A Mosquito Repelling Garden?

If you have ever been to Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Martha’s Vineyard during the summer, there’s a good chance you had an encounter with a mosquito, or 1,000. Turns out, these pesky insects love the wildlife sanctuary just as much as we do.

It’s one thing to have them on the trails, but each season they take over the Nature Center, where we host programs for kids and adults of all ages. The mosquitoes lurk in the tall grass that surrounds the front of the center, just waiting for the door to open so they can make their grand entrance.

Enough was enough, and the team at Felix Neck, led by sanctuary director Suzan Bellincampi, decided to do something about it. First step: remove the unruly grass and replace it with gravel all around the building. Then Sue, a long-time volunteer and garden maven, suggested installing an anti-mosquito, or mosquito-repellent, garden. Or, as we like to call it, a “scented garden.”

The Makings of Scented aka Mosquito Garden

Scientifically, we know that mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide we breathe out. So unless we stop exhaling, mosquitoes will keep on coming. We also know that, in an effort to create a more “natural” mosquito repellent, many manufacturers have turned to nature’s bounty for scents that have been suggested to ward of these little buggers.

Taking a cue from Mother Nature herself, we decided to go right to the plant source that provides repellent properties to all those off-the-shelf products. Our volunteer built some raised beds and installed plants that are believed to have anti-mosquito properties. In our scented garden you will find:

  • Lemon Balm
  • Eucalyptus
  • Marigold
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Scented Geranium
  • Nasturtium
  • Catmint nepeta
  • Sweet Annie
  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Fennel

The season has just begun, but we have already noticed a decrease in the number of mosquitoes indoors. Is it because of the garden? Or was removing the grass enough to do the trick? There’s still much to learn and observe before we can deem the experiment a success.

Regardless of whether or not it really repels mosquitoes, we now have a lovely, scented garden that visitor can see, smell, and touch. Seems like a win-win situation to us!

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About Hillary T.

Where: Mass Audubon Headquarters, Lincoln Who: Massachusetts transplant by way of Florida and New York. Raising two young girls, who she hopes will be budding naturalists Favorite part of the job: Learning something new every day from some of the smartest and most enthusiastic groups of people

6 thoughts on “A Mosquito Repelling Garden?

  1. Deb M.

    It’s been 2 years; do you have any follow-up thoughts on how well the garden has been performing as a mosquito-repelling area? Thank you. 🙂

    1. Hillary Post author

      From the folks at Felix Neck: We are seeing less mosquitoes in the area near the garden. However, it is difficult to ascertain if it is the plants or the rocks that also dry the area or just lucky as it has been quite dry over the last few years. It is beautiful and fun as there are lots of pollinators and smells and textures for visitors and campers to enjoy.

  2. Linda

    I have many of these planted in pots that I move to the seating areas at my lakeside cottage (Skeeter heaven!). I encourage my guests to touch the plants or otherwise move the leaves to release the scent. The essential oils from some of these are in my bug repellant juice. No scientific studies, but anecdotally, my guests report being as bite free using the natural product as those using the chemicals here. Stands to reason the plants producing these oils will help.

    1. Hillary Post author

      Not that we know of, but as the post says – worst case scenario, we have a great smelling garden! But we will definitely report back at the end of summer to share what we have learned.


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