Texas Living

Nature’s Secret Bug Repellents

By Casey Kelly-Barton 4.25.16

Spring rains bring standing water, the breeding ground for mosquitoes. So keep the biting bugs at bay with natural alternatives to traditional repellents.

Stop mosquitoes at the source

Check your yard often for standing water, recommends Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension Service. Fill in puddles with soil, drain containers (including clogged gutters), and keep birdbaths clean. Add organic BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) tablets or granules to water that can’t be drained, such as ponds and rain barrels. The BTI bacterium kills mosquito larvae and is safe for pets, fish, and beneficial insects.

Avoid unwanted guests

BTI and standing water removal won’t stop adult mosquitoes from dropping by, but you can dodge them by screening your scent.

Many people crush citronella leaves and rub them on their skin to prevent bites. You can also mix a few drops of citronella essential oil with a 1:1 mix of water and witch hazel for a skin spray that’s people- and pet-safe. (Do a patch test first to check for skin irritation.)

Citronella plants are clumping fragrant grasses native to Asia that act as a natural mosquito repellent. In Texas, you can grow Cymbopogon nardus (Ceylon citronella) and C. winterianus (Java citronella) in full sun with protection from frost and freezes.

Consider equine citronella sprays from pet and farm supply stores for more widespread protection. Look for brands that are approved for animal and premise or barn use. You can use them to spray your pergola, pet run, or patio area (avoid food and food prep surfaces) for more mosquito-free space.

These landscape plants also offer some mosquito protection and colorful blooms.