Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lavender.

Really, it's not about the lavender or the pretty smell. It's about the menthol. I suspect there are other, related compounds in lavender that bugs also hate, but bugs of all types REALLY hate menthol.

Back in Hawaii, I was thinking of moth-proofing the stash, because, duh, lots of money spent, there. And I was going to go with moth balls (which also have menthol in them) when the Plant Freak in me had an idea. You see, back in the Middle Ages, when the Black Plague hit Europe, the two areas of Europe that grew lavender for the perfume trade - Norfolk, England, and the south of France - had almost no cases of plague. It's because the whole area reeked of lavender and menthol, and the fleas carrying the disease stayed away. That's where the whole idea of pretty smells keeping away the plague came from. It's not the 'pretty' that keeps away the bugs, it's that funky undertone of lavender, which is, of course, the menthol.

Lavendula angustifolia is the species with the most menthol, of the species grown commercially. Another plant that has a lot of menthol in it is peppermint. You could fling some peppermint teabags around your yarn and it would work. (Or, you know, rub it with Vicks Vapo-Rub. Ha.) I buy my lavender by the pound, here. The lavender oil works, too. Use it sparingly and try to keep it off your skin. It won't cause any skin problems - I use it on infected burns when I get them - but there's debate about lavender oil screwing with your hormone levels, so better safe than sorry. When I put it on the Goob for mosquito repellent, I put a drop on each shoulder of her shirt, and a drop on the cuff of each pant leg.

Other bug-repelling plants are eucalyptus, pennyroyal, most pines, wintergreen, and most mints. Available mints that grown in the US, all of them are bug repellent to some degree. Yeah, pennyroyal and wintergreen are also mints, but almost no one thinks of them that way. Of those, pennyroyal is toxic, and a little bit of pine scent goes a long way. So I suggest sticking to culinary mints or lavender.

11 comments:

Mandy said...

My sister-in-law also told me that cotton balls soaked with pure peppermint oil will keep away mice and other rodents - it's apparently not just the bugs that don't like some of those compounds! But it must be the real thing. She has a cottage that they have had some mouse problems at, and they put these in the attic and unused drawers where signs of mice were, and no more mousies. Now, they could have just moved to less obvious areas of the house, but what do I know?

Alwen said...

Coincidentally, I just got my two dram bottles of "Save the Farm" mint oil from getmint.com (one each of peppermint and spearmint).

I think I'm going to put some on a cotton ball and stuff it in where I think the mice get in.

ellen in indy said...

i've used mint oil as a flea repellent via the cottonball trick, but it's too strong to use on pets. i tried a few drops on the dog's collar once and he was miserable.

has anyone tried lavender oil on pets' collars? my pets take flea collars off rapidly and look at me like, PLEASE! i'd rather have the FLEAS!

(p.s.: my confirmation word is "legrut" -- now i know what to call it when a dog's humping my shin!)

Anonymous said...

besides, lavender and chamomile smells really sexy on a man's clothes... (did I just say that? Yup. Sure did...)

Amy Lane (whose computer isn't letting her log in because it hates me?)

Lola Lee Beno said...

Pennyroyal is an abortificant, so if you're trying to get pregnant, stay away from it.

NeedleTart said...

Finally! Something to do with the harvest of the 45 lavender plants I have in front of my house. We have 150 feet of retaining wall with about a foot of dirt in front between the wall and the sidewalk. What else would I have planted. And you can only eat so many lavender meringues.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lavender update. I think I'll buy some because mosquitoes LOVE me.

Pam

word is quanoish, it reminds me of some food

Donna Lee said...

I never thought of lavender as an insect repellant. That would be so much more pleasant than moth balls in the attic and for being outside in the summer.

Louiz said...

My mother uses lavender oil (diluted 1/5 to 1/10 water) dabbed at the back of her cats necks (the dog gets it too, but he's a huge great big woolly collie so he gets a collar too) and it works pretty well.

Lavender oil neat on the skin can cause problems if you use it repeatedly, which is why my mum dilutes it for the pets.

Anne-Marie said...

I know this about 2 years too late, but do you think it would help with the plague of stink bugs that I am enduring now?

Anonymous said...

YES, we have stinkbugs too. Any thoughts on lavender?