Repel Mosquitoes & Ticks

Mosquitoes and ticks rank the highest on the not-likeable list of insects because they both can spread disease with just one bite. You could use pesticides to keep them away, but that will also kill yard-friendly insects like honey bees and ladybugs. A great option other than extermination or pesticides is to repel problematic mosquitoes and ticks the natural way: by planting flowers and herbs that will repel them with naturally occurring phytochemicals. The most effective being carvacrol, citronellol, eucalyptol, nerol, geraniol, and thymol.

HOW TO REPEL MOSQUITOES AND TICKS THE NATURAL WAY

PRO TIP: Most horticulturists will agree that beneficial bugs are naturally great at controlling pests, at times far better than any chemical treatments. Especially since the unwanted insects can grow pesticide-resistant while pesticide treatments can kill off lawn-friendly bugs.

Pet owners: Before you plant any herbs or flowers, check in with your local veterinarian as to which ones are non-toxic to your furry companions. You can also visit aspaca.org for a list of plants to avoid if you have cats or dogs at home.

Planting the following herbs and flowers won’t create a totally insect-free yard, but they can and will repel the bothersome mosquitoes and ticks.

HERBS THAT REPEL MOSQUITOES & TICKS

  • Basil.  Basil may be spaghetti’s secret weapon, but it’s also a really great herb for repelling mosquitoes. This herb easily grows indoors, and you can meddle its leaves into a DIY insect repellent spray.
  • Mint.  Chomping on one sprig can certainly freshen your breath and ease an upset stomach, but the oil from its stems create mosquito repellent. Planting pots of mint in your home or outdoor garden will repel unwanted insects. (Tip: grow mint in pots since it tends to spread rather aggressively.)
  • Lavender.  Lavender is the hot-rod herb for repelling mosquitoes and ticks. At the same time, lavender attracts honey bees which are great for the environment. Grown well in drier climates, lavender is drought-resistant once it flowers. Bonus: lavender smells good to many people and is often used in candles, lotions and essential oil blends to promote relaxation.
  • Lemon Thyme.  This herb specifically repels mosquitoes and adapts well to dry soil. It’s also a great herb to plant with other herbs like rosemary and catnip.
  • Lemon balm. In the mint family, this herb is great at repelling mosquitoes because it contains citronellal, similar-sounding but different than citronella. Still, it has the same effect; bugs despise this herb’s lemon-y scent.
  • Rosemary.  One of the easiest herbs to grow, rosemary protects your vegetable garden from insect infestation. Plus it works as a great flavor additive to savory dishes like roasted chicken and mashed potatoes.  
  • Thyme. The oil from this herb is a great, all-natural mosquito repellent. Additionally, a few sprigs and leaves thrown into a campfire or your fire pit at home may offer mosquito protection too.
  • Catnip. Known for attracting cats, catnip is great insect-repelling herb. In fact, some studies show that catnip is significantly stronger than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.
  • Sage. The largest member of the mint family, sage emits a strong fragrance and produces oils that repel mosquitoes, especially when burned or when turned into an all natural mosquito-repellent spray.
  • Wormwood. This bitter herb has been used for centuries to repel insects, including ticks. Spraying wormwood around your campsite or backyard can deter ticks from coming too close.
  • Hyssops. A small bushy aromatic plant of the mint family, Hyssops do well in arid, hot climates like the Southwest and act as a natural mosquito repellent while at the same time attracting environmental-friendly pollinator bees.

FLOWERS THAT REPEL MOSQUITOES & TICKS

  • Marigolds.  The scent of marigolds repels mosquitoes as well as aphids and garden-destroying rabbits. After about a year, the roots will repel nematodes. Bonus: Marigolds make a beautiful addition to your yard or garden. (Tip: Plant them around the border of your flower beds or interspersed throughout your veggie garden as Marigolds can spur on the growth of certain plants, even roses.)
  • Chrysanthemums. These flowers contain a chemical that is toxic to many insects, which makes Chrysanthemums a very popular (and pretty) way to repel ticks and other bugs such as fleas. How? With pyrethrum. It’s a natural compound found in the flowers that make Chrysanthemums the powerhouse insect repellent it is. It’s not bad for most mammals, so planting Chrysanthemums in your yard or garden creates a relatively safe and natural insecticide.
  • Horsemint. Also called Bee Balm, this fast growing, shade-tolerant and drought-resistant and adaptable wildflower is great at repelling mosquitoes much the same way as citronella does.
  • Ageratum. A workhorse annual flower in many New England gardens, Ageratum is a low-lying, low-maintenance annual that blooms all summer in sun or part shade with little care. It emits a smell which mosquitoes find particularly offensive, so it’s a terrific option for backyards.
  • Geraniums. A popular flowering plant that grows well in gardens or containers, Geraniums repel a wide variety of insects including mosquitoes. It’s said that growing these in your garden or yard will enable you to enjoy your outdoor space, mosquito free, both morning and night. In fact, Geranium extract is often used in natural over-the-counter insect repellent sprays.  
  • Tansy. A member of the daisy family, tansy is a flowering plant that repels mosquitoes and flies, is easy to care for and doesn’t require much water. Fair warning: tansy is an aggressive plant that spreads easily, so plant it near garbage cans or entryways, not in your garden. Bonus: some herbalists argue that tea made from tansy can be sprayed on pets to repel ticks and fleas.

OTHER PLANTS THAT REPEL MOSQUITOES & TICKS

  • Lemongrass.  With its oils used in the ever-popular Citronella line of products, lemongrass is a great grass that repels mosquitoes. Just be sure to plant this tall-growing herb in sunny, well-drained areas. 
  • Lantana Camara. A flowering plant loved by gardeners, Lantana Camara is able to withstand even the hottest, driest growing conditions which makes it an excellent plant to grow for not only naturally repelling mosquitoes but also attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
  • Eucalyptus. An effective ingredient in mosquito repellent, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eucalyptus oil at a mixture of 32% has been shown in one study to provide more than 95% protection against mosquitoes for up to 3 hours. 

OTHER OPTIONS FOR REPELLING MOSQUITOES & TICKS

  • Cinnamon Bark Oil. According to a study conducted in Taiwan, cinnamon bark oil can kill off mosquito eggs and, at the same time, act as a repellent against adult mosquitoes too. Simply mix ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon bark oil for every 4 ounces of water to make a 1% solution to spray around your home, patio, the playground or even on your own clothing and skin (in moderation).
  • SoyBean Oil. One of the key ingredients in the organic Bite Blocker for Kids, soybean oil may provide long-lasting protection against mosquitoes, as well as repel other bothersome pests like ticks, fleas, flies and gnats.
  • Tea Tree Oil. A popular imported oil from Australia, tea tree oil (or melaleuca oil) is popular for its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties, making it a natural germ-fighter. But according to recent research, it may be an effective insect repellent against mosquitoes.

HOW TO TREAT MOSQUITO & TICK BITES

PRO TIP: Treat a mosquito bite at home by rubbing apple cider vinegar at the site of the bite. Any ticks you find on your person or loved ones, including your pets, should be removed by a professional to ensure the entire head of the tick is removed properly.

OTHER TIPS FOR KEEPING MOSQUITOES & TICKS AWAY

In addition to utilizing the herbs, plants and flowers above that can ward off unwanted mosquitoes and ticks, be sure that there is no standing, stagnant water around your property as mosquitoes can lay hundreds of eggs in even the tiniest spoonful of standing water. Ticks, too, are drawn to water. If you aren’t up for DIY-ing at-home tinctures and sprays, select products from the store that contain citronella or are made with the oils listed above.

Looking to repel other problematic bugs too like house flies, ants or aphids? Check out our list of insect-repelling herbs and plants.