One thing we all can agree on is that we hate mosquitoes. The annoying little bugs can make the most fun outdoor activity miserable.
Their bites are itchy and the bumps they leave behind are unsightly. But even worse the pests can spread dangerous, and sometimes deadly, diseases including West Nile virus, different types of encephalitis and Zika.
So naturally when you’re going to be outside during the warm weather months you’re going to want to do something to discourage the blood suckers from sinking their greedy little mouths into you.
DEET insect repellent—originally developed by the United States Department of Agriculture as a pesticide—is the most common suggestion for keeping those bugs from biting. And the chemical is highly effective. Experts believe that mosquitoes intensely dislike the smell of DEET, which is what keeps them away.
However for some folks a sensitivity to the chemical, or questions about the repellent’s safety, mean that DEET isn’t an option.
But if you can’t, or won’t, use the popular bug spray does that mean you simply have to resign yourself to being completely unprotected? The answer is no.
Natural bug repellents help keep mosquitoes at bay
Because if you don’t live in an area that’s swimming in mosquitoes, or one that has had a major issue with mosquito borne illnesses, there are some options that can help keep the bugs at bay. Options that don’t involve covering yourself from head to toe with questionable chemicals.
Natural bug repellents can help you stay bite-free. It turns out a number of herbs, including some that you may already be using in your own cooking, can pull double duty as natural bug repellents.
Planting them in your garden—or in flower boxes and pots—can cut down on outdoor pests. Plus rubbing the crushed leaves on your skin, or using their essential oils instead, can help discourage the bugs from biting.
Experts say basil leaves can help repel mosquitoes. The plant contains several volatile compounds, including estragole, citronellal, limonene and nerolidol, which are proven to repel insects. Crush the leaves and swipe across your skin or mix several drops of the essential oil into a carrier such as almond oil, and rub onto any exposed areas of skin.
Experts say the oil of the rosemary plant kills mosquito larva as well as repels the adult insects. When barbecuing toss some rosemary into the grill. It will not only smell delicious, the smoke can help clear the area of mosquitoes and other bugs.
To discourage the bugs that do hang around from biting crush the fresh leaves and swipe them lightly across your skin. Or place 15 to 25 drops of rosemary essential oil into around three tablespoons of your favorite carrier oil (coconut or sweet almond oil for example) and lightly smooth the mix onto any spots of exposed skin.
The oil of the lavender plant contains up to 25 percent linalool a terpenoid alcohol that repels mosquitos in a way that’s similar to DEET (although not as strongly). According to one study a diffusion of lavender oil repels 93 percent of mosquitoes inside and 58 percent outdoors.
You can crush and rub fresh lavender on your arms or legs or use a lavender essential oil mix on your skin.
Thyme contains five different compounds, called monoterpenes, which repel mosquitoes. In one study two of the compounds, alpha-terpinene and carvacrol, performed even better than DEET. While thymol performed as well as the commercial repellent.
If you’re going to be grilling in the garden go ahead and toss a few sprigs into the fire. It will release some bug repelling smoke. And to keep the suckers from biting you can crush some thyme leaves and wipe them across your skin. Or you can mix a few drop of thyme essential oil into your favorite carrier oil and apply anywhere you have bare skin.
5. Lemon balm and Lemon Eucalyptus
Most plants in the mint family are natural insect repellents, each with their own bug busting compounds. Both Lemon Balm and Lemon Eucalyptus are reportedly very effective at driving away mosquitoes.
Since these plants can spread very quickly and overtake your yard we recommend growing these plants in big pots instead. Crush the leaves in your hands and wipe them across your exposed skin. It will release a bright lemony scent that you’ll love, and the mosquitoes will hate.
You can also find lemon balm and lemon eucalyptus essential oils as well as the related oil of lemon eucalyptus. The CDC says oil of lemon eucalyptus offers protection against mosquitoes that’s similar to lower concentrations of DEET.
Don’t let mosquitoes suck the fun out of your outdoor activities. Try one of these natural homegrown mosquito solutions instead.
For more information on beating mosquitoes naturally download our free Zika Virus Survival Guide today.