The Washington Times
Washington, DC
August 13, 2003

Garlic spray wards off mosquitoes



There is a wedding tradition in my friend Kay's family. They hold them in the spring or summer in a big tent on her brother Jim's farm in Frederick. Kay makes centerpieces of flowering annuals and ivy, and then after the wedding moves her creations to brighten her Bethesda garden for the rest of the summer. She also oversees the rental of portable toilets. This year, there was another chore among the preparations. With a pond on the farm not far from the tent site, and concern about West Nile virus, the family decided to make sure there were no mosquitoes. Research on the Internet yielded a wealth of information, including the availability of a nontoxic garlic spray to do the job. "This works," Kay told me. "[The mother of the bride] sprayed the pasture in front of the house where the tent was going to be erected, and we were not bothered by any mosquitoes. It didn't seem to work on the flies, but they seemed to like the peak of the tent and really didn't bother us." The product Kay's family used is sold under two names, Garlic Barrier and Mosquito Barrier, according to a distributor, Ray Meesseman. "Both are registered names for the same product," he says, which is produced by Garlic Research Labs of Glendale, Calif. "[It is] an excellent product for 40 different species of insect," he says, including fleas, ticks and some flies, but not house flies or horse flies. It also repels deer, rabbits and geese. The spray is bought in a concentrated form and mixed with water for use in a canister sprayer or hose-end sprayer. Mr. Meesseman says he prefers the canister sprayer because it makes a more effective, fine spray, although Kay says her family was happy with the results using a hose-end sprayer. Either kind is widely available. The spray must be applied 48 hours before any rainfall because it needs that time to enter the plant systemically. Then it lasts 10 to 14 days, Mr. Meesseman says, and as long as four weeks if there is a dry spell. "I can do my place - which is just under a quarter acre - in one hour," he says. The best time to apply the spray is two to three hours before sunset, he says. Don't apply it when there is dew on the ground, he says, because that dilutes the spray.

A quart of the concentrate sells for $32.50, including shipping, he says, and a gallon costs $97.50 ( or call 877/848-7600). He says a quart will cover about two-thirds of an acre, mixed 2 ounces to one gallon of water. The property will smell distinctly like garlic, but the aroma fades, usually in less than an hour, Mr. Meesseman says. Mr. Meesseman's product is 99.3 percent garlic juice. He says that there are other pest repellent sprays containing garlic on the market but that they generally are more diluted. One is an already-diluted form of the concentrate Kay's family used.

Meanwhile, Kay, an inveterate do-it-yourselfer, set out on another Internet quest to find a recipe for making such a spray at home. She found several, including one on a Web page called Comfy Country Creations in Alberta ( Here is some of what that Web page says: "Organic gardeners have long been familiar with the repellent or toxic effect of garlic oil on pests. When it is combined with mineral oil and pure soap, as it is in the recipe that follows, devised at the Henry Doubleday Research Association in England, it becomes an effective insecticide. Some studies also suggest that garlic oil spray has fungicidal properties."

To make the spray, soak 3 ounces of finely minced garlic cloves in 2 teaspoons of mineral oil for at least 24 hours. Slowly add one pint of water that has a quarter ounce of liquid soap or commercial insecticide soap mixed into it. Stir thoroughly and strain the liquid into a glass jar for storage. To use it, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mixture to a pint of water. If that ratio is effective, try a more diluted solution to use as little as possible. The site says it is advisable to do a test spray on sensitive ornamentals by spraying a few leaves or plants first. If no damage has occurred in two to three days, it should be safe. The garlic spray is nice to use because it is safe for children and pets, but while it has been proven effective in repelling mosquitoes and other warm-weather pests, think twice before counting on it to save your plants from deer - which do major damage in a snowy wintertime when spraying anything is difficult.