How to fight insects the eco-friendly way

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2011

Enjoying the outdoors when the weather is
pleasant can become bothersome if biting insects are part of the
equation. However, not everyone wants to rely on chemical repellents to
keep bugs at bay. There are some greener options that may be adequate
for most daily situations.

Biting Insects

Mosquitoes, biting flies and other insects can be
a nuisance when the weather warms. Though many bites create a mild
reaction that subsides after a few days, some insects are harbingers of
serious diseases. Malaria and West Nile virus are just two of the many
maladies that can be hiding inside of the common mosquito.

According to, only female mosquitoes
feed on blood and bite their victims. The males feed on plant juices
and nectar. Females need blood to feed their eggs and reproduce. When a
mosquito bites, she injects chemicals to prevent blood from clotting and
reduce pain. Afterward, however, these same chemicals can cause topical

Like mosquitoes, female tabanids, or horse and
deer flies, also bite. Most prefer warm seasons and the warmth of
daytime, but some species are most active at dawn or dusk. Tabanids bite
deep and hard, potentially causing a lot of irritation.

Especially in early summer, swarms of small black
flies can make life difficult for those who venture outdoors. Again,
females of this species bite, but males may hang around and swarm when a
female is nearby. Black flies need running water to feed larvae, so
they differ in this respect from mosquitoes and other insects that grow
from larvae in sitting water. Biting occurs during the day and may
intensify before a thunderstorm.

Repelling Insects

The standard bug repellent is one that contains
the product DEET. It was originally developed in 1946 for military use,
but some have questioned its safety. The EPA says it has been associated
with seizures in children, but this claim hasn’t been fully

Still, many people prefer to look elsewhere for
their repellents, preferring natural products. There are oils that can
be extracted from different plants and herbs that provide short-term
protection against many biting insects.

Citronella is one of the more effective natural
repellents. It has been used for more than 50 years as an insect
repellent and as an animal repellent. The oil is taken from dried,
cultivated grasses. Pure citronella is most effective against bugs, more
so than the synthetic varieties used in many candles.

Citronella is safe for human use and produces no
threat to the environment when used correctly. It is generally applied
to the skin and may cause mild irritation if used in abundance. Because
some people find the smell of citronella off-putting, it can be mixed
with lemongrass oil to minimize the smell. Lemongrass may also be
another natural insect repellent.

Rosemary and cedar can also be tried as insect
repellents. These are two other aromas that bugs find offensive.
Individuals who spend time in the yard may want to plant rosemary nearby
in garden beds to help repel insects in that respect. Rosemary is also
multifunctional, as it is commonly used in cooking.

Other safe items to try as insect repellents include:

* sage

* mint

* neem oil

* bay leaves

* eucalyptus

* cloves

Individuals can experiment with these herbs and oils to produce a product that works for their repellent needs