This past weekend, my partner and I went for a camping trip at Arrowhead Provincial Park. It was a nice 2-day getaway into nature, however was also prime blackfly (and mosquito) season! We did not use DEET bug spray the whole camping trip, and instead used a bug screen shelter and my “Natural Bug Spray” for the times that we were not under the bug shelter. When we were first setting up our tent, without spray, the bugs were relentless. After a full body spray of the natural bug elixir that I concocted, the bugs were hovering over us but definitely not landing and biting as much. This by no means is a replacement for sitting under a screen shelter, but definitely throws a strong-smelling deterrent for those critters when out in the open.
DEET, otherwise known as picardin, has been shown to be effective for pest control through its neurotoxic actions, however long-term use and human health impacts have not been well researched. If you do choose to use DEET-containing bug repellents, spraying on top of clothing, as oppose to skin, is preferred. For areas of skin such as the face, hands, feet and neck – a natural bug spray is a great alternative. Compounds from essential oils a-pinene and d-limonene reached the same level of repellency as DEET against certain insects for a 2-hour duration (1). Another study using a variety of essential oils such as lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, pine and tea tree saw repellent effects for a period of 1.5 to 4 hours after treatment (2). Lemongrass and peppermint were superior among the mix above. Given the repellent and insecticidal (bug-killing) abilities of essential oils that are comparable to DEET-containing products, you can definitely say goodbye to bug bites, naturally!
DIY Natural Bug Repellent
Using a 4 oz plastic or glass spray bottle, mix the following ingredients:
- 7 drops Lavender oil
- 7 drops Tea Tree oil
- 10 Drops Peppermint oil
- 10 Drops Lemongrass oil
- 7 Drops Sage, Cedar or Pine oil
Add oils to bottle, then top with 4 oz of Avocado oil (or other carrier oil). Spray every few hours to skin-exposed areas and clothing that you don’t mind getting some oil on. This spray is fine for facial use. To spray face, apply some to fingers and rub on or spray into the air and walk into the “mist”. Note: This repellent smells a lot nice than DEET!
1) Guo et al (2016). Contact and Repellent Activities of the Essential Oil from Juniperus formosana against Two Stored Product Insects. Molecules. Apr 16;21(4):504. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27092485
2) Lachance & Grange (2014). Repellent effectiveness of seven plant essential oils, sunflower oil and natural insecticides against horn flies on pastured dairy cows and heifers. Med Vet Entomol. Jun;28(2):193-200. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24382265