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How to Repel Flies and Gnats with Herbs

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Written by Dena Bolton   

How to Repel Flies and Gnats with HerbsIntro:  Flies and gnats can ruin a cookout or drive you crazy if they happen to find their way into your house.  I work in my garden all the time, and gnats do like to bite when I start getting hot and sweaty.  You can use all kinds of chemicals if you want; however, it is just as effective -- and better for the environment -- if you use all-natural alternatives to repel these annoying insects.  Herbs offer the perfect solution to the problem.  You should know that I use the herbs listed here regularly and can attest to their effectiveness.

Step 1:  Lemon balm.  I use lemon balm all the time when I am working in my garden.  I just break off a stalk or two and rub it over my arms and legs.  The gnats immediately leave me alone, and I just smell like a lemon.

Step 2:  Mints.  I noticed when I was working in my mint garden one day that I was not being bothered by any kind of little nasty, biting insects.  As a result, I place pots of mint everywhere to repel bad insects, especially gnats.  My daughter and I are vendors at our local farmers market, and the mint keeps the gnats away from the passion flowers she sells.

Step 3:  Pennyroyal.  There are two types of pennyroyal:  European (a perennial) and American (annual).  Both will repel flies (and fleas, for that matter).  Pennyroyal oil can actually been found in some commercial bug sprays.  [See my article Herb Profile - Pennyroyal.]

Step 4:  Basil.  Basil was traditionally used in Mediterranean areas to repel flies.  Small pots of the herb would be placed on outdoor tables at cafes.  You might want to try this at your next picnic.  You can also break off pieces, if you so desire, to flavor your food.

Step 5:  Tansy.  Tansy is a great herb for repelling flies, as well as mosquitoes.  [See my article:  The Herb Tansy.]  Place pots of this herb at your front and back doors to discourage flies from buzzing into your house.

Step 6:  Artemisia (also known as "wormwood").  This is another plant that is great for repelling flies.  I like the way it smells, too, which is kind of pine-y, kind of musky, kind of hard to explain.  It is a nice smell, though.  [For more on this herb, see my article Artemisia:  an Intoxicating Plant for Your Garden.]


•Make arrangements in vases just as you would cut flowers using the different herbs instead as centerpieces or to place around inside your home.  Not only will they look good, they will help to repel the insects.   Use a lot of the herbs when making these arrangements, since it is really the fragrance that repels the insects.

•Some, or all, of these herbs planted in containers can be quite decorative on outdoor tables, while hiding their real purpose as insect repellents.


•Tansy is an extremely effective bad bug repellent; however, it is also extremely invasive.  Think twice before sticking it in the ground.  You might rather keep it in a container instead.

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