Mosquitoes and Mosquito Hawks: What They Mean for Your Garden

When people talk about the joys of gardening, they often mention the sense of tranquility it brings, the satisfaction of nurturing living things, and the beauty of watching plants flourish under their care.

These benefits are undoubtedly real, but if we're going to be honest, we should acknowledge that gardening also has its less-than-pleasant aspects, including dealing with pesky mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes can be involved in the garden ecosystem | Vego Garden

Not only can these blood-sucking insects make us uncomfortable when they bite us, but in some cases, they spread diseases like malaria, Zika virus, and West Nile virus.

The good news is you can make your garden a (mostly) mosquito-free zone by adding certain plants.

We’ll look at mosquitoes and the plants they hate in this blog. And while we’re talking about blood-sucking insects, we’re also going to explore insects commonly mistaken for mosquitoes—mosquito hawks—and how they can impact your gardening efforts.

A closer look at mosquitoes

To be fair, while it’s understandable to associate mosquitoes with itching and misery, not all of the world’s 3,500 mosquito species bite humans. And even those that do rely on flower nectar, not blood, for their main source of food. As a result, mosquitoes transfer pollen from flower to flower while they eat. Yes, mosquitoes are pollinators. 

Mosquitoes are also a valuable food source for other wildlife, including turtles, bats, birds, and hummingbirds.

You may at this point be thinking, that’s lovely, but I still prefer to enjoy my garden without worrying about being bitten. That’s perfectly reasonable.

Very few plant species rely solely on mosquitoes for pollination, so if you’d just as soon take steps to discourage their presence, you won’t be doing your garden any harm.

Repelling mosquitoes with plants

Citronella plant | Vego Garden

Citronella plants help repel mosquitoes

That gets us to the wide variety of plants that repel mosquitoes. Chances are good that you can find some that are well-suited for your region. Here are some of your options:

Citronella: Citronella contains citronellal and geraniol, which are both known for their insect-repelling properties. These compounds interfere with the mosquitoes' ability to detect their prey, making them less likely to land and bite.

Lavender: Lavender produces a strong aroma from its essential oils. While people usually find this scent pleasant, mosquitoes are repelled by it. Lavender’s strong fragrance also tends to mask the scents of humans and other animals, making it harder for mosquitoes to locate their targets.

Catnip in bloom | Vego Garden

Catnip in bloom

Catnip: A compound in catnip called nepetalactone is highly effective at repelling mosquitoes. In fact, studies have shown that catnip can be even more effective than DEET, a common synthetic mosquito repellent. 

Other plants that repel mosquitoes include rosemary, marigolds (which contain a natural insecticide), basil, and peppermint.

We should add that while these plants can help repel mosquitoes, they may not provide complete protection, especially in areas with high mosquito populations.

What about mosquito hawks?

It would be natural to assume that just like mosquitoes, mosquito hawks are less-than-desirable guests in your garden. We would say that isn’t entirely true; it’s complicated.

Mosquito hawks, a term that primarily refers to crane flies and sometimes to dragonflies, are often mistaken for their bloodsucking counterparts, but they’re actually harmless to people and animals. 

Crane flies are slender, long-legged insects that look like oversized mosquitoes. They’re usually found in damp areas, and their favorite meals are nectar and other plant fluids. 

Dragonflies are agile, predatory insects with large, transparent wings and elongated bodies. One of our favorite things about dragonflies is that they feed on other flying insects, including mosquitoes, flies, and gnats (win-win-win).

Mosquito hawks and your garden

Mosquito Hawk | Vego Garden

Mosquito Hawks are also referred to as Crane Flies

Some believe that mosquito hawks (especially crane flies) are harmful to plants or gardens. The truth is, crane flies contribute to healthy gardens by pollinating plants, aerating the soil, and serving as prey for beneficial wildlife. 

However, their larvae also have been known to eat plant roots. Here’s a closer look at some of the pros and cons of having these insects in your garden.

Crane fly plusses

Crane flies’ larvae, known as leatherjackets, play a role in natural pest control by consuming other small insects and invertebrates. The larvae also feed on decomposing organic matter in the soil, which helps break down dead plant material and recycle nutrients. 

The benefits don’t stop there. Like traditional mosquitoes, crane flies are pollinators, and they provide food for other organisms, including birds, frogs, and other insects. 


On the other hand, crane fly larvae do occasionally nibble on plant roots. In most cases, their presence is a sign of a healthy soil ecosystem, but heavy infestations of crane fly larvae could potentially damage plant roots.

The more you do to promote garden health, from proper watering to providing good, nutrient-rich soil, the less vulnerable your plants will be to serious damage. But if you believe you have a heavy crane fly presence in your garden (especially likely if it’s near a water feature) monitor your plants for signs of damage, including wilting or yellowing leaves. 

If you want to discourage crane flies from coming to your garden you should know that generally, the plants that repel regular mosquitoes aren’t particularly popular with crane flies, either.


  • Linda

    Very interesting and helpful. Thank you.

  • Mike South

    Thank you for this helpful information.

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