Gardening for Health

 Plants That Keep the Bugs Away

Warm weather brings with it the insects that bite and itch. As our planet warms, disease-carrying insects have become more prevalent in places they used to not reside in. Lyme disease, Zika fever and West Nile virus are diseases we never worried about before. It is important to prevent insect bites to reduce the chance of contracting these diseases.

 The Centers for Disease Control considers DEET appropriate for human use but some people prefer not to use the chemical because of stories of adverse reactions. You can make your own herbal spray to repel insects and just use DEET externally on shoes and clothing if desired. 

If you grow lavender, thyme, yarrow and catnip in your garden, you will attract many pollinators and beneficial insects and have all the ingredients to make your own repellent spray.

Lavender blooms now through July and its wonderful fragrance appeals to people for its calming properties. Lavender repels black flies, deer flies, fleas, mosquitoes, moths and slugs. Its flowers support pollination by attracting bees. The bees are so happy in the lavender flowers that I find they’re never aggressive.

Catnip is a great mosquito repellent. A 2001 study from the American Chemical Society, found the essential oil within catnip to be 10 times more repellent than DEET against mosquitoes. Ticks and biting flies avoid it in the vegetable garden: catnip repels cabbage looper caterpillars, Colorado potato bugs, flea beetles, Japanese beetles and squash bugs.

Thyme, available in many varieties, is a powerful insect repellent. Thyme repels black flies, deer flies, fleas, mosquitoes and ticks.

Yarrow is a wonderful medicinal garden herb that beneficial insects love. It attracts bees, ground beetles, hoverflies, ladybugs, parasitic and predatory wasps and soldier bugs. It also repels fleas, mosquitoes and ticks.

Use 1 tablespoon of each herb, finely chopped, add 4 to 6 ounces of olive oil, and infuse for 1 to 3 weeks. Strain the oil by pressing well. Add 2 ounces of neem oil or cedar-infused oil and 4 ounces of witch hazel. Fill a spray bottle and shake well before use.