Monday, August 10, 2009

Are bugs bugging you?

For several years, our area has been on a drought list. Seasons came and seasons went with no appreciable rainfall. The forests, near our home, were dry and brown ... and water levels, in nearby lakes, were at all time lows. While this was a bad situation and communities were scrambling to make sure that households had enough water to drink, the one positive was that bug populations ... those that need water to breed and live ... were down.

Then, the rains came ... the reservoirs filled and we have officially been removed from the drought list. Great news ... except ... more rain and higher humidity means that there are also more bugs ... specifically mosquitoes which breed in water and ticks which thrive near water.

Mosquitoes and ticks, in addition to being obnoxious little creatures who bite, can carry diseases such as Yellow Fever, West Nile Encephalitis, Lyme Disease, etc. These are dangerous diseases which can be life threatening. So avoiding bites is important!

If you head out to your local market for mosquito and tick repellent, you'll probably find products containing DEET. DEET works ... no doubt. But, it is a chemical pesticide ... a solvent which can melt synthetic materials and even nail polish. It is toxic to our environment, getting into waterways and killing fish. If you've ever used a product containing it, you'll know that DEET has an unpleasant smell and doesn't feel real good on one's skin. It can cause rashes, headaches and even seizures. Personally, I'd prefer not to use the stuff.

It seems like a "no win" situation, doesn't it? I mean ... which is worse, the illness or the prevention. Well, it turns out that there are other, safe ways to keep those nasty bugs at bay. Here are some ideas:

  • Mosquitoes breed in standing water, especially the stuff that's been sitting for awhile. So, remove standing water in puddles, plant containers, etc. For things like pet bowls and bird baths, be sure to change the water frequently ... clean water isn't as appealing as dirty water. Rather than water your garden frequently, opt for watering deeply and less often.

  • Wear light colored clothing ... mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors. Ticks aren't color sensitive but, if one hitches a ride on your clothes, he'll be easier to see and remove if the clothing is white.

  • Cover up. Bugs have a hard time biting through material ... so wear long sleeved shirts and long pants to minimize skin exposure.

  • Fans are a great deterrent ... mosquitoes have a hard time negotiating through wind. So create a breeze with a floor or ceiling fan.

  • Love the scent of floral perfumes and soaps? So do mosquitoes! Opt for "fragrance free" during mosquito season.

  • Make your own repellent: 1o to 25 drops essential oil plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus 1 tablespoon aloe vera gel (optional). Mix well and dab some on skin and clothing. Oils to try are: Rose Geranium (ticks hate this one), Pennyroyal, lemon balm, thyme, lavender, and eucalyptus. One note ... for best results, apply often ... essential oils don't repel for long durations.

  • Add some plants to your garden that naturally repel mosquitoes ... try catnip, rosemary, marigolds and lemon grass. Catnip has been shown to be 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes. And here's a tip ... one can take the leaves of these plants, crush them and rub them on skin and clothing ... no more mosquito bites.

  • Attract insect-eating birds. Set out feeders and birdhouses to attract swallows, chickadees, wrens, bluebirds, vireos, etc. They'll be fat and happy ... you'll be bug free.
With just a little care, one can enjoy the outdoors ... bug free and earth friendly.

As always ... I would love to hear from you!


  1. I'm very icky about ticks too. Will try your repellent recipe. Thanks for sharing these tips SF.

  2. For getting rid of creepy crawlies, ants, earwigs, and other things that live in the ground only to come up to bite you and eat your garden the simple solution is night crawlers (the worms).
    Go to your nearest bait shop, buy about $10 worth of night crawlers and put them near any anthills you want to get rid of. They will invade the ant hill and eat the larva, killing the colony.
    It works better than pesticides, is cheaper and it really helps your lawn.

  3. Great tips. Didn't I read that drinking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar a day makes you less attractive to mosquitos? Or did I just make that up?
    Anyway, thanks for posting these. I do not like DEET, and especially when it comes to protecting my kids.

  4. Hi Elle Bee,

    Yep ... you did read that ... talked about it on a vinegar post:

    Good memory! :)

  5. I am definitely going to try the catnip thing. I have tons of it in the garden and I live in a swamp. So I sure need some help! My only concern is my cat will maul me in my sleep! -kate

  6. Thanks for the useful recipes, my Summer is just around the corner so great to have them.

  7. When my daughter leaves California for a place that has bugs... no rain no water no bugs....she will start to take garlic pills. The bugs can smell them and they run away!

  8. That is a great repellent recipe. Thanks. A little different than what I use but I like this one better. Thanks. Keep me posted on this weeks challenge. BTW- do you know how to fix the comments on your blogger blog. I am having trouble leaving comments and also responding to comments on my site but never with yours. Any advice? Let me know. Thanks. P.S.- that is why I have not been responding to comments on my blog - because I am unable to. Tried a new system today but it had more bugs.

  9. I beleive that we must protect biodiversity and enviroment,stay well

  10. Hmmm... I'd never used a repellent. Haven't been bitten by one mossy for ages.

    I guess keeping doors and windows closed, and the wind from the fan helps a lot. Either that or they hate my skin or my blood :)

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  12. Here is a recipe for mosquito repellent for the yard from Jerry Baker.

    1 cup lemon scented ammonia
    1 cup lemon scented dish soap. Do not use any anti-bacterial soap
    Warm Water

    Pour ammonia and dish soap into a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer filling the balance with warm water.

    In the early morning/late evening thoroughly soak any areas in your yard where mosquitoes gather. Repeat 3x a week. You can use this anywhere in your yard to repel them.

    If you have a water garden try to purchase fish for the pond. They will eat the larvae or you can purchase mosquito dunks that contain the natural insecticide Bt1 which kill them in water.


    In Auckland, we get infested with fleas. They bite a zillion bites at a time. I googled and found that pennyroyal plants helps to repel fleas. So off I went to my garden centre and bought a couple of plants,

    I am not sure if they kept fleas away. They do make beautiful pot plants. Unfortunately, these plants seem to be seasonal, and dried up after flowering.