It sounds so simple: Place mosquito-repelling plants such as citronella, mint, lavender and lemon balm in beds or containers around your patio or garden, and you’ll be able to sit outside without all those pesky biting bugs harassing you and your family. But does that really work? Not so much. “Mosquito repelling plants sound good, but the research doesn’t back it up,” says Elmer Gray, entomologist at the University of Georgia. “Studies have shown that the plants don’t produce enough oil to repel insects, and mosquitoes will even land on these plants.” In fact, in one study, mosquitoes landed more frequently on subjects surrounded by the plants than those not surrounded by them.
But because these insects carry diseases such as West Nile, Zika, encephalitis and canine heartworm, you still need to protect your family. And because mosquitoes are found everywhere from woodlands to city blocks, you can never really put down your guard, says Gray. With more than 3,000 species worldwide, they’re brilliant at surviving, so you’re never eradicating them. But you can manage the population near your home by taking a few common-sense steps.
Bottom line: Plant the so-called “mosquito repelling plants” if you like the look or scent of them, but don’t rely on them to keep mosquitoes away from you.