BUG. BITES. ARE. THE. WORST. They always manage to find the worst spots to bite, too. The backs of your knees, the tops of your feet. Or, my favorite, the ever popular right-in-the-middle-of-the-forhead bite. Really? I have a pretty high pain tolerance and I don’t complain often. But when I’m itchy…I whine like a sick man. WAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH.
For this reason, I fear dusk. I live in a wooded area and the mosquitos are plentiful. Nothing puts a damper on a picnic quite like those little $h!t heads. I am a nature and animal lover but I often find myself questioning how essential mosquitos really are to the homeostasis of the planet. As much as I want them to just disappear and never return, they are here to stay and bestow their itchy misery on whatever victims they can find. So let’s just suck it up and figure out how to make them move on to some other unsuspecting, non-greensypants.
First there are the obvious tasks…Eliminate stagnant water and wear long pants and sleeves whenever possible. DON’T be the person who uses the chemical bug spray in your yard. That garbage washes off in the rain and ends up in your water supply. Tasty…And poisonous, and carcinogenic. There are some herbal yard and shrub sprays made from peppermint oil that can be attached to your hose and sprayed in the wood line. They work well short term. If you are planning a picnic or to be out in your yard spray in the morning and it will definitely help for that day and maybe the day after assuming it doesn’t rain. Here is an example. It also repels fleas and ticks…Bonus: It smells lovely.
So, I am guilty of using the main stream, store bought bug spray. Sometimes it just has to be done. If I am in a place where that is the only thing available I will spray a little on my clothes and try to avoid my skin. There is some really horrendous ingredients in that crap. Everything you need to know is right there on the can. A nice long list of warnings. You’ll also notice the burning in your lungs if you happen to mistakenly breathe in while applying. If that is really your only option, and it’s rare that you do it, then go ahead and use it. There are some really nasty things that can be spread by mosquitos. However, with a minimal effort you can always be prepared to repel those buggers with some natural ingredients and things you may already have around the house.
Tiger Balm: This is a cream rub for aches and pains made from herbal ingredients…Camphor, menthol, mint, and clove oil. It has a strong smell. That is what repels the bugs. If you ask me, the smell is much more pleasant than your typical chemical filled bug spray. Apply small amounts in areas mosquitos frequent. If you have achey muscles go ahead and rub it all over. Tingly. Tiger Balm does contain a small amount of petroleum which some people like to avoid. Generally speaking, I try to avoid it too, but the small amount used here is no big deal to me if it’s going to avoid getting bitten and exposing myself to potentially harmful diseases transmitted by mosquitos. The small container is around $6 and a little goes a long way. One purchase lasted me all summer using it about twice a week.
If the petroleum is a deal breaker for you there are sill plenty of options…
Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree oil is an essential oil and is often used as an antiseptic and for acne. I like the Desert Essence brand. I purchased mine at Whole Foods but you can also find it here. Any essential oil should be diluted with a carrier oil before applied to skin. You will want to use a carrier oil that has no smell, or at least not a sweet smell in the case of a bug repellent. Jojoba, or even olive oil would be good choices. You can apply it to the same areas listed above under the Tiger Balm.
Citronella Oil: I have no clue why this never dawned on me. All the times I’ve seen and used citronella candles for mosquitos and I never gave a thought to what citronella was. It’s a grass! Well, holy $h!t. How well does that work out for me? I found this oil in my local health food store. It was $5.99 for one ounce. A little goes a long way. You also dilute it with a carrier oil as you would with tea tree oil. I find the citronella works better than the tea tree but it does have a stronger smell.
You want to mix 25 drops of essential oil (citronella or tea tree) to 2 tablespoons on carrier oil (jojoba or olive). Almost every essential oil comes in a dripper bottle so it’s easy to control the drips. You can purchase small bottles with squeeze drip applicators for the mixture and apply a few drops to the areas you wish and rub in. Good areas to focus on are temples, behind the ears, nape of neck and the joint areas (inside elbows, wrists, back of knees, ankles). The bottles are a few dollars each. You can often find them in health food stores or at mountainroseherbs.com. If you try to put this oil mixture in a spray bottle it will most likely clog. If it is a spray you are looking for…
Another method is to put the essential oil in a small travel size spray bottle and mist the clothes you will be wearing outside with the concentrated oil. Both tea tree oil and citronella oil on their own are thin enough that they won’t clog a sprayer. I haven’t had a problem with staining, but I have a plain white tee shirt I use specifically for bug repellant and put it on over my clothes for the few hours bugs are at their worst. I do the same for my daughter. If I am going to be away from home I spray the shirts and put them in a gallon ziploc and take with. Using this method will allow you to have the benefit of concentrated bug repellant without putting it on your skin (reminder, do not apply concentrated oil directly to skin, it may cause irritation). I have put it directly on dark clothing also and have yet to deal with a stain.
You can also make a diluted spray that can be applied directly to your skin as well if you feel the extra clothing is a hassle. Here is the recipe:
- 4oz of distilled water
- 3oz of witch hazel
- 50 drops of your preferred essential oil (or a combination of both).
Mix in small spray bottle and apply as necessary.
Many other essential oils can be used the same way, but tea tree oil and cintronella oil seem to get the best results in my experience. If you happen to have eucalyptus or peppermint oil you can try those before you purchase a new oil.
Another option is a store bought all natural bug spray. I have the Burt’s Bees All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent. All of the ingredients are legit natural and include castor, rosemary, lemongrass and citronella oils among others. It costs $7.99 for a 4oz spray bottle. This is great to travel with. I find it’s not quite as strong as using the oils but it’s a great choice if you want something quick and don’t mind reapplying a few times. I always have this in my bag in case I forget my homemade oil mixtures or citronella or tea tree sprayed clothes. That way I never have to be faced with using the awful chemical $h!t storm spray. Burt’s Bees is one of my fav brands. I absolutely love their products and use them for myself as well as my daughter. This little spray bottle fits perfect it my purse and is made of aluminum. I have reused the empties several times for other things.
Tips and Tricks:
- Add some of your oil mixture to a tart warmer and light candle underneath to use in place of citronella candles.
- Got babies? Spray a washcloth with your home made bug spray and put it near where your baby is sitting or sleeping outside. I tucked it right in the visor part of the car seat where it was safely out of reach when she was snoozin…Works like a charm. (Also, hang from patio umbrellas and deck railings. Why not?)
- If you feel like the scent of the natural bug repellent of your choice isn’t coming off easily in the shower, rub a little coconut oil on it and it will wipe away easily with a washcloth. (This trick also works for DIY sunscreen)
- All of these suggestions will also repel ticks.
- Apply a few drops to your pet’s collar. Avoid getting it on their fur so they do not lick it off. Most essential oils are not edible.
Now you can enjoy all your outdoor adventures (or just enjoy a cocktail in a lawn chair) without wanting to scratch your skin off. You’re welcome!
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