For about six months of the year in Dallas, we get peace. Then, in late spring, the battle begins. Mosquitoes — prehistoric creatures that haunt us at the rise and drop of the sun. Some of the especially tenacious species know no time of day and are looking for victims 24/7. It’s one of those “Texas things” we learn to live with, but let me offer some natural ways to discourage their presence and treat bites.
The little pests have been around for millions of years and will probably outlive most lifeforms. Their eggs can sit in a dry spot for months and once a tablespoon of water comes their way, that egg becomes an adult within about a week.
Standing water is going to be your number one offender. They simply cannot breed without it. A cup left outside with an inch of water, over-watered flower beds, bird baths, stagnant areas of pools and fountains — you’ll want to keep an eye out and clear those constantly.
Another thing you can do is grow deterrent plants. Though they hang around water to breed, mosquitoes feed on plant nectar and so spend the day foraging plants and grasses. Planting things they aren’t so interested in can help encourage them to find another place to call home. Garlic, lemongrass, citronella, catnip, lavender, rosemary, lemon varieties of basil, thyme, and mint are all good choices.
Fun fact: Only the females bite and not for food but to turn blood into protein to develop their eggs.
Also, go easy on the poison as much as you can stand. When an area is doused with the stuff, it not only kills mosquitoes (who have left armies of eggs behind to replace their dead), but also can kill or sicken mosquito predators. Dragonflies, birds, fish, bats, frogs, lizards and spiders are all on our side in the mosquito battle. We need them around!
If you are a mosquito magnet and have learned to live with the fact that mosquito welts are part of summer life, let me leave you with this tip. The ONLY solution I have found to treat bites is plain old ice. As soon as I notice a bite, I do my best to resist scratching and rub ice directly on the spot. The inflammation and itch subsides quickly. If the urge to scratch wins before I ice, that bite can linger for weeks.
So don’t allow standing water, select herbs, limit poison distribution, don’t scratch, and ice. Good luck out there, comrades.
Avid gardener Stephanie Casey can be reached through her website at realfinefood.com.