Mosquito season has arrived with gusto! Spend more than 15 minutes outside in the early morning or evening, or in mosquito havens like the garden, and the flying syringes of death and discomfort will find you.
Commercial bug sprays are the way to go if you need to repel several different types of insects, especially if you are spending a lot of time in bug infested areas and you really don’t want to bring home a tick or two with you. When heading out to the mountains or into the plains for camping or other recreational activities, I’ll spray away. But… (And you know there will always be a ‘but’)…
For me, I spend so much time in the garden and working outside – often in small 15 or 30 minute bursts as time and kid activities allow that in those cases I really don’t like to spray on the DEET. It doesn’t smell good, my skin feels weird and I fear what long term exposure coupled with a lot of sweat means for my long-term health. (Contrary to the adage Horses sweat, men perspire, and women merely glow, I sweat.)
I’ve often heard of alternative mosquito repellants, and thought this summer might be the time to see what they were all about, and share my experiences with you, Kind Reader.
A quick search on the Internet for ‘homemade mosquito repellent’, ‘natural mosquito repellent’, or ‘organic mosquito repellent’ results in a multitude of recipes. Looking through page after page of them, I found that there are generally three variations on the theme; the first is the classic Paul Harvey one that makes the rounds each summer. The second is the ‘buzz beater’ recipe by Jerry Baker, and the last type is an amalgamation of essential oils.
Noticing that the majority of homemade recipes were for the essential oils, I decided to explore that option. After sifting through no less than 37 different variations of essential oil repellents, it wasn’t long before commonalities began to appear.
While the specific ingredients and amounts varied, each was a combination of two or three (sometimes four) essential oils, an oil or alcohol carrier, an emulsifier and sometimes distilled water is added to dilute the mixture.
After collecting all of my ingredients, I opted to see if the following combination appeared to provide the same type of protection and if it worked as long as the commercial brands that contain DEET.
Again, there are many, many variations of this idea, and the following is the mixture that I used. Meghan and I tested it while camping at the Crow Valley Recreational Area (out in the Pawnee Grasslands) and it was a success! Only the most desperate mosquitos (only 2, now 1 as the other was splatted) were bothersome. Others either used DEET or nothing. In a purely unscientific assessment, the group thought that both the EO and DEET mixtures had the same effectiveness. One added bonus with EO mixture was that the usually problematic biting flies simply stayed away and went after the DEET users.
Homemade Mosquito Repellent
In a glass or non-reactive container, mix
- 15 drops of Lavender Essential Oil
- 10 drops of Lemon Eucalyptus* Essential Oil
- 15 drops of Lemon Grass Essential Oil
- 2 tsp Real Vanilla Extract
- Add 2/3 C of light Olive Oil
Mix all ingredients together and store in a small, leak-proof, glass or non-reactive spray bottle.
Shake well before use. To apply, shake well, then spray over exposed skin (be careful with clothing as oil can stain) or take 4-5 drops onto your hands and spread over any exposed skin – it takes less than you think!
It will spread evenly and protect for 2-3 hours, as needed. An added bonus is that it smells so good (if you like a hint of eucalyptus) and it leaves your skin baby soft as well.
*Be sure to purchase Lemon Eucalyptus Oil and not a combination of lemon and eucalyptus oils – it doesn’t have the same overall effect.
While this mixture is carried by a light olive oil, I wondered how the same mixture using Witch Hazel compared. Since we have some on hand, as soon as I mix up a batch and try it out, I’ll post an update.
A few notes about using essential oils:
- Be sure to work on a protected surface and wear protective clothing when preparing; essential oils are very concentrated and can stain material and furniture.
- Test your mixture on a small area of skin to determine if you are allergic or reactive to it or not. You don’t want to find out that you are allergic to one of the ingredients AFTER you’ve covered yourself. This is especially important with small children.
- Keep away from the eyes!
- Do not use the concentrated essential oil that has not been diluted with a carrier – either oil or alcohol based – it can and will irritate the skin due to its strength.
- As with all things, use your best judgment, and if you have questions, contact your doctor for medical advice.
If you try it out, let me know how it worked for you!
Until next time, may your knees be green, and your spirits light.