Anti-insect Herbs. Fact, Fantasy or Exaggeration?

Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, FJanuary 30, 2013

I actually asked this in my regular forum, Florida Gardening, but figured, "Hey, this is about herbs, so let's ask the Herb people!" So here it goes:

In the Garden section of a local paper there's an article that covers planting various herbs around your yard to help repel fleas, mosquitoes, flies, politicians and other undesirables. But after looking up some of the plants they mention, I read in one article that they work, another article says they don't and still another says that while they work, the area of coverage is negligible. Which brings to my mind my Tiki Torches. Last spring I bought three, filled them with Citronella oil and would light them at night to keep the mosquitoes at bay. And they worked! If you stood within 18 inches of a torch that is. (I actually sat a chair about 2 ft from one torch and watched as mosquitoes attacked the side opposite of the torch while leaving the side close to the torch alone.

The article lists these herbs as anti-pest: Wormwood, Pennyroyal, Rose Geranium, Citronella Lemongrass, Rue, Pyrethrum Daisy, and Lavendercotton.

So are these miracle herbs much like my tiki torches? They'll work if I plant one every 2 feet or so in my yard? Or do they truly repel pests? Or should I be planting some herbs at the newspaper's office to keep articles like this out of the Garden section?

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Exaggeration, a lot of the time based on folklore. If the essential oils of some are in the air, yes, they may repel some insects. But just putting them in the garden? I don't think so. But I'd love to have one that repels politicians!

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 9:44PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I agree with eahamel, doesn't really work just having the plants in the garden. If you are taking bits of the plants and burning them like incense or rubbing on your clothes, perhaps that may work. But cutting down on mosquito habitats like emptying buckets of stagnant water works much better. ;)


    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 8:17AM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Okay, so the general consensus (both here and from other sources) is that unless I grow an entire bed of these plants and roll in them them daily, they won't do much in the way of pest deterrence. I wonder how much money the big box stores around here are raking in from people who just read the article and ran to the stores rather than doing some actual 'research'.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 10:36AM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I use basil leaves to repel skeeters. I rub about 10 leaves in my hands to release the oils, then I rub it on my skin. Haven't been bit yet when I do that.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:56PM
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Leekle, I'm sure they rake in a bunch of bucks from these "urban legends" about herbs. Zack, that's what you have to do to get that insect repellent plant to actually work!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 2:23PM
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CA Kate

In order for most of these to work they need to at least be made into an infusion and then sprayed on you or the infected plant. My experience with citronella candles, etc. was the same as yours.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 10:52PM
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chervil2(z5 MA)

An interesting study looks at the ant repellency quality of plants with specific types of floral structures.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ant Repellent Plants

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 12:28PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

What about citronella plants. Don't they work to repel skeeters?

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:32PM
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CA Kate

One herb that actually worked all on its own was Tansy. Just laying some leaves in the cupboard deterred the ants that seems intent on invading any bag or bottle they could sneak their way into.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 6:30PM
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Here in Texas they sell a system that sends out a fine mist no one in the yard will even notice. I do not know if this works and have not heard any ads lately but the product was called CedarCide, make from the oil of a Cedar tree. But if you put down Cedar chips your helper-lizards may all leave or die off. So far the best thing that has worked for me is keeping grass cut and being in a open area away from trees and bushes. If I find a wet area I drop a drop of dish soap in the water, if you have fish this is not recommended, and they will be more than happy to keep the mosquito larva down.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 12:15PM
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