It’s finally feeling like summer in eastern Washington State, which means gardening, swimming in lakes and rivers, BBQs, and bugs.
Oh, how those bugs love me, which is why I make homemade bug spray.
I think the moment I step outside the mosquitoes see my body blinking a bright neon sign that says, “bite me! bite me!”
This isn’t that far from the truth. Mosquitoes are attracted to their victims by the exhalation of CO2. They can detect this from 50 meters away! But don’t worry, we have some great solutions for those pesky blood suckers besides not breathing while outdoors!
Why Use Natural Mosquito Repellents?
Mosquitoes can vary from annoying to life threatening. In more tropical environments, mosquitoes can be the carrier of diseases like malaria or Dengue fever. The fear of these diseases leads many people to spray toxic chemicals like DEET onto their skin.
Unfortunately, while this may save them from being bitten by a mosquito, it won’t save them from toxic exposure. Scientists have not proven that DEET causes cancer but they have proven that it is a neurotoxin and there are documented cases of children dying after being over-exposed to DEET. Homemade bug spray is much safer.
Tips to Keep Mosquitoes Away
Do you ever feel that you attract more mosquitoes than the next person?
It’s true that mosquitoes are more drawn to certain people; however, we do not understand what makes a person more or less attractive to a mosquito.
The following ideas are not proven, but many people swear by these methods for keeping those pests away.
Avoid sugar: Some say that sweet blood attracts mosquitoes. Mosquitoes actually do rely on sugar from plants as their main source of energy. Female mosquitoes only suck blood when they are about to lay eggs. Otherwise, male and female mosquitoes get their food from flowers.
Avoid bananas: This goes along with the sugar theory, but the consumption of bananas is blamed in attracting mosquitoes.
Eat garlic: Many people claim that regularly eating raw garlic keeps the mosquitoes away. Of course you have to weigh the pros and cons here. You may keep the mosquitoes away with garlic but you may also keep your friends and family away too.
B vitamins: Also not proven, but it is certainly often quoted that B vitamins, especially thiamine, can deter mosquitoes.
Herbs high in thiamine include: alfalfa, bladderwrack, burdock root, catnip, cayenne, chamomile, chickweed, eyebright, fennel seed, fenugreek, hops, nettles, oatstraw, parsley, peppermint, raspberry leaves, red clover, rose hips, sage, yarrow, and yellow dock.
Foods high in thiamine include: brown rice, egg yolks, fish, legumes, liver, peanuts, peas, pork, poultry, rice bran, wheat germ, and whole grains.
Of course, there are a variety of things we can use topically to keep mosquitoes at bay.
How to Make Homemade Bug Spray
We are going to show you how to make an herbal bug repellant spray using yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Yarrow grows abundantly all over the world and has a multitude of uses, ranging from first aid to colds and flus. It is also a fabulous homemade bug repellent!
What you’ll need…
- yarrow (either fresh or dried flowers and leaves)
- alcohol (vodka works fine)
- catnip essential oil
- spray bottles
If using fresh yarrow, fill a jar with yarrow flowers and leaves.
I like to use pruners to cut them up.
If using dried yarrow, fill a jar about half full with yarrow.
Cover this with vodka and let sit for a week.
Strain off the yarrow. Preserve the liquid and compost the yarrow.
Fill a spray bottle with half the liquid and then fill the rest of the way with water. You could also just use the alcohol extraction without any additional water. Of course this costs more in the long run.
Place a few drops of catnip essential oil in the spray bottle. Catnip essential oil has been shown to be more effective than DEET at deterring mosquitoes. You could also try using lavender or sage essential oils.
Voila! You have a wonderful homemade bug spray.
I have been using this recipe for repelling bugs for years. I find that it works best when I apply often – every hour or so. I personally dislike the smell of citronella bug sprays, but this one smells wonderful.
There are many variations to this homemade bug spray, so I encourage you to experiment with what works best for you.
You could simply make a tea out of yarrow and use that as a spray. This will not keep as long as an alcohol extraction.
There are a variety of essential oils that you can use besides the ones listed above.
Note: There is a rare possibility that yarrow may cause photodermatitis in sensitive individuals. If you have sensitive skin, it would be best to test this bug spray on a small area. (The area needs to receive sunlight to see if there is a reaction.)
Have a safe and fun summer!