When flies, ants or moths make your house their house, put the pest-fighting properties of plants to work for you, instead. Basil, black pepper, calamint, clove, eucalyptus, fennel, garlic, hyssop, mugwort, rosemary, sage, southernwood, thyme and tansy are among the many herbs that contain chemical compounds with insect-repelling properties. Here are a few tried-and-true remedies.
Defend your home against invading ants by spraying ant trails with equal parts white vinegar and water, mixed with a few drops of eucalyptus oil. You can use the same solution to wash countertops, floors and other areas where you see ants. Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper in doorways, on windowsills and around other areas where ants are entering.
Sliced fresh garlic cloves, mint leaves, tansy leaves and whole cloves are also reported to drive away indoor ants. Try guarding entryways by placing a pot of tansy by the doorway, or grow the herb in a window box. Be cautious: Tansy is invasive in the garden, and when ingested, it can be toxic to people and pets.
Flies and Mosquitoes
The chemical compound d-limonene, found in citrus fruits, is used in many commercial fly and mosquito repellents. Grapefruit, lemon and orange are particularly high in this compound, but basil, hyssop, calamint, fennel, and black pepper also have high concentrations of d-limonene. Citronella oil (steam-distilled from Cymbopogon nardus and C. winte-rianus), popular in candles, contains several other compounds known to repel insects. Diffusing any of these fragrant, insect-repellent oils can make summer evenings on the deck or patio more pleasant.
Protect clothing from moth damage with pest-repellent Artemisia species (such as mugwort or southernwood), eucalyptus, hyssop, sage, rosemary, tansy and thyme. Fill small muslin or cheesecloth bags with the dried herbs, and tuck them into drawers or hang them inside closets. You can also make natural mothballs: Soak cotton balls in a few drops of the essential oil of one or more of these herbs. Hang bags of the cotton balls, or set them on a shelf in your closet, being careful to keep them from touching your clothes.
The larvae of several different moths (commonly grouped together as "pantry moths" or "flour weevils") can ruin stored rice, cereal, flour, birdseed and more. Keeping cupboards clean and free of crumbs and loose grains, as well as storing grains and seeds in sealed containers, will go a long way toward preventing infestations of these pests. For added insurance, tuck bay leaves inside canisters and other places you store grain products. Bay contains several chemical compounds known to repel insects.
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Reprinted from Rodale’s 21st Century Herbal by Dr Michael Balick. Copyright (c) 2014 by Rodale Inc. By permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.