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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.

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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!

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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

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