Don’t Let Mosquitoes Bug You

Lavender plant that acts as a mosquito
Lavender plant that acts as a mosquito repellent. PHOTO | FILE 

Proper gardening could rid the country malaria by cutting the parasites’ food supply thus reducing their population and transmissions.

Besides blood, mosquitoes feed on nectar from flowers for energy to sustain their lives, so removing flowers from a common shrub appeared to kill off lots of the older, adult, female, biting insects that transmit malaria.

As a gardener, you could purpose to constantly remove flowers from an invasive plant shrub (prosopis juliflora) which promotes the malaria parasite transmission.

There are other plants that can be grown in the garden to repel mosquitoes, said Philip Mutua, a lead consultant at Waridi Landscapers along Nairobi’s Kiambu Road.

“The herbs which can also help are peppermint, lemon grass and the Queen of the Night plants. Lavender herb and jasmine also work well in repelling mosquitoes—most of them are both indoors and outdoors plants,” said Philip.

Queen of the Night is a kind of a cactus plant known as selenicereus grandifloras.
It requires rich soil and sufficient moisture and grows well as an outdoor plant as it performs best under the sun, he said.

The lemon grass is another best bet when it comes to mosquito-repellent plants.
Crusted leaves of the lemon grass have a 62 per cent of the repellency and it is used in commercial insect repellents, research shows.

“The plant is easy to grow,” said Philip, adding that all you need is some good sun and a little water now and then. It does pretty well in dry soil. Pruning is also required.

Lavender, a food spice and a beautiful flower too has many uses in aromatherapy, herbal remedies also repels unwanted insects including mosquitoes, spiders, ants and moths.

Though the herb can be a bit demanding and slightly harder to grow than the other plants, keep it in well-drained soil.

Marigolds, basil, sage, rosemary and geraniums are other mosquito-repelling plants.
To get the mosquito repelling properties of marigolds (commonly known locally as stink weed), for instance, they must be the African or French variety.

“The pungent scent of these two types is what makes them so beneficial. The African marigold is the bigger of the two and can reach heights of 30 to 40 inches. They have blooms that are different shades of yellow and orange,” said Philip.

Grow in pots

All marigolds need sun. They do best in well drained moderately fertile soil but will grow just about anywhere. 

The geraniums or citronella plant, a member of the large geranium family of plants, is also commonly called the mosquito plant usually sold as a repellent.

It has a pungent smell that repels mosquitoes and other bugs like the cabbage worm.

“It can be grown in pots and moved inside in colder climates. One problem with this geranium is that it is poisonous so is not recommended for those with pets or young children,” said Philip.

“It is similar to the moonflower plant, which consumes a lot of oxygen and can kill a child in less than two hours if they are exposed to it in a long duration.”

As a gardener, according to lead author of the malaria research, Gunter Muller from Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School, it may be worthwhile to abstain from the introduction of exotic plants that have the potential to become invasive.

Gunter said; “It is not only because of their potential negative impacts on the environment and livelihoods, but because some of them may have negative significant consequences for public health and specifically for malaria.”

“It appears to show that by changing the landscape, not using insecticides or drugs, we can make a difference,” Gunter added.