Natural Repellent for Pesky Summer Bugs
Yes, it’s that time again: the season of insects. Just as we venture forth from our homes to enjoy the summer weather, so do the dreaded flying bugs from hiding. Summertime naturally draws out mosquitoes (especially with Austin’s recent soggy weather), fruit flies, houseflies, june bugs, and the like…and none of them are welcomed guests. Instead of reaching for the toxic DEET formula, however, consider using these eco-friendly, pet friendly, and kid friendly repellents as natural armor for your skin!
What is DEET?
DEET, a common ingredient in chemical-based insect repellent as well as conventional sunscreen, is an unsustainable and inorganic insect repellent first manufactured in the late 1940s. The general public has been using DEET-based products since the 50s, although the chemical is highly toxic when introduced to to the environment in concentrated doses and potentially harmful to children if misused.
Traces of DEET are known to become absorbed in the skin, and because of its widespread usage, DEET can be found in wastewater as well as major bodies of water, such as the Mississippi River. Its toxicity, although considered typically “negligible” by the EPA, has the highest concentrations of fatal toxicity in freshwater fish and insects. The EPA also ran a report in 2007 discovering DEET in 75% of national water streams.
DEET’s controversial reputation has led concerned citizens to seek bug protection elsewhere, and what better way is there to repel those pesky bugs than with Nature’s tools?
Discouraging those tiny bloodsuckers is easier than you think! Tons of essential oils act as natural repellents to mosquitoes, and combined with a few easy tips, you can avoid those itchy bites:
Essential oil recipe for mosquitoes:
1) Choose from citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, cajeput, eucalyptus, cedar, catnip, lavender, and peppermint essential oils
2) Fill 1/2 of a spray bottle full of boiled or distilled water
3) Fill the rest of the spray bottle with natural witch hazel
4) Add 30-50 drops of mixed oils (the more oil, the stronger the spray!)
- As strange as it sounds, celery extract is a natural mosquito repellent! Squeezed fresh from a juicer, rub the extract on your skin generously. Keep in mind that this is a short term repellent, though, so re-apply often.
- If you have a grill: soak a sprig of fresh rosemary in water for 10 minutes, then set in hot grill to create a natural mosquito fogger.
- Organic essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, citronella (lemongrass), lemon, rosemary, and cinnamon oil are superior for mosquito protection.
- In a bottle: mix 2 tbsp olive oil and about 20 drops of an essential oil (i.e. lemongrass, eucalyptus, cinnamon) for a sweet-smelling repellent rub.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants when possible, to shield your skin from unwanted attention
- Beware of peak mosquito hours (early morning and evening)
- Use netting when possible, especially with babies.
- Avoid spots near standing water.
- For long term results: plant fresh herbs like sage, rosemary, lavender, and flowers like marigolds around the yard to repel mosquitoes effortlessly.
Hardly anything is more bothersome than a teeny tiny fruit fly circling your bowl of tasty cantaloupe or strawberries while you lounge in the backyard. Their size, although less formidable than a common housefly, makes it easier for them to evade swatting and shooing, so follow these tips to discourage fruit flies from joining the picnic:
Lemongrass spray recipe for fruit flies:
1) Fill a spray bottle full of hot water
2) Add 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil
3) Apply to windowsills, doorways, popular fly hangouts, and directly on flies
- Cover food with mesh netting.
- Put fruit and sweet treats in containers with lids.
- Soak cotton balls in lavender essential oil and place on windowsills to discourage their entry.
- Place strips of cedar wood along points of entry to repel fruit flies from moseying inside.
More often than not, a couple of fruit flies will shimmy their way into the house and breed overnight, resulting in a kitchen swarming with tiny flying dots. For fruit fly elimination, here are some recipes and combinations to trap and kill the tiny pests:
- Applecider Vinegar Trap: Heat vinegar and layer the bottom of a mason jar (or similar container) with it. You can add a piece of over-ripe fruit to the mix as well. Make a funnel and place it to where the tip is inside the jar, sealing off any other openings. The flies will be drawn inside, but won’t be able to escape. Optional: add a drop or two of natural dish soap to keep them stuck to the liquid.
- Simple Fruit Trap: Place one or two small pieces of over-ripe fruit inside a mason jar, and cover with plastic wrap. Puncture the wrap with a toothpick to create a few points of entry for the flies, and watch them trap themselves! Optional: add natural dish soap to the mix to keep the flies from flying around too much.
- Red Wine Trap: Heat red wine and layer the bottom of a mason jar (or similar container) with it. Make a funnel or line the jar with plastic wrap, as desired. Optional: add a drop or two of natural dish soap to keep them stuck to the liquid.
- Milk and Sugar Trap: Combine one pint of milk, 1/4 pound of raw sugar, and 2 ounces of ground black pepper in a pot. Let the ingredients simmer for 10 minutes before pouring into a shallow dish. Without covering the dish, set it anywhere in the house trafficked by fruit flies. According to Everyday Roots, the flies are attracted to the mixture, but suffocate in it once they land. Optional: add a drop or two of natural dish soap to guarantee they won’t fly away.
Even more troublesome than fruit flies, the common housefly is a germ-ridden nuisance that is difficult to ignore. Not only will their buzzing drive you crazy, houseflies are carriers of diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and diarrhea (as well as parasitic worms) due to their attraction to both food and feces. If houseflies are pestering you this summer, try out these repellents and traps:
Lavender oil recipe for houseflies:
1) Soak a piece of cloth or sponge in 1/2 cup of lavender oil
2) Place the cloth/sponge inside of a can (or a container with a resealable lid) and close it. Let it sit for 24 hours
3) Wherever it is needed, open the can and let the lavender waft through the air. The flies will disperse as long as it is open
- Sanitize or eliminate any food source, such as rotting material, dead animals, feces, or trash/compost containing food scraps. This will discourage generations of flies from reproducing in that source.
- Organic essential oils like citronella, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, peppermint, and lemongrass work just as effectively as repellents.
- Flies have a natural dislike of vodka’s aroma, so make vodka bags wherever needed.
- Like vodka, house flies dislike the smell of cloves as well. Place 10-15 cloves on your picnic table or kitchen counter to repel them– or, for an outdoor event, place the cloves inside 2 lemon halves to create a centerpiece that flies will hate!
- Elder, basil, lavender, and mint herbs will effectively keep the flies away.
- Make a DIY house fly repellent lotion: Add 1/2 cup of hazel, 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, and 30-60 drops of eucalyptus oil in a bottle and shake well. Apply to exposed skin.
Of course, sometimes killing the little buggers is the most effective course of action. Here are some tried and true (and non-chemical!) methods of extermination:
- Fly swatters, rubber bands, newspapers, and rags come in handy when warring with houseflies.
- Natural fly killer spray: fill a spray bottle with 5-7 drops of eco-friendly dish soap (must contain borax!) and 2 cups of warm water. Shake the ingredients, and spray at flies to knock ’em out.
- Buy or make sticky fly tape and hang it wherever they are swarming. If the tape is scented, the flies will land on it and get permanently stuck; if it is unscented, they’ll either fly into it on accident or choose it as a temporary landing spot.
- Invest in a disposable fly trap. For both indoor and outdoor use, these bags lure flies in with a sweet scent; the flies aren’t able to escape the bag, however.
Check out Rapid Home Remedies for even more tips and methods!
Last but not least, we have the June bug. Despite their name, June bugs come into season through out the entirety of the summertime…and although they are less interested in your food and generally harmless, their attraction to water and light puts them in our way. Nothing is more commonplace on a summer evening than fishing June bugs out of the pool, or swatting them away from your face because you’re standing close to a bright light source. So how do you repel these clunky, clumsy beetles?:
Garlic spray for June bugs:
1) Soak 3 ounces of minced garlic in 1 ounce of mineral oil for 24 hours. Afterwards, strain the garlic bits and set it aside.
2) Mix 16 ounces of water and 1 tsp of fish emulsion together. Then mix in 1 tbsp of Castile (liquid) soap.
3) Pour the garlic oil into the mix.
4) For the spray, put 2 tbsp of the garlic oil mixture and 1 pint of water into a bottle. Spray where necessary.
- In a jar, mix molasses (about 1/2 cup) and hot water and shake until combined well. Place the jar in your backyard for a few days; it will lure in the June bugs, who are unable to escape.
- In a milk jug: mix 1 cup water, 1/4 cup raw sugar, 1 mashed banana, and 1 package of yeast. Place on the ground or hang high up to lure in the June bugs.
- Place soapy water in a wash bin or plate, making sure the sun is reflecting off of its base (at night, place underneath a lamp or light). The June bugs will be attracted by the reflection, and drown.
Stick to these tips and enjoy a bug-free summer!