by Jamie Csizmadia
Hot temperatures have arrived in Oklahoma, and mosquitos are out in full force. Breeding in sync with the season, the increased population of this harbinger bug of summer is, not surprisingly, at odds with the human desire to be outside.
In addition to those itchy bites that interfere with family picnics, home gardening and backyard stargazing, mosquitos have the potential to carry diseases that can make people really sick; accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people “avoid mosquito bites.”
One control method for mosquito bite prevention quickly gaining momentum is the use of naturally occurring plant-based compounds on the physical body and around the outdoor home environment.
Traditional Native American and folk remedies, which are historically infused with locally found plant ingredients, are a rich source for these effective mosquito-repelling compounds, and the scientific community is taking note.
“Sweet grass is a meadow grass that is native to northern climates,” says Dr. Charles Cantrell, research chemist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After researching sweet grass and its traditional uses, Cantrell discovered that it contains several active insect-repelling compounds. Coumarin and phytol were the standouts, and he will be testing these two compounds over time.
But one doesn’t have to be a scientist and doesn’t have to wait to experience the insect-repelling protection of nature’s plant-based compounds. The following methods for “avoiding mosquito bites” are available for our benefit right now and can be used at home, individually or together:
Plants. Native plants, like sweet grass, white sage and pinyon pine, have been used for centuries to not only repel mosquitos but to also cleanse space for ceremony. Burn wood or a small branch in an outdoor fire pit or fireplace with the above native plant of your choice to effectively protect larger areas from skin-biting insects.
Essential Oils. These mosquito-repelling oils derived from plants, like lavender, bee balm and basil, smell great and can be applied directly to the skin or infused in lotion before heading outside.
Candles. Placed in groupings near outdoor gathering areas, plant-based mosquito-repellent candles effectively repel insects, brighten dark nooks and emit a soft fragrance. Bite-lite is just one of many options made from all-natural ingredients, like spearmint and lemongrass.
Bracelets. Slip on an all-natural mosquito-repellent bracelet on your way out to garden. Invisaband is a business that infuses its bracelets with geranium extract. The bracelets have adjustable straps that let the user wear on his or her wrists, attach it to clothing or hang it on a bag.
Resin. Burned over coals within a cast iron pot, resin from the copal tree is traditionally used across the Yucatan Peninsula to repel mosquitos and ward off “bad air.” Emitting a wonderfully clean fragrance, copal resin or copal incense sticks can be placed outdoors in groupings where one gathers with friends and family.
Mosquito protection never smelled so sweet.
Jamie Csizmadia is the owner and founder of Olthia Urban Prairie Gardens, a landscape architecture firm in the heart of Oklahoma. She is also an intuitive consultant at JamieCsizmadia.com. Connect with her at Jamie@Olthia.com.