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How to deal with insect pests such as horseflies, mosquitoes and things that bite in the garden.

A hot, dry summer provides ideal conditions for many things. Some plants love the weather, including cacti; succulents; alpines; ornamental grasses such as Stipa gigantea; Agarves; Bougainvillea; Portulaca; Oleander; poppy; lavender and most silvery or furry-leafed plants. But other things thrive in the heat too - including FLIES and other insects. What can you do about this problem?


Horseflies are particularly bothersome because they can deliver a rather nasty sting or bite which itches like mad and makes a big swelling. These little beasts measure up to 2.5cm long and they are often found around horse stables, rivers, ponds and livestock in general. Horseflies have razor sharp jaws and they tend to take a chunk of skin when they bite. The itchy wound which swells,  is difficult to ignore. People tend to scratch the bite spot, often leading to minor, or occasionally serious, infection. As for many bites including bees and wasps, some unfortunate people can suffer extreme allergic reactions for which a swift visit to a doctor or even an A&E department might be necessary.

Vampire females!

Only the female horsefly (also known as clegs) need a meal of blood, because these require high protein levels in order to develop their eggs.  All horseflies are at their most active in hot weather during daylight hours. Any warm-blooded mammal will do, including cattle, horses and people. Yum.



What can you do about a horsefly bite? Firstly, prevention is always better than cure, so keep an eye out for them! They are attracted by sight to large, dark objects that move; to odours and carbon dioxide.  Horseflies barely tickle when they land, so unfortunately, they are easy to miss. If you do see one trying to settle on you, swat it! But if you are too late, make sure the wound is clean, then apply an ice pack. This will soothe the itching. There are over-the-counter steroid creams containing hydrocortisone which are useful, and ibuprofen gel can also ease pain. Many people swear by dabbing vinegar or apple cider vinegar onto the affected area.

How to deter horseflies and other biting insects

Horseflies are beasts that like to live near water and families are therefore advised to drain paddling pools rather than allowing the water to stay overnight. Standing water acts as a breeding ground for many insects including mosquitoes too. Don’t waste your water, however! The flowers and plants in beds, borders and containers are desperate for a drink during hot weather.



There are other weapons in the war against nibblers that can help you. Encourage birds into your garden for biological control. Some plants have bug-repelling properties, and not only do they offer a natural solution, but an inexpensive one too.

Herbs to help you

Take a look in your garden and the chances are that you’ll find some herbs that will help to keep flies at bay. Many plants repel insects. They are eco-friendly, cheap and safe to use. Here’s a few suggestions:



Basil: This aromatic, edible herb has a delightfully pungent scent that is known to be disliked by flies. Pop a pot of growing basil on your garden table, plant some in your borders and bring some into the home too. It loves sunshine and works its best magic when you agitate the foliage, so that it releases the oil that makes the scent. What's more, it is delicious in pesto and tomato sauces, also salads.



Bay grows so easily here in the UK where it can form a large shrub, Laurus nobilis. You can prune it into an interesting topiary shape, train the trunk into a spiral or allow it to form naturally. Pick some leaves and use them around the home. People have discovered that if they put a couple of leaves into a bag of flour these keep the weevils at bay (excuse the play on bay). Bay is also thought to repel moths, earwigs, mice and flies. It’s certainly worth trying. What's more, you can pop some in your cooking pot too.


Lavender is known to repel unwanted insects, particularly mosquitoes, moths and fleas. Hang a bunch in your wardrobe and around the home. You can sprinkle some on your pets' bedding and you can even grow it in the kitchen garden where it is said to repel rabbits.



Plant some mint and some catnip (Nepeta) near your  entrances to keep ants and mice out of the house. Sprinkle some dried leaves around your pantry, or put them in a bowl in order to discourage mice and flies.


Rosemary is a wonderful herb with so many uses.  Many people use it for medicinal reasons and it repels mosquitoes too. Plant it near the patio and around the barbecue to keep unwanted pests away.  

Keep biting bugs away, every little plant can help!

Perfect Plants Ltd is an on-line supplier of garden plants, house plants, garden equipment, furniture and gifts for all seasons                           

By Perfect Plants


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