Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - February 08, 2010

From: Arlington, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Best of Smarty, Pests
Title: Need bug repelling plants in Arlington, VA
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

What kind of plants are best bug repellents, and need little or no maintenance. I'm a city girl and don't like bugs (spiders)

ANSWER:

Dear Miss Muffet,

You may be relieved to learn that spiders eat "bugs." In fact, most of their diet consists of insects. The report that they favor curds and whey is an urban myth that has been perpetuated by Mother Goose among others. There are also insects (digger wasps) that carry off spiders in order to provision their nests so that their developing larvae can have something to eat. So you might say its a bug eat bug world out there.

There are numerous plants that are said to be insect repellent, and some of the active ingredients,  e.g. pyrethrins, are extracted and used as insecticides. The short list below contains some of the more often mentioned insect repellent plants, however, they are non-natives and there are no entries for them in our Native Plant Database.

Marigolds (Calendula officinalis) (Images)

Lavender (Lavandula sp)   (Images)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) (Images)

Citronella (Cymbopopgon nardus(Images)

Basil (Ocimum basillicumImages

Believing that "the best defense is a good offense", Mr. Smarty Plants is suggesting three plants which occur in your state that might help keep the bugs at bay; Venus flytrap Dionaea muscipula (Venus flytrap), Pitcherplant Sarracenia flava (yellow pitcherplant), and Sundew plant Drosera brevifolia (dwarf sundew).

 

From the Image Gallery


Gila manroot
Marah gilensis

Yellow pitcherplant
Sarracenia flava

Dwarf sundew
Drosera brevifolia

More Best of Smarty Questions

Is there a flower that blooms only once in seven years?
December 17, 2008 - Just wanted to know if there exists a flower that blooms only once in seven years? Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Definition of what constitutes a native plant
January 23, 2007 - Hello, I am doing research concerning "native plants" for the Northeast. I am "befuddled" as I am finding conflicting definitions for what constitutes a native plant. Do you have a good definiti...
view the full question and answer

Bees knees squeezing
May 28, 2010 - Barbara, Do the knees of bees help them squeeze if they please their wobbly, bobbly, knobbly balls of pollen?
view the full question and answer

Disappearing sunlight in Phoenix, AZ
September 29, 2009 - I live in a condo in Phoenix, AZ with a north facing patio that goes out about 10 feet and is 20 feet wide. During the summer months there is a span of 1 foot in the front that goes the 20 foot length...
view the full question and answer

Can tulip tree sap be used to make syrup in Bunker Hill IN?
July 10, 2009 - I was just wondering if tulip tree sap could be used to make syrup. I saw the sticky stuff on the leaves and decided to taste test it and it was very sweet, unfortunately I later found out that I was ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.