Itch-Free Naturally

Botanicals For A Pest-Free Backyard

by Margarita Cohen // July-August-September 2020

As we navigate today’s COVID-19 climate, it is more important than ever to feel comfortable in your yard. Many people are opting to stay home with their families and will be utilizing their outdoor spaces more this summer than ever before. However, there is one thing that can quickly ruin any outdoor fun, and that’s pesky mosquito, tick, and flea bites – especially since temperatures are on the rise and the chance of summer storms is always looming.

There are options for dealing with these warm weather pests, from DIY solutions to contracting a mosquito control service. Typically, this professional service involves treating areas where mosquitoes breed with a mild larvicide and then using a synthetic pesticide where the adult mosquitoes loaf. This is a very effective approach that leverages time-tested products that can be applied in a safe manner for families and pets, yet still eliminates mosquitoes and other backyard pests. In fact, the active ingredient for these synthetic products is often found in flea collars, as well as flea and tick shampoos, and is chemically similar to a natural pesticide found in chrysanthemums.

Still, for many homeowners, chemicals are of utmost concern and a common consideration when thinking about the type of outdoor pest control they want for their landscapes. As I discussed in the spring edition, I am very excited about our participation in a program sponsored by the EPA called the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program (PESP). The EPA describes PESP as a program dedicated to reducing pesticide risk in both agricultural and non-agricultural settings. As the only mosquito control company currently involved with this program (hopefully more will be joining soon), our focus has been to continuously increase the use of products derived from natural sources. I am happy to report that the pest control industry, through PESP, is responding to this need. New, highly effective products, consisting of ingredients sourced from all-natural sources, are now starting to come to market.

Before these products, the choice was either a synthetic product that eliminates mosquitoes or an all-natural product that leverages ingredients like concentrated garlic or peppermint that creates an odor barrier for mosquitoes. Although these natural approaches can be effective, they typically last a shorter period (two weeks versus three weeks) and are not as resilient to inclement weather.

With these new naturally-derived products, however, you no longer need to sacrifice when it comes to finding an effective natural solution to protect your yard from mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. These new products eliminate mosquitoes, rather than simply repelling them, and last as long as their synthetic competitors.

What is even more exciting is that when dry, they don’t harm pollinators. This means you can spray the same product that you use on bushes and trees, where you find most mosquitoes, and flowering plants, where you almost always find pollinators. These new natural products eliminate mosquitoes while saving the bees!

To protect pollinators against synthetic treatments, reputable mosquito control companies spray flowering plants separately with an all-natural product that creates an odor barrier to repel mosquitoes without negatively affecting the bees. The synthetic products are only applied to the leaves of bushes and trees, where pollinators, like honey bees, rarely land.

A botanical solution we tested in 2019 worked so well that we are now making it readily available. This solution uses a patented blend of ingredients derived from all-natural sources, like lemongrass oil, cedarwood oil, castor oil, corn oil, and geraniol (commonly found in citronella). This combination of naturally-derived ingredients creates an effective treatment that will eliminate mosquitoes for up to three weeks and is safe for pollinators. Sodium lauryl sulfate (a naturally-sourced ingredient often found in shampoos and beauty products) enhances the “stickiness” of the product, increasing durability. This is how the botanical solution can match the three-week durability of today’s synthetic treatments. The result is a complete rain-resilient pest control product that kills mosquitoes and disrupts their breeding cycles. Additionally, this product has been found to be extremely effective in treatments targeting fleas and ticks as well.

So, are botanical solutions for everyone? Unfortunately, not yet. From a durability and efficacy standpoint, the industry now has products that deliver results comparable to today’s synthetic mosquito control products … but they are more expensive and can cost 20% to 30% more than a synthetic solution.

If, however, avoiding chemicals is your top priority, initiatives like PESP are indeed beginning to pay off. These new botanical offerings are really a great first step, and I am excited where the industry is headed. Now people can choose between time-tested synthetic solutions that can absolutely be used in a family, pet, and environmentally safe manner, or new offerings coming to the market that are just as effective, but utlitize naturally-sourced ingredients.

Hopefully over time, the promise of PESP will deliver even better natural products that not only compete with synthetic solutions on effectiveness, but on price as well.

Margarita Cohen

The owner of Mosquito Joe of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill, making "Outside Fun Again" with mosquito control treatments for residential and commercial customers. For more information or to schedule an appointment for treatment, call or visit their website.