BOISE, Idaho — Summer is almost here, and you'll want to spend more time in your backyards and gardens.
Unfortunately, so will the bugs. And because of viruses such as Zika and West Nile, mosquitoes are a big concern.
You can plant herbs and flowers that repel those bugs, including mosquitoes, and add a touch of beauty to your backyard.
One sure sign of summer is bugs.
Some critters eat at your fruits and vegetables while others, such as flies and mosquitoes, eat at your patience. Some plants have strong scents that bugs don’t like, making them good insect repellents.
At the same time, they make attractive additions to home landscapes. Here are nine favorite plants that bug the bugs:
1. Marigolds: These flowers are colorful additions to landscaping, but they have a distinctive smell that repels mosquitoes and other garden pests, including squash bugs and tomato worms. Marigolds contain a natural compound used in many insect repellents.
Plant some marigolds in the garden among your squash, melons and tomatoes or near open windows and doorways where mosquitoes might be tempted to enter.
2. Lavender: About the only insects you see around lavender are bees. They love the flowers, but other bugs stay away.
Lavender has a pleasant scent that comes from the essential oils in the leaves of the plant, but the bugs hate it. Hang some dried lavender in your closet and you won’t have to worry about moths eating your clothes.
The herb is a perennial and is drought resistant once it's established, a bonus for areas that are watching their water consumption.
3. Lemon grass: Lemon grass can grow up to 4 feet tall, but the best thing about this decorative grass is that it contains citronella, a common natural ingredient in many mosquito repellents.
You’ve probably heard of citronella candles and torches. The plant itself does even better at deterring mosquitoes because it has a stronger smell.
Lemon grass tolerates heat and drought but not frost. So in most areas, it’s best planted in a pot that can be moved indoors in winter.
4. Garlic: This herb has long been regarded as a deterrent to blood-sucking vampires and werewolves, but it really deters buzzing blood-sucking mosquitoes.
Planting garlic around the garden also will ward off other insects and creepy crawlers. Garlic extract sprayed in your garden is harmless to plants, but bugs don’t like that garlic odor.
5. Rosemary: Though you'll want to plant an herb garden for cooking, rosemary repels flies and mosquitoes.
It also has a pungent scent that drives away other bugs, including cabbage moths. It does well in hot dry weather, and thrives in containers, so you can set it in various places around the garden.
6. Basil: This herb also tastes great in your favorite dishes but doubles as a bug repellent.
Basil’s strong smell keeps mosquitoes away. And if you put a potted basil plant near your picnic table, you won’t have to worry as much about flies either.
7. Catnip: Many cats love catnip, but mosquitoes won’t come near it.
In fact, some studies show that catnip is 10 times more effective than DEET, the chemical formally known as N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide and found in most commercial insect repellents.
Roll up a few catnip leaves and rub them on your skin. The bugs won’t bother you, but the neighbor’s cat might.
Catnip grows almost anywhere, and it will spread in your garden. So growing it in pots is best.
8. Petunias: These annuals add a bright splash of color to any landscape, but the funnel-shaped blossoms also have a licorice-like scent that repels many insect pests, including aphids, tomato hornworms and squash bugs.
But do keep an eye on these flowers because other crawly garden pests are attracted to petunias, including slugs and caterpillars.
9. Mint: Who doesn’t like the taste of mint?
It’s a beautiful plant that smells and tastes great to people, but ants and mice absolutely hate it. It can spread quickly in the garden and is hard to remove, so you might want to keep it in a pot.
Put some containers of mint around your patio or in your garden, and it will ward off other insects, including mosquitoes.
These are just a few of the many plants that bugs find distasteful. Surrounding yourself and your patio with a few them will keep the bugs away from you, too.
Some of the plants are perennials, which will come back from year to year while others need to replanted annually. You can find most, if not all, of these plants at most nurseries and garden centers.
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