, Salem, MA


April 25, 2014

North Shore Gardener: What plants keep mosquitoes away?

Q: There is a ferny plant in advertisements that speaks of a plant that will keep mosquitoes away — can that possibly be true?

A: Well, not exactly. The plant is a citronella-scented geranium. With a good-sized plant, you might keep an area of 10 square feet relatively clear, but an area of 10 square feet is hardly enough room to have a picnic. Ever heard of a scent called citronella grass? The oil from this grass is used in many scented candles that are said to keep bugs at bay on your porch or yard. But there are many more fragrant plants and herbs that are said to repel mosquitoes, including all the mint family, such as catnip and kitchen herbs; and flowers and veggies like marigolds, onions and tomatoes. For most effectiveness, crush the leaves and rub on your arms and clothing. But remember, these scents do not kill, they only repel, so keep the can of Raid handy.

Q: I suddenly have a lot of ladybugs in the curtains in the dining room. They seem be staying in the same place in the house. How did they get in, or did they get in on a houseplant? More importantly, how do I get rid of them short of calling an exterminator?

A: Ladybugs usually come to find a warm place out of the cold — you may not be able to find them — then they reappear as the weather gets warmer in the spring. They probably came in through a crack in the wall or siding, or around the framing of a window.

How to get rid of them: Don’t squash them as you might do a housefly. We need ladybugs in the garden — they are a beneficial insect and eat the bugs that will destroy your plants. Think of them as a small army. If squashed, they will stain your walls, and they smell terrible! Instead, get out your hand vacuum and vacuum them away without a touch. Don’t forget to empty the vacuum after use. The bugs should be dumped outside in the garden where they will help rid plants of aphids, mealy bugs and other small bugs.

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