Natural Mosquito Repellent

by Fern on August 20, 2008

in Herbs,How To

Recently my youngest brother left for college in Vermont, and my parents’ flew out there with him to send him off. My parents came back without my brother, but with a bunch of itchy mosquito bites.

Photo by loveberry

Here in Southern California, we don’t have very much standing water for mosquitoes to breed in, and the state sprays insecticide a lot because we have such a huge agricultural economy. But I know that in many areas, there are mosquitoes galore this time of year. Luckily, this is a problem you can grow your way out of.

Lemon Balm is a natural mosquito reppellant. It has a very high level of a compound called citronellal in its leaves. Citronella–which is used in many commercial mosquito reppellants–is the essential oil version of citronellal. Some varieties of lemon balm are up to 38 percent citronellal! You can buy seeds of one such variety from Johnny’s Seeds: Lemon Balm ‘Quedlinburger Niederliegende.’

If you don’t want to carry a Lemon Balm plant around with you at all times, simply pinch off a few leaves, crush them in your hand and rub them over your skin. You’ll have a wonderful lemony smell that mosquitoes can’t stand.

Quedlinburger Niederliegende is hardy to zone 4 and prefers afternoon shade. It is somewhat drought tolerant and prefers soil that is one the dry side of moist. Feel free to pinch off leaves regularly as doing so will only encourage more growth.

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

jen August 20, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Working at “mosquito land” tomorrow, [ garden centre ]. And I will be sure to try and find some lemon verbena to try out. I might even have to resort to lemon verbena hand cream, I am so desperate.


Fern August 20, 2008 at 8:01 pm

Jen–LOL. Does lemon verbena also have citronellal in it?


Eric Bronson August 21, 2008 at 1:16 pm

We can sure use that here!!!!!

thanks for sharing


JP August 21, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Lemon Balm and Lemon Verbena are not the same plant…I don’t know the inspect repellent properties of Lemon Verbena, but I do know it smells so intensely lemony and delicious, don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t walk up to you to get a better whiff…and maybe a slurp!


Fern August 21, 2008 at 3:12 pm

JP–Sometimes I find the smell of lemon scented plants to be too much. It seems some particular cultivars are more intense than others.


Adam August 21, 2008 at 5:31 pm

My wife is alergic to Deet, so this will be great. Being gardeners and enviro freaks, the lemon balm will be great in the herb garden.

Thanks for the post!

Alter the eco and keep up the good fight,




Fern August 21, 2008 at 9:55 pm

Adam–I’m glad this is something your wife can use to ward off mosquitoes. And you’re right, it is much nicer and healthier to find natural solutions as opposed to chemical ones.


Nisaba August 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm

In actual fact, any and all herbs that contain pungent, penetrating oils will repel mosquitoes. they don’t dislike the smells as such (and in fact the males, who are vegetarians, will often feed on them), but what it does, it creates a strong enough smell to mask the odour of a critter-full-of-blood. Apparently the component of human-smell that is most attractive to mosquitoes, according to a scientific report I recently saw, is strongest around the ankles (not the bits of hte body we’d normally consider to be the smelly bits), and a good way to simply not appeal to mosquitoes is to keep your ankles really well washed, and wrap them up in thick socks, ankle-boots and long pants. Since I’ve started habitually dressing like that, I hardly ever get bitten these days.


Fern August 30, 2008 at 10:05 pm

Thanks for stopping by Nisaba. I’d love to see the report you refrenced. According to the article I linked to above, Lemon Balm contains citronellal which is a known mosquito repellent.


DragonOak September 3, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Good to know!!! The wet summer here in Missouri and the mosquito population has been horrid.


jon September 15, 2008 at 6:25 pm

you said “and the state sprays insecticide a lot because we have such a huge agricultural economy”

I live in CA, too. I’m not at alll familiar with the state spraying “a lot” and was wondering if might provide a citation for this claim.

I’m not say you’re wrong or right, I just thought I was pretty informed and had no idea how much spraying was actually going on.



Fern September 16, 2008 at 10:57 am

Jon — The California Department of Food and Agriculture has several active programs that are targeted at controlling invasive or otherwise problematic pests and plants. You can check out their website here. For example, 10-15 or so years back, you may remember the state aggressively spraying for fruit flies to the point where they advised people to stay inside during the times when they were spraying.


Pajero September 16, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Interesting to know. I’ll try that next time I go somewhere hot enough to have mosquitos (too cold in England).


Fern September 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm

Pajero — Thanks for visiting. Glad to know there is an upside to cold weather!


kris September 16, 2008 at 6:45 pm

@pajero&fern- i live in yellowknife nwt, which gets MUCH colder than anywhere in GB, and mosquitoes here get pretty bad in the summer.


Fern September 16, 2008 at 10:36 pm

Kris — Darn! I was hoping there was something worthwhile about cold weather. :-P


Pajero September 17, 2008 at 12:00 am

@kris – That’s interesting but I guess your summers are much hotter than here? We’re lucky to see many days as high as 30 degrees C / 86 F. I’d have to travel to mid-France to see mosquitos. Not that I’d go to France to see mosquitos!


Vesna February 18, 2009 at 10:45 pm

The best mosquito repellent I have tried is tea tree oil! Also very effective for the bites. It takes the itchiness away almost instantly.


Fern February 19, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Vesna — I find the smell of tea tree oil to be too strong to use it on my body.


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