With the change of seasons comes the inevitable onslaught of insect pests, which, at the very least, are annoying and can make outdoor entertainment and other activities quite unpleasant. Summer flies and mosquitoes in particular can be a real nuisance.
It is important that they are controlled and deterred from annoying us or entering our living space. Fortunately there are safe, natural ways in which you can do this without having to resort to chemicals that pollute the air we breathe and that can endanger the health of your family.
Many herbs and other plants help to deter insect pests, and can be grown in the garden or pots close to entry doors and around patios, verandahs and outdoor entertainment areas.
Flies are repelled by lavender, sweet woodruff (Asperula odorata), lemon verbena, star anise, tansy, any of the mints, thyme, rosemary, bay, chamomile, garden rue (Ruta graveolens), elder, southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and basil.
Mosquitoes can be kept at bay by growing Cedronella (Cedronella tryphylla) throughout the garden or in pots, near entrance doors or around outdoor entertainment areas. Cedronella can be sown directly from seed and is a herbaceous bush with ferny lemon-scented leaves and pink to violet flowers.
Citronella-scented geraniums (Pelargonium) will also help to control mosquitoes.
Brush lavender oil or pennyroyal oil onto woodwork surrounding doorways and onto kitchen benches to help keep flies away.
Small muslin bags, containing cloves, tied to light fittings is also an effective fly repellent, as is burning eucalyptus, lavender, citronella or peppermint oil in a ceramic simmering pot.
Simmering pots are available from most gift and novelty shops and are designed to sit on tables or bench tops.
Eucalyptus or citronella candles burning in a room will help to repel mosquitoes and blowflies, as well as making the room smell clean and fresh.
In outdoor entertainment areas, install red lights where you eat and cook, as they will help to repel insects and a white light some way off will attract pests.
Avoid electric 'zappers', as they will kill large numbers of beneficial insects. Simmering pots and citronella candles are just as effective around the barbecue as they are inside the house.
Save pruned branches from your herb plants, especially lavender, and throw them in your barbecue fire. Pennyroyal will also work, as well as green eucalyptus leaves.
The latter will repel mosquitoes, flies, gnats and midges, however, they should only be used as a last resort, since it makes a very smoky fire. Burning lavender insect sticks outside or inside is another very effective repellent.
To prevent yourself from becoming a feast for mosquitoes, midges and sand flies, or from being annoyed by flies, you should use a personal repellant.
Lavender oil is particularly effective and can be blended with a bland vegetable oil to make it spread further. Simply dilute the lavender oil, a drop at a time, with the vegetable oil until it is sufficiently fragrant.
You can replace the lavender oil, if you prefer, with eucalyptus, tea tree or citronella oil.