House CallOct/Nov 2012 Issue

Bug Busters

Repel insects with natural ingredients

Most commercial bug sprays contain harsh, synthetic chemicals that can irritate those who are sensitive. Fortunately, effective insect control is possible using safer, non-toxic products.

You can make your house and yourself less attractive to flying and biting pests by keeping your home and yard clean and by dressing in light colors when you’re outside. (Insects use dark hues to locate their targets). Avoid using products perfumed with fruity or floral scents, as bugs are attracted to these. Instead, use scents that bugs don’t like, such as lemon or cinnamon.

Citronella Sold in candles, incense, lotions and oils, citronella exudes a lemony aroma that repels insects. Add a few drops of essential citronella oil to your favorite sunscreen or body lotion. Purchase a citronella-scented geranium plant and place it near your favorite outdoor chair or table.

Cloves Ants are repelled by the smell of cloves. Purchase clove oil or make your own by soaking a few clove buds in a small amount of natural oil for several hours or overnight. Dab this scented oil around your kitchen counter and wherever else you spot ants.

Coffee Used coffee grounds repulse ants. Sprinkle old grounds around your plants.

Eucalyptus Flies and mosquitoes hate the scent of eucalyptus. Purchase it as tea tree oil at natural food stores or your pharmacy. Mix a few drops with 1 cup of water and spray around your home and garden to eliminate flying pests.

Mint The scent of mint wards off ants and flies. Tuck small bunches of fresh mint into your flower arrangements (fresh lavender and basil work, too). Brew some strong mint tea and use it as a natural insect repellent spray. Fresh basil and bay leaves can also be brewed into an anti-bug spray.

For bug bites, old-fashioned remedies are safe and helpful: Make a paste of baking soda (or cornstarch), water and a little lemon juice (or vinegar) for a bee or wasp sting.* Relieve the itch of insect bites with egg white, if tolerated, applied to the skin or rub the juice of a freshly broken rhubarb stalk over the bite.

*Allergic anaphylactic reaction to insect sting should be treated immediately with epinephrine and a trip to the emergency room.



Natural Insect Repellent


Make your own natural repellent by diluting essential oils in a light, natural oil or a mild

10-20 drops essential oil (see list above right)
¼ cup sunflower oil or almond oil (if tolerated) or witch hazel

1. Mix essential oil (or a combination) with light oil or witch hazel.

2. Pour mixture into a clean container. Spray or dab onto exposed skin or clothing.

Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty at Home (Henry Holt and Company), lives in Medford, Oregon.

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