Getting bitten by bugs isn’t only irritating, it can be pretty damn bad for your health too. Dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, Lyme disease and West Nile virus are all transmitted by bugs. Hell, the little critters can even infect you with Bubonic plague. As the weather warms up, inviting you to go outside and bare some flesh, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and flies are patiently licking their lips (well, they would be if they had lips) in anticipation of the coming feast. Don’t be their next meal, protect yourself against itchy bites and diseases with the Sasquatch guide to natural bug repellent and protection.

Wellcome Foundation Archives "Advertisement for Sketofax insect repellent" CC 4.0

Wellcome Foundation Archives “Advertisement for Sketofax insect repellent” CC 4.0

Dastardly DEET

Chances are you have probably at used tropical strength insect repellent that contains diethyltoluamide, otherwise known as DEET, at some point. This chemical was developed by the US Army after their experience of jungle warfare in the Second World War. As good as this stuff is at putting bugs off at the mere sniff of you, it’s toxic. While exposure to DEET is better than contracting malaria, it’s such a strong solvent that it will quickly strip the lacquer from your girlfriend’s manicured nails. Why cover yourself in a toxic solvent when there are plenty of natural alternatives for getting bugs to leave you alone?

Burn Baby Burn

Throughout history people from across the world have burned things to try and repel insects. In the US, Native Americans would torch fringed sagewort to ward off bugs, and in ancient Rome herbs like black cumin were burnt to keep insects away. Perhaps the longest used insect repellent is the seed coating of pyrethrum daisies, favored by Persian traders millennia ago, which is still found in the billions of mosquito coils sold worldwide each year.

KENPEI "Tanacetum cinerariifolium" CC 3.0

KENPEI “Tanacetum cinerariifolium” CC 3.0

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

With the help of modern science we’re now able to know with certainty which natural substances work best at repelling insects. Covering your skin in specially prepared concoctions will have the bugs reeling back before they even get close enough for you to hear them buzzing or feel them crawling. For a natural alternative that you can pick up straight from the shelf, soy-based insect repellents work great. Bite Blocker combines coconut oil, soybean oil, geranium oil and vanillin, among other natural ingredients. After thorough testing it was proved that this soy-based insect repellent was just as effective as low concentration DEET sprays.

Natural Bug Repellent: Make It Yourself

There is one ingredient provided by Mother Nature that trumps all others, and that is the oil of lemon eucalyptus. Advocated by the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention, who state that it’s as effective as DEET at repelling insects, creating your own oil of lemon eucalyptus spray is simple. All you need is the following:

  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus; half a tablespoon
  • Mexican vanilla extract; one tablespoon
  • Witch hazel liquid; 4 fl oz

Mix all these ingredients together in a small spray bottle and give it a good hard shake before spraying it on your skin. Like all insect repellents, once you are indoors and away from the threat of being bitten make sure you wash it off. Scrubbing up with a bar of Dr. Squatch Eucalyptus Greek Yogurt soap will clean and moisturize your skin, and the eucalyptus essentials oil and peppermint extract will also do a great job of shaking off any pesky insects that might have followed you home. In fact, because all of Dr. Squatch’s soap bars are made with non-genetically modified soy they all provide a small level of protection against bugs, another great reason to keep clean with Dr. Squatch!

Banner image: John Tann ‘Mauritian mosquito’ CC 2.0/Cropped

References:

http://www.avoidingbites.com/a-brief-history-of-insect-repellents-part-1/

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/avoid-bug-bites

http://www.webmd.com/health-ehome-9/safer-bug-spray

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3059459/

http://www.homemadehints.com/homemade-mosquito-repellent/

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the recipe! Another thing you can try is to crush and then rub some pennyroyal leaves on exposed skin. We find it works fantastic, especial for our daughter who is very attractive to mosquitoes.

    We now grow pennyroyal in our garden. Apparently pennyroyal is used in several natural bug repellent sprays. There’s a load more information here: http://knowledgeweighsnothing.com/six-insect-repellent-plants-to-grow/

    Reply

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About Jack Taylor

Jack Taylor’s stories have been printed in The Yak and KuBan, and published online at SurfSection, Deus Ex Machina, Drift Surfing and Drifting Thru. When not writing he’s out catching waves or planning his next overseas adventure. Follow him @byJackTaylor

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Natural Living, The Great Outdoors