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Staving Off Mosquitoes

Chemical-free methods for controlling backyard pests.

Nothing spoils a backyard barbecue like a swarm of bloodthirsty mosquitoes. How does one keep bugs at bay without harsh chemicals? Local experts offer tips.

FANS. Landscape architect Mark White of Garden Wise in Arlington, says installing a ceiling fan on a covered patio is an effective method. "They create enough air current to keep mosquitoes from lighting on top of your skin," he said.

ALL-NATURAL SPRAYS. Alex Dencker of Behnke Nurseries in Potomac, says oil-based sprays help keep the mosquito population under control. "Oil-based sprays like cedar oil and clover oil keep critters off without using nasty chemicals," he said. "Most of these repellants come in sprays or granules."

LEMON. White recommends a lemon-scented plant called lemon bomb as a barrier for repelling mosquitoes. "Lemon scented plants do a bang-up job of keeping mosquitoes [away]," he said. "They provide a scent all over your garden and mosquitoes don’t like it. I have it planted all over my yard and on Memorial Day we had no mosquitoes, which is unheard of in Northern Virginia." He added that citronella geranium plants are also effective mosquito repellants.

INSECTS AS WEAPONS. Sherrye Schenk of Potomac Garden Center in North Potomac, says that preying insects can keep mosquitoes and other pests under control. "Praying mantis and lady bugs work well."