I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle with the whole natural bug spray versus the nasty stuff that contains DEET when I am being attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes or blackflies. I think for me the thought of putting something on my body that can cause rashes, soreness, blistering or eye irritation, has even been linked to neurological problems, and of course is a detriment to wildlife is scarier than the annoying bites. Although I am also realistic that protecting ourselves from mosquito bites not only prevents that horrid itching but can also lessen our chances of contracting several mosquito-borne illnesses, such as encephalitis, yellow fever, malaria, West Nile virus, or dengue.
So let’s look at alternative natural bug spray options, and ways to protect ourselves so that we can enjoy this beautiful weather that we wait all winter and spring to enjoy.
What is becoming increasing popular is to make your own natural bug spray, but some opt to just purchase it ready mixed. Some key ingredients that seem to come up in the recipes and prepared natural bug sprays that I sourced for this article, and have been shown to have insect repelling properties are; witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, eucalyptus, lemongrass, citronella, tea tree, rosemary, clove, cedar, catnip, geranium, lavender, and mint. According to the Centre for Disease Control “lemon eucalyptus oil could be a much safer, a more natural weapon, and can be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes”.
Even essential oils have warnings when applying directly to the skin, especially for babies, toddlers, and children. So caution is advised to spot-test the product on a small section of your skin and wait an hour or two to make sure that hives or burning sensations do not occur, and to avoid contact with eyes and mouth, or even as an extra precaution to spray it on clothing or gear instead of directly on the skin.
As with practically every household item, natural bug spray can be made inexpensively and naturally at home, takes just seconds to mix up and can be varied based on what you have available. If you’re just dealing with mosquitoes that are a real nuisance, natural bug spray may be fine, although you may have to apply it more often.
Tips to use in conjunction with or an alternative to natural bug spray:
- Wear lightweight long sleeves and pants.
- Shower often as mosquitos are attracted to sweat but not fresh sweat but “fermented sweat” because they are drawn by the chemical changes produced by bacteria in your sweat.
- Mosquitoes are drawn to both movement and heat. So if you’re exercising outside on a warm summer evening, you’re the perfect target—especially if you’re short of breath!
- Mosquitoes have trouble maneuvering in wind. So when you’re sitting out on our porch, think about using a window fan or overhead fan. The mosquitoes will have trouble getting near you.
- Mosquitoes require water in which to breed, so carefully drain any and all sources of standing water around your house and yard, including pet bowls, gutters, garbage and recycling bins, spare tires, bird baths, etc.
- You may also want to throw thyme leaves into a campfire. Research shows that burning thyme leaves offers 85 percent protection for 60 to 90 minutes.
- You can avoid insect bites by staying inside between dusk and dawn, which is when they are most active.
- Planting marigolds around your yard also work as a bug repellent because the flowers give off a fragrance that bugs dislike.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) may be effective in discouraging mosquitoes from biting.The theory is, taking more vitamin B1 than your body requires causes the excess to be excreted through your urine, skin, and sweat. Vitamin B1 produces a skin odor that female mosquitoes seem to find offensive.
- You may also want to forgo bananas during mosquito season, as something about how they are metabolized appears to attract mosquitoes.
I hope that these tips help to ease the discomfort of those pesky little bugs.