The arrival of warm weather means the start of one of my most relaxing pastimes, sitting around a campfire with friends and family.
Throughout history, people have gathered around fire as a means of survival. It meant warmth and a way to prepare food. The fire was also a place for community, stories were shared that defined their heritage and transcended generations.
Sitting around a fire, my family still shares stories and jokes. Each year the stories are more animated and the jokes are even funnier. If the cloud coverage clears, the constellations above us remain constant even when the world seems to be in turmoil. When the laughter and chatter die down, the hoots of owls and the chirping of tree frogs fill the silence.
There is only one noise that puts a damper on the nightly gathering. An annoying buzzing sound is followed up with a painful puncture. Swatting and slapping motions are the resulting actions. The teeny tiny mosquito becomes a giant nuisance that haunts the otherwise perfect warm evening. It is the token evil in the most tranquil setting.
Our firepit isn’t fancy by Pinterest standards. Basically, we gather sticks from the yard before we mow and then pull some yard chairs around the fire. What we lack in fanciness, we make up for with consistency and dedication to evening fires.
Our nearby, small pond proves to be an excellent breeding ground for the intruders. I’ve noticed over the years that I am very fortunate that I don’t get bitten that often. Mosquitoes prefer to attack my husband or my kids and leave me alone.
What is it that makes one person more desirable to mosquitoes than others? A few factors work together to make one person a delicacy and another a natural repellent.
Just like every person has a unique fingerprint, everyone has a distinct scent as well. An individual’s scent is a concoction of different aromatic compounds; there are around 400 aromatic compounds that can be part of the mix. Some compounds are very appealing to mosquitoes.
I am always cold, which is why I love hot weather. I don’t even mind humidity. On the other hand, my husband looks like he is melting as sweat drips down his face. Lactic acid and carbon dioxide are byproducts of being physically active. They also attract mosquitoes.
Kids running around chasing each other in the dark are more likely to attract mosquitoes compared to someone, like me, who is lounging by the fire.
Several varieties of insect repellent containing DEET are very effective at keeping mosquitoes away. I am not opposed to pulling out the big guns when necessary. Mosquitoes can carry diseases like West Nile and Zika viruses.
For that reason, if the swarms seem especially large in number or overly zealous in their snacking, we cover our clothing with a DEET repellent and thoroughly wash our skin if exposed to it.
Some plants naturally keep mosquitoes at bay. Most of them do well in containers that can be arranged around outdoor gatherings. Lavender looks beautiful, repels mosquitoes, and also attracts pollinators. Marigolds keep mosquitoes away, along with many other bugs. Yearly, I plant them around the perimeter of our garden. Petunias and geraniums have vibrant blooms and provide a powerful punch against mosquitoes.
Other herbs thrive when planted in containers and can be eaten as well as used to repel mosquitoes. Rosemary, basil, and mint all have natural properties that I love but mosquitoes hate. Planting mint in a container is a great idea because otherwise it will spread out and take over an area.
I use rosemary as a topping on baked salmon. Basil makes delicious pesto and can be used in margherita pizza recipes. A cool glass of lemonade topped with mint is a great combination.
Citronella is a common ingredient in natural bug sprays and outdoor candles. It is a hardy grass that can grow as tall as 6 feet and also as wide as 6 feet. It would be better suited as an addition to a flower bed instead of being planted in a container.
The best-case scenario would be that mosquitoes suddenly start to suck fat instead of blood. If that miracle doesn’t occur, I think the ultimate attack is a combination of DEET spray and natural plants. It’s time to take back warm evenings from the enemy bit by bit.
STAY INFORMED. SIGN UP!
Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!