Ah, these lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer. Fire up the grill, mix up a pitcher of Tom Collins or whatever it is people are drinking these days, and let’s hit the backyard. We play corn hole, the kids play in the sprinkler. This is what summer is all about. For about five minutes. And then the scourge of summer descends.
Mosquitoes have been around for over thirty million years. You don’t get that kind of longevity without being good at what you do. What mosquitoes are good at is sucking blood and when these little vampires show up at your picnic, it’s time to pack up the potato salad.
There are plenty of chemicals available for discouraging mosquitoes, but I’ve never been too excited about spraying synthetics on my plants, much less on my skin. When I need to send these nasty, disease-bearing, party-wrecking pests packing, I much prefer a natural solution.
So, how do you solve a problem like mosquito?
Essential oils are a long-used solution for invading insects. Eucalyptus wards off ticks. Ants hate peppermint oil and patchouli keeps fleas at bay. Perhaps best known, citronella oil, extracted from a grass related to lemongrass, is very, very good at keeping mosquitoes from crashing your party. It is a common ingredient in bug sprays and, once the scent is in the air, mosquitoes keep their distance. Citronella candles are a great way to keep the mosquitoes away without having to slather your guests with repellent every few hours, plus they add a little ambiance around the deck as dusk descends.
Unfortunately, many of the commercially sold “citronella” candles just plain don’t work. Looking closely, a candle labeled “citronella scented” might be scented synthetically, containing none of the natural citronella oil needed to do the job. Once again, if you want the job done right, it might be time to DIY.
These homemade citronella candles are fun to make and the containers may be decorated to fit any backyard decor. When purchasing citronella oil, make sure to use essential oil, not the fuel one you might find for tiki torches. It can be easily found in health food stores or online, and a few drops added to your candles will keep the deck mosquito-free all evening long.
Select canning jars of any shape or size to house your citronella candles. Start by anchoring a wick to the bottom of each jar using sturdy tape or hot glue.
Once wicks are affixed, keep jars in the oven set to its lowest temperature until the wax is ready. Warm jars will ensure the wax will cool evenly and prevent any mishaps should your wax be too hot when pouring.
Wax may come in bar form or flaked. Bear in mind, the volume of flaked wax will reduce to about one half when in solid form.
In a double boiler or a mixing bowl nestled atop a pot of boiling water, melt the wax. Once liquid, it will be clear and resemble olive oil.
Stir in citronella oil, adding roughly three drops per cup of wax.
For a colorful candle, stir in an old crayon or two. When adding color, be aware the cooled wax will be much paler than it appears in liquid form.
Pour wax into prepared jars and use pencils or some of the hundreds of leftover chopsticks you can’t seem to throw away to keep the wicks centered in the jar.
Once the candles have cooled, trim the wicks to half an inch or so from the surface of the candle.
Burn candles strategically around the deck or yard to create a mosquito-free zone. And pour me another Tom Collins, would you?