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Battling the bite: repelling pesky mosquitoes

Posted: 4:41 AM, Jun 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-26 05:41:12-04

A new report says there were more than 700,000 cases of insect-borne diseases reported between 2005 and 2016. Insects like mosquitoes carry germ-like viruses that can be transmitted when they bite. The key to avoiding these illnesses lies in prevention.

Two things are almost guaranteed during a South Texas summer: heat and mosquitoes, and sometimes, keeping them away is as easy as paying attention to the plants you surround yourself and your home with.

Mosquitoes are out in full force; luckily sprays and candles aren’t the only ways to keep them at bay. While the "go-to" solution may be bug spray, local gardening experts say some plants can do a good job keeping pests away from your area.

"Repelling mosquitoes is a big deal after big rains, and there are some things you can do. There are some plants that you can use that will help repel mosquitoes. For instance Lavender, Silver, Santolina, Citronella is a real popular one, Lemon Grass. All those plants, when activated, give off a scent that can help repel mosquitoes," said Bay Area Landscape Nursery owner Trent Hoffman.

The oils in the plants ward off mosquitoes and some flies. There are chemicals to spray, but those break down in water or sunshine.

"Mosquitoes are attracted to secretion from our skin such as carbon dioxide, lactic acids, so what these scents do, is they mask those scents secreted from our body, and help deter or repel mosquitoes from coming to you," said Hoffman.

Some of the repellent plants are temporary. They just last the summer, but others live all year long.

"If you have large infestation, and when you put a plant out, it is not going to be the end all be all, no mosquitoes. But there are other products out there, some sprays, Mosquito Beater, Cutter, those things are really good that you can spray around an area. Read the instructions and spray an hour before you have an outdoor activity, and they usually last up to 3 weeks," said Hoffman.

These plants will not kill the mosquitoes, they will just help repel them.

Here are a few suggested plants for keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

1st – Wax Myrtle. The plant has a little pungent odor when the leaves are rubbed. The plant can be used as a hedge for front or backyards, and it works really well in pots.

2nd – Rosemary. This plant is known to add flavor to any home-style cooking dish, but it can also repel mosquitoes.

Next, Bee Balm. It may attract bees, but not mosquitoes. The plant comes in several different colors and has a nice fragrant flower to it. 

Society Garlic is another repellent. As the name suggests, it smells like garlic and, therefore, repels bugs as well.

Both Russian Sage and Lemon Verbena are known for cooking, but they have distinct smells that keep mosquitoes away. 

Lavender is also popular, especially for indoors, and it also serves as a repellent. 

The Dusty Miller plant has nice foliage color that helps repel the mosquito.

Lemongrass smells just like lemon when the foliage is brushed.

As for the most popular and effective plant, is Citronella. It smells just like a Citronella candle when the leaves are rubbed.

Many female mosquitoes can lay 100-300 eggs on the surface of fresh or stagnant water every third night during its life span.


Here are some simple things citizens can do to eliminate potential mosquito breeding sites around the home:

Do not allow water to accumulate in the saucers of flowerpots, cemetery urns, or in pet dishes for more than two days.

Get rid of tin cans, old tires, buckets, unused plastic swimming pools, or other containers that collect and hold water.

Clean debris from rain gutters, remove standing water from flat roofs, and repair leaks around faucets and air conditioners.

Change the water in birdbaths and wading pools at least once a week.

Fill or drain puddles, ditches and swampy areas.

Check for trapped water in plastic or canvas tarps used to cover boats or pools, and arrange the tarp to drain the water.

Report abandoned property with high grass and standing water by emailing animalcaredispatch@cctexas.com. Make sure to include the address, the problem, and a phone number if you wish to be contacted. You may also upload pictures if you wish.


PRACTICE THE FOUR D’S

West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne illness. Up to 80 percent of people infected with West Nile virus will have no symptoms and will recover on their own; however, some cases can cause serious illness or death. People over 50 and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming ill if they become infected with the virus.

The best defense is to practice these habits, known as the "Four Ds":

  1. Use insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  2. Dress in long sleeves and long pants when you are outside.
  3. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.
  4. Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Common breeding sites include old tires, flowerpots, and clogged rain gutters.