May 30, 2009

Mosquitoes and Ticks and Spiders, Oh No!

It has been an unusually wet spring here in Middle Tennessee. Everything is flourishing including the mosquitoes and ticks. I want to pass on to you some suggestions for deterring these pesky little critters and something I found years ago to help with tick and spider bites as well.

Let’s start with mosquitoes; my son told me about this little trick last week, he said it worked for him. He has a small yard, lots of shade and it is low so in tends to stay damp – perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes. He could hardly stay on his back deck without getting bitten. Last week he bought a bottle of Listerine, added it to a gallon hand sprayer, topped it off with water and sprayed his yard. He said he had no mosquitoes until a hard rain washed it off. He also said, “I have no bugs and my yard smells minty fresh”. Ha!

I found a wonderful gadget at my local Dollar General Store. It is called a “Halo” and is made by Black & Decker. It comes with a container of Citronella oil and four batteries. You install the batteries, add the container of oil and when you turn it on, a little fan inside comes on and disperses the fragrance, a red light on the top glows softly to let you know it’s on and the device emits a high pitched sound that drives away the mosquitoes but is inaudible to humans. It will cover a 100 square foot area. We sat out on our porch in the dark with no bites! I bought two of them and they were well worth the $10 each that I paid.

Other than spraying a DEET based repellent on my shoes and clothes or using one of the granulated flea and tick repellents that are available commercially for your yard, I don’t have too many ideas for getting rid of ticks. I did read somewhere that garlic will keep them out of the grass but I honestly haven’t tried that one. I can tell you what to do if you get a bite that looks like it might be Lyme disease or a spider bite. Years ago, I got a spider bite while camping in the fall. Our camp site was surrounded by deep fallen leaves, a perfect habitat for Brown Recluse Spiders. A day after we got home, I noticed a nasty looking bite on my ankle. I went to our family doctor and he said it did indeed look like a spider bite. He was the type of doctor who would try a natural cure before using a dangerous steroid or antibiotic – here’s what he told me to do first. He said get some activated charcoal powder, add a little water to it to make a thick paste and apply that to my bite. He also said to cover all that with plastic wrap (like you cover a dish in the refrig) to keep the paste moist and also to keep the messy - I do mean MESSY black powder off your clothes and everything else you come near. He said to change it a couple of times a day. If the bite didn’t look better in 48 hours, to come back and we would do antibiotics. Within 24 hours the redness was almost gone!

Recently, I had a tick bite that after a day started to look like a bull’s eye ring and was stinging and itchy. I did my charcoal paste. By the way, I mix this up on a piece of aluminum foil so I can fold it up and dispose of the leftovers without making a mess. I tape the plastic wrap over the bite with adhesive tape to keep it in place. The next day, the ring was gone and only a small red place was left. By the third day no spot remained. Charcoal powder comes in capsules too and will absorb lots of kinds of poison. They are a good addition to your medicine cabinet. Give them orally if you think someone has ingested poison and then call your local poison control center or get to an emergency room.

In order to keep the mosquito population down, don’t allow water to collect in containers in your yard. Goldfish will eat mosquito larvae in your ponds and moving water is not as attractive to adult mosquitoes as still water is. I have a stream of water circulating in my little water feature along with koi and goldfish. There are safe additives called “Mosquito Dunks” that you can add to bird baths and ponds that kill the larvae too. Don’t forget to give your pets a flea and tick repellent and be sure they have their heartworm meds on time.

If you have any good tips for ridding our yards of fleas, ticks, or mosquitoes add them to my blog comment section.


  1. Connie from gardenwebMay 30, 2009 at 9:05 PM

    Great tips! I love natural remedies. I have another use for Listerine and water for you:

    If your dog happens to roll in something smelly (it was a dead fish with mine...why do they do this?), mix 50/50 Listerine and water in a spray bottle and spray them down. Smell gone instantly!

  2. Thank you for this incredibly useful post! I am going to get one of those Halos!

  3. I like the doggy tip. my favorite Farside cartoon shows a male dog picking up his date at her door. He says, "You look nice and whatever you rolled in smells great!"

  4. The listerine is said to last for several days and it's suggested to spray around your door frames to deter the mosquitos from getting in the house. If you don't want to smell like medicine, another choice is fabric softener sheets. I believe it is a chemical, clearly not one that would cause skin irritation,in the fabric softener that act as a repellant.
    Stick a sheet in your pocket or collar when you need protection. Then there is a list of plants that deter insects and spiders. My favorites are Basil, Mint, Lavender, and Rosemary, and of course anything citrus scented. I keep citronella, and lemon balm on my porch and deck. This year I am planting mint, rosemary and lavender around my foundation. I have brown recluse spiders and lots of pets, so I have been trying to discourage them in a safe way for my animals. Burt's Bees has an insect repellant that is made with citronella, mint and rosemary oil. I spray it into plastic lids and keep it under the bed. I has to be refreshed regularly. But, the room smells lovely. Hope this helps.

  5. Thanks for the excellent tips -dryer sheets! Who would have thought! I heard that dried mums will deter Brown Recluse. My friends house was infested and she swore they would not come near the dried flowers.

  6. I heard a new one this week. Regular laundry bleach diluted 1 cup to 1 gallon of water, sprayed on the lawn will kill ticks and fleas and not harm the grass.

  7. I've used Lemon Fresh Joy Dishwashing Detergent mixed with water on a plate or sprayed it around the area I was going to be in and it keeps mosquitoes and flies away.