Just before writing this column on Tuesday, I was outside in the sunshine around 6 p.m., throwing the frisbee to my dogs, Lily and Pebbles. Everything was great until the black flies, those tiny …
Just before writing this column on Tuesday, I was outside in the sunshine around 6 p.m., throwing the frisbee to my dogs, Lily and Pebbles. Everything was great until the black flies, those tiny black vampires of the insect world, started to swarm and bite.
So unfortunately, our frisbee time was cut dramatically short, which Lily was not happy with. Lily is an Australian Shepherd, which is a very active breed of dog, and she needs her exercise time. So she reminded me that I needed to bring home some citronella plants to keep the black flies away. Citronella, Pelargonium ‘citrosum', is marketed as “mosquito plant” or “citrosa geranium” in the United States.
We have been carrying these plants for years as a natural insect repellent around decks and patios. We usually have at least one plant about every six feet around our deck in the spring and summer, so that when we sit outside in the evening, we don't get bitten up.
For use in other areas, like when I go fishing, I simply bring a few leaves along in a zip-lok bag and rub them on from time to time. The aroma from the citronella geranium is similar to that of the citronella candles that you would normally burn on your picnic tables to keep bugs away, but surprizingly citronella oil for those candles comes from another source.
Citronella oil is an essential oil obtained from the leaves and stems of different species of lemongrass. Now we carry lemongrass as well as a culinary herb and although it does also smell citrusy, it is not the variety that contains large amount of citronella.
Lemongrasss being tropical was originally found in southern Asia, Africa and Australia. In India and Sri Lanka, Citronella Grass, as it is called grows about six feet tall with reddish stems that are filled with the essential oil which is used in soaps, insect repellent, insect sprays and candles, and in aromatherapy.
Luckily most insects can't tell the difference between citronella from lemongrass and the citronella geranium as both products work well to keep those biting insects at bay.
And since we just received a delivery of both citronella geraniums and lemongrass in this week, Lily has reminded me to bring some home so that her frisbee time at the end of the day, does not get shortened again. Of course this also means I can go fishing again too without getting chewed.