As a fair-skinned senior for whom avoiding the intense sun is second nature, I’m currently restricting my gardening chores to the very early morning and very late afternoon – the exact times when the local mosquitoes are on the hunt.
When it comes to veganic mosquito control, what’s a gardener to do? Each year, I work to create a garden that attracts mosquito-eating birds, spiders, and dragonflies.
- scented geraniums
and bee balm, all known for their mosquito-deterring aromas.
Even so, after constantly swiping at mosquitoes during this morning’s gardening chores, I decided today was the day to act.
Why not just go with a DEET-based repellent, like billions of other people?
Because I learned that we can inhale DEET or absorb through our skin. Then I found a study headed by researchers at France’s Research Institute for Development Pest Control Laboratory. It suggests that DEET might interfere with cholinesterase, an enzyme that helps our muscles contract.
So DEET’s out. Instead, I’m choosing a repellent safe for me, my plants, and all the creatures that visit them.
For Veganic Mosquito Control, Get Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
Behold oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), the plant-based active ingredient derived from the leaves of Australia’s citrus-scented eucalyptus trees (Corymbia citriodora).
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), products based on oil of lemon eucalyptus are the only veganic mosquito control to “provide repellent activity sufficient to help people reduce the bites of disease-carrying mosquitoes.”
The EPA first registered products containing either OLE or its synthetic counterpart PMD as mosquito repellents in 2000. However, their decision was entirely in keeping with humankind’s history of growing plants for their insect-deterring properties.
Visit any home garden department at this time of year, for example, and you’re almost sure to encounter potted “mosquito” plants touted for their leaves’ mosquito-deterring scent.
Tempted to bite? Don’t!
You’d be getting a scented geranium plant riding on the reputation of true citronella, aka lemongrass (Cymbopogon nardus).
The citronella oil extracted from lemongrass has protected human flesh from mosquito bites since 1882. However, its effectiveness wears off in about 20 to 30 minutes.
DEET- and OLE-based products have much greater staying power!
Research Reveals the Truth about Commercial Mosquito Repellents
This 2015 study from New Mexico State University Las Cruces researchers compared the mosquito-deterring performances of seven commercial repellents with a variety of active ingredients:
- Repel 100 Insect Repellent (98.11-percent DEET)
- OFF Deep Woods Insect Repellent VIII (25-percent DEET)
- Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent (30-percent lemon oil of eucalyptus with 65=percent% PMD)
- Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent (7-percent DEET)
- Cutter NaturalInsect Repellent (5-percent geraniol and 2-percent soybean oil)
- Eco-Smart Organic Insect Repellent (1-percent geraniol, 0.5-percent rosemary oil, 0.5-percent cinnamon oil, 0.5-percent lemon grass oil)
- Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard (10-percent oil of citronella)
The researchers placed 20 mosquitoes in a Y=chaped holding chamber with a portal in each of the Y’s upper arms. The volunteers inserted their repellent-sprayed hands through one portal and a gloved hand through the other.
The researchers counted how many of the mosquitoes attacked the sprayed hands. They repeated the experiment five times over three months.
Each time, they counted the percentage of mosquitoes attacking the sprayed hands at the start and the 30-, 120-, and 240-minute marks.
The top three performers, according to NPR?
At the start:
- OFF Deep Woods Insect Repellent (25-percent DEET) attracted 6 percent of the mosquitoes.
- Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent attracted 9 percent of them.
- Repel 100 Insect Repellent (98.11-percent DEET) attracted 10 percent of them.
At the 240-minute (4-hour) mark:
- Twenty-nine percent of the mosquitoes ignored the OFF Deep Woods spray.
- Eighteen percent ignored the lemon oil of eucalyptus
- Fourteen percent ignored the Repel 100 insect repellent.
The lemon oil of eucalyptus lasted much better than the 25-percent DEET formula. Only the nearly pure DEET formula outperformed it after four hours, and not by much!
I’ve found my veganic mosquito control!