So it is that time again where the heat is turned up on a permanent high and all the bugs are thriving! And here in the Free State we have some mean mozzies (don’t ask me how they survive here, it is so dry!)
Why should you use natural repellent?
An August, 2009, study from France found that DEET may have a toxic effect on the nervous systems of mammals as well as insects. This disturbing discovery calls into question the presumed safety of DEET, the world’s most widely used insect repellent.
Picaridin is another conventional insect repellent; after years of successful use in Europe and Australia, it was introduced into the U.S. in 2005. Highly effective and widely recognized as safe, picaridin is the active ingredient in Cutter Advanced Insect Repellent and Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin.
Both picaridin and DEET are believed to have negligible effects on the natural environment. One advantage these two chemical compounds have over some plant-based insect repellents is their effectiveness at repelling ticks, including those that carry Lyme disease.
DIY Natural Repellent
The bugs react differently to essential oils, so what may work for mosquitoes, may not work for fleas, for instance.
10-25 drops (total) of essential oils
2 tablespoons (30ml) of a carrier oil or alcohol (Alcohol will work great for a spray!)
The essential oils that work well against biting insects (mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas) are:
cinnamon oil (mosquitoes)
lemon eucalyptus or regular eucalyptus oil (mosquitoes, ticks, and lice)
citronella oil (mosquitoes and biting flies) – This is a well known oil for insects!
orange oil (fleas)
rose geranium (ticks and lice)
Safe carrier oils and alcohols include:
any other cooking oil
Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil or alcohol. Rub or spray the natural insect repellent onto skin or clothing, using care to avoid the sensitive eye area. You’ll need to re-apply the natural product after about an hour or after swimming or exercise. Unused natural insect repellent may be stored in a dark bottle, away from heat or sunlight. If you wish, you may combine the oil with aloe vera gel to change the consistency of the product.
Other Ways to Ward off the BUGS!
Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants instead of shorts, and shoes instead of sandals. Though these don’t seem like great options in hot summer weather, thin, loose-fitting clothes are often just as comfortable and have the double benefit of helping you avoid sunburn and UV skin damage. Another sun-smart fashion tip — a broad-brimmed hat — works well at keeping bugs away from your head.
“Try using a fan to ward off mosquitoes — they can’t stand a breeze — and stay indoors during peak mosquito hours, usually twilight hours through early morning. Also, avoid using perfume, scented soaps or cologne, as these send out the “All You Can Eat Buffet” signal to mosquitoes and other biting insects — even scented fabric softeners and dryer sheets have been implicated as bug magnets.” (Maybe this is why the mosquitoes can’t leave me alone, I smell too nice! ;) )
How are you beating the bugs this summer?
Ryman, D. (2007) Secrets of Youth & Beauty: Aromatherapy for Natural Rejuvenation. Rodale: London