjoying sunsets out on our deck), but garden bloggers from Tennessee to Texas are reporting the same horrendous situation.

We’d have thought that by now the cooler fall weather would have gotten the evil beasties, at least up here in scenic PA, but noooo. Now we’re even starting to see them in the house. (Silence named one that turned up in the bathroom Kremlin, after a particularly pesky and persistent character in one of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels.)

Because the problem is so widespread, we’ve been hearing about all kinds of mosquito controls recently, up to and including body armor. (See Frances’s wonderful post, “Two New Things,” over at Fairegarden, http://fairegarden.wordpress.com/, for an example of the latter.) But being Luddites, we’d really like a simple solution that of course doesn’t involveĀ some kind of toxic spray. So our friend Ben and Silence Dogood were indebted to Aunt Debbi of the delightful Aunt Debbi’s Garden blog (http://auntdebbisgarden.blogspot.com/) when she shared some rather unique but super-simple methods of fending off mosquitos with us. We’re not going to spill the beans here in case Aunt Debbi’s planning to write them up herself in a future post. If you want to know more, you’ll just have to head over to Aunt Debbi’s Garden and ask her.

However. Aunt Debbi’s solutions reminded our friend Ben of a foolproof method of my own from back in the day when I was often out in hot, sticky, mosquito-infested weather taking botany field trips. I’d completely forgotten about it, so bless you Aunt Debbi for spurring my memory, such as it is or isn’t. Before heading out into buggy areas, I’d brew up a cup of pennyroyal tea. (Pennyroyal tea is now considered unsafe to drink, but you can still find dried pennyroyal in health food and herb stores, and the plants are readily available.) I’d let the tea cool to room temperature, then take a cotton ball and swab it over my face, neck, arms, and legs before heading out. Not only was I not bothered by bugs of any description, the refreshing mint smell was cooling on those hot, humid days.

Simple, safe, effective. What more could one ask? Except, perhaps, that Kremlin and his colleagues stay out of our house. We have more than enough pets in here already.

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1. Barbee' - September 28, 2009

Do you still have your parrots? A few years ago you wrote a delightful post about bringing one home with you after it looked you in the eye. Then, one parrot taught the other one how to talk. It was such a delightful post, I sent the link to family members whose birth family had Polly for many years. At least that is the way I remember it.

Hi Barbee’! We lost our beloved Marcus Hookbill this past year, but we do indeed still have our original, Plutarch the Parrot, the yellow-naped Amazon you remember from the story, and three colorful parakeets, Taco (blue), Belle (yellow), and Laredo (green). Thanks for remembering and asking!

2. fairegarden - September 28, 2009

Hi OFB, this is such a current concern, even though the temps are falling and the problem might subside soon. Thanks for the link love too. We grew pennyroyal at our first TN house, big into herbs at that time, and the many outdoor cats would roll in it and we could literally see the fleas jump off of them. It was planted by the catnip so the cats were attracted to it anyway. We would often rub the many herb leaves on us, most would repel the mosquitoes. The infestation we are now experiencing seems to be something called the Asian tiger mosquito that is larger and more aggressive. The jacket is really saving my skin, so to speak. :-)
Frances

Gack, Frances! Asian tiger mosquitos?!! See, you’ve taught me two new things in a single day—first, to recognize early-instar black swallowtails, and now, why the mosquitos are so horrific this year. Thanks!!!

3. Dave - September 28, 2009

Lemon balm rubbed on the skin is said to be effective too. I don’t have any trouble with mosquitoes but my wife and kids tend to become pincushions. A new water feature formed by the rain in a drainage ditch was becoming a mosquito breeding ground until “Kermit” moved in!

Ha! Maybe I should sneak over to the neighbor’s big water garden and steal a Kermit or two for our container water gardens! (One reason we always have fish in them, to eat those mosquito larvae.) And thanks for the tip about lemon balm, Dave. We certainly have plenty of that growing in our herb beds!

4. Lzyjo - September 28, 2009

Interesting! I didn’t know about Pennyroyal tea, aside from the Nirvana song. You know what’s weird, I never ever see mosquitoes down here, I do get bitten, but by other things. I assumed it was a combination of mass spraying and the continually windy conditions here, not sure but whatever the reason I’m glad they don’t live here.

Wind definitely helps, Lzyjo—we know because it’s continually windy here at Hawk’s Haven, too, wish we could afford a small wind-powered generator!—but it hasn’t booted this year’s mosquitos. Now I’m thinking it’s a combo of the wet year and the new invasive mosquito species (see Frances’s comment). It’s always something!

5. Sunita - September 28, 2009

You haven’t seen mosquitoes till you’ve been to my garden! The monsoons were here and gone but the mosquitoes seem to be trying to teach us what loyalty is all about :P
They’re bigger and nastier than ever and dont wait for night to attack.
The locals here burn cashewnut shells to keep mosquitoes away. There is a very powerful chemical in it which is very effective.
Pity it sometimes keeps people away too.

Ha! Sounds like you’re seriously under siege, Sunita! Cashews are some of our favorite nuts, so I’m both glad and sad to hear about the cashewnut shell cure! (Glad it works, but sad that it repels people as well as mosquitos!)

6. elephant's eye - September 28, 2009

And we have elephant mosquitoes. No, I am not making it up. Noticed a particularly large glossy mosquito. Looked it up in our insect book – and would you believe the big mosquito larvae EAT the little biting ones. Who knew! We have Elephant River, and Elephant Mountains, but no elephants.

Hmmm. Maybe you could make a fortune exporting those big mosquito larvae—as long as you could tell us how to get rid of them once they’d devoured our little mosquito larvae! Sorry you don’t have actual elephants, btw. I’ve always found them fascinating.

7. Daphne Gould - September 28, 2009

I think we have been really lucky with our recent weather. It has only rained twice so far this September. All that rain seems to be keeping to the south. We don’t usually get dry falls. I think the plants are unhappy about it all, but our mosquito population has been fairly low. I only get bit occasionally early in the morning or in the evening.

Good for you, Daphne! We shouldn’t all be eaten alive, after all. Somebody has to live to tell the tale!

8. Gail - September 28, 2009

Simple, safe and effective is what I want….and one of those great suits Frances bought! Lisa at Natural Gardening had an interesting post on the Asian Tiger mosquito…It seems that they need very little water to reproduce in…a little as half a teaspoon! Yikes! gail

That makes sense, Gail, especially after Frances said they were hatching out of the ground at her place. Yikes is right!!!


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