Bug season has returned, and from the picnic blanket to the dinner table these little critters pop up to bite and annoy us human beings. No matter how “natural” you consider your lifestyle to be, you probably don’t want bugs crawling through your house and over your skin. Although the best natural bug repellent is prevention (keeping your house clean with all food sources sealed away), even the tidiest among us can get attacked by buzzing, biting insects.
Many commercial bug repellents use DEET or N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide to protect against disease-transmitting insects. A lethal poison and pesticide, DEET works very well to kill bugs by inhibiting the activity of the central nervous system. However, this powerful chemical has also been linked to severe epidermal reactions, insomnia, mood disturbances and impaired cognitive function. DEET dissolves some substances such as plastic, fabrics and painted surfaces - so covering your skin with it might not be the best idea.
Citronella has been a good natural alternative to DEET; this essential oil is used extensively around the world in incense, soap, perfumes, candles and cosmetics. Some people, however, do not find the smell of citronella appealing, and direct application of this product to the skin has been found to raise the heart rate of some people. While citronella is approved by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, Canada’s national health board is in the process of phasing out citronella as a bug repellent, and in the UK citronella is banned as an active ingredient in insect repellent products.
Thankfully, there are other natural options for bug repellents. You’ll see plenty of natural insect repellents in the stores, but look closely – most of them are just different combinations of essential oils. It’s easier and less expensive to make your own bug repellent at home. Whether you want to fend off mosquitoes, gnats or ants, the following recipe will help to keep the bugs away. Using only natural ingredients from plants, flowers and fruits, this easy-to-make bug repellant not only wards away insects, but it also smells fantastic. Whip up a batch before the bugs descend, and you’ll be ready to fight nature with nature and convince the cute little creatures to go elsewhere.
15-20 drops of essential lavender oil
3-4 tablespoons of vanilla extract
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
16-ounce spray bottle (find in gardening or toiletries)
1. Combine the essential oil, vanilla extract and lemon juice together in the spray bottle.
2. Fill spray bottle almost to the top with water, and shake it well.
3. Your homemade bug repellant is ready to use! Spray freely on your arms, legs and body, and make extra as a seasonal gift to your neighbors, friends and family.
If you don’t like the smell of lavender, you can substitute lemongrass essential oil instead.
For more refreshing repellant (ideal for hot summer days), add five drops of cooling peppermint essential oil to the mix.