It is also warm. Warmth and rain tend to breed mosquitoes. Typically, Americans use any of several commercially available brands to repel mosquitoes, spraying chemicals on their skin. The most effective commercially available chemical is DEET, or N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide. DEET was developed by the military for jungle warfare during World War II to protect troops against malaria, and the bottom line is that DEET is toxic--to humans, animals, and the environment. (For information on the toxicity of DEET, see the following link: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/Chem_Background/ExSumPdf/DEET.pdf.) To evaluate the use of DEET or other insect repellents, it is important to weight the risk of diseases and reactions to insect bites against the toxic effects of the substances you apply to your skin. In our area, West Nile Virus/Eastern Equine Encephalitis are possible diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, so repellent is important for those of us who love the outdoors.
BUT...did you know that there are natural repellents you can use to keep away mosquitoes? Several essential oils have been used to repel mosquitoes, black flies, and other insects. Some documentation is available, but as with other natural remedies, there are not a lot of wealthy chemical companies jumping on the research bandwagon...so it ends up being a bit spotty and not as scientific as I would like. (If nothing else, I will always tell you the truth about this stuff!)
SO...what works? Here is a rundown, and a possible recipe:
- Tea Tree Oil--I have personally used Tea Tree with great success.
- Pros--extremely effective in repelling all kinds of insects. I rubbed the essential oil directly on my skin.
- Cons--also repels people! It smells a bit like gasoline, and can be very off-putting if 100% form is used. My husband had an asthma attack from the strong scent. Not cool.
- Lemongrass (http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/med-aro/factsheets/LEMONGRASS.html)--Have not used this, but read that it works well in the far east against malarial mosquitos when applied directly from the base of the plant. Essential oil would be the best method elsewhere, as the plant can only be grown where it is warm.
- Pros--smells wonderful.
- Cons--don't know of any, not sure how well it works because I have not used it!
- Peppermint Oil (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/524811.stm)
- Pros--"studies have shown" (see above link) that peppermint oil not only repels, but kills larvae of malarial mosquitoes.
- Cons--possible irritant--always "spot test" your skin and "sniff test" to ensure that you will not have a reaction.
- Pros--has been found to be more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010828075659.htm), can be used in a low dose.
- Cons--may attract neighborhood cats! Seriously, I don't know enough about this one to evaluate any negative effects...careful of sensitivity to skin, as with the others.
To make Bug Repellent, simply choose an essential oil (or a combination), and combine it with a carrier, pour into a spray bottle, and spray it on your skin. Possible carriers include witch hazel, ethyl alcohol, and oils--olive, vegetable, or mineral. You should use 1 part of essential oil to 10-20 parts of carrier oil. I am going to try this one, this summer.
Bug Repellent Recipe
1/2 oz each of 2 essential oils (for a total of 1 oz essential oil)
10 oz witch hazel
Pour into an appropriate size spray bottle, and shake. Use as needed.
So...where to purchase essential oils? Here is a source! They have organic essential oils, and their prices are pretty reasonable. They are a sponsor, and I have visited their store and checked them out, and love their products:
Organic, safe, bug spray. That, along with taking a few measures such as planting insect-repelling plants (like marigolds) and eliminating standing water will help us to keep away the pests and enjoy the outdoors. Bring on the summer!