Ouch! Nothing ruins a summer evening like having to swat off hungry mosquitoes. Fortunately, you don't need to lather yourself with toxic chemicals or resort to bug zappers to fend off the pesky biters. Here are five ways to repel mosquitoes from your yard, and your skin, this summer. 1. Make friends with bats. Some bat species can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour! You can attract these beneficial bug eaters by installing a bat house in your yard. Visit Bat Conservation International for installation advice and to buy a shelter or get plans to build your own.
2. Grow catnip (and other plants). Plant some catnip (Nepeta cataria) in your garden; not only will it repel mosquitoes, but you'll get some pretty flowers, too. Other mosquito-repelling plants include rosemary, marigolds, citronella grass, and lemon balm.
3. Light a candle. If you're averse or allergic to citronella, or want something more beautiful (and, yes, more expensive) than the typical citronella candle bucket, you might like these mosquito repellent candles from Hillhouse Naturals. Made with soy and ingredients like eucalyptus, lemongrass, and mint, they come in concrete containers that can be reused as planters.
4. Buy a natural bug repellent. Conventional repellents contain the chemical DEET, which may be toxic and harmful to the environment. We've had good luck with the plant-based Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. For more alternatives, see the Daily Green's list of 7 Natural Insect Repellents.
5. Or blend your own. For a DIY mosquito repellent, you'll need essential oil and something to mix it with, like vodka, olive oil, or witch hazel. For best results, combine a few different essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, citronella, cinnamon, cedarwood, and juniper. For instructions, visit About.com and Mother Earth News.
(Images: Flickr member birdfreak licensed under Creative Commons, Flickr member ali graney licensed under Creative Commons, Hillhouse Naturals, Repel, Flickr member Helena Liu licensed under Creative Commons)