Buggin’ out: The Stinging truth About Insect repellants

August 2, 2012

I won’t lie to you. A lot of natural bug sprays don’t seem to do all that much. If they rely on citronella as their main active ingredient then you could be up Shit’s Creek (isn’t that a river in northern Ontario?) without a paddle. Studies show that citronella products have to be reapplied as often as every 1 to 30 minutes. What is that? However, do you really want to use a bug spray on your skin that melts plastic? DEET is a serious neurotoxin with some intense potential side effects (read up on the stuff they don’t tell you about on the labels here). There’s a time and place where you might say, alright, man, pass me the DEET (like in a malaria-infested jungle), but for most situations, you can get by without it. And luckily there are options. I talk about them (as well as those weird Off! Clip ons) in this week’s column, but there are a few points I didn’t get a chance to squeeze in. For one, some say hemp oil and coconut oil have inherent mozzy repelling qualities of their own. They won’t do much for black flies or hungry horse flies, but they can help with run of the mill mosquitos. Neem oil (often diluted with coconut oil) has been proven to work well at repelling those dreaded no-see-ums aka sand flies aka gnats, as well as mozzies. The studies are certainly enough to convince me next to pack some next time I’m heading for sandy parts.

If you’re feeling experimental  you could always try a little homeopathic Mozi-Q out of Calgary, recommended by one Facebook reader, MsD Malevris. I loved the ingredients in Sprout Botanicals All Natural Outdoor Spray but it didn’t fly at all with my pals sitting at my backyard BBQ, unfortunately. They all proclaimed it a dud. Green Beaver’s soy-based Outdoor Spray worked well enough in my backyard but didn’t survive northern Ontario, I have to admit. I reapplied the stuff every 5 minutes up there! Then again, my companions weren’t as swarmed as I was and it seemed to work better on them. I still have to try All Things Jill Bug Joose and I know lots of you have recommended I give Porcupine Creek Farm Canadian Bush Spray a try, so that’s next on my list. In the meantime, give my DIY recipe a try:

Kitchen Sink DIY Bug Spray

My approach to making my own bug spray basically involves stealing active ingredients from a variety of natural bug sprays, mostly trying to copy much-lauded US-based Bite Blocker. I’ve added eucalyptus to my old recipe since it’s a winning ingredient in other studies (not sure how much active ingredient is in plain eucalyptus oil, but its worth a shot). Feel free to pick and choose various elements that you like or have in your house already.

  • Mix up 1/4 cup of soybean oil (if you can find it, get the organic kind; if you’d rather avoid soy, use hemp oil), 1/4 cup of water, 2 tablespoons, of coconut oil, 45+ drops of essential geranium oil, 45 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil and 1 teaspoon of neem oil. Put in a spray bottle, shake well, spritz and rub into your skin.

If you experiment with combinations, let me know what works for you!