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Make Your Own Insect Repellents

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 1 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Insect Repellent Make Your Own Insect

Summer brings with it many delights - longer days, balmy evenings, sunshine and the bursting forth of thousands of species of flora and fauna to name but a few. However, this explosion in life also includes the inevitable appearance of some not so appealing summer residents. Along with hay fever, flies, wasps, mosquitoes and other insects that like to have a nibble or two can put a real downer on summer for some people.

Whilst some insects are happy to feast on the blood of humans, others will have no qualms about munching their way through fruit and vegetable crops. A coddling moth's larvae, for instance, can decimate a crop of apples, whilst aphids will happily suck the life out of your tomato plants.

Flies, whilst not only being a general nuisance and dirty, can actually cause serious damage to other animals. Fly strike is a very serious condition that should never be overlooked. The smallest open wound can become a target for flies to lay their eggs. These eggs then hatch out to become flesh-eating maggots that cause pain and misery to the animal.

Why Make Your Own?

There are a few options to try and repel insects. Although there are commercial insect repellents on the market, they tend to be full of undesirable synthetic chemicals that most people wouldn't want to accidentally breathe in! Topically applied insect repellents can also find their way into our bloodstreams, with very undesirable side effects seen in some cases.

The most common insect repellent ingredient used in commercial brands is something known as DEET (N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET is actually capable of peeling paint and melting plastic, and as you'd expect can cause skin complaints, nausea and muscle spasms. It has even been attributed to causing seizures and death in some very rare cases.

However the good news is that there are many more natural alternatives to insect repellent that you can opt for. However, if you are allergic to bee or wasp stings, you should not rely on commercial or homemade insect repellents to protect you. Anyone at risk from anaphylactic shock should always carry an appropriate first aid kit with them.

In the Home

The first step in repelling insects in the home is to take preventative measures - not providing the right conditions for pests to thrive in. Good hygiene is one way to discourage them from hanging about. Food stuffs and any pet litter should be cleared away and a good level of hygiene will ensure that they're not drawn in!

You can apply topical natural homemade remedies to your skin to actively discourage mosquitoes and other biting insects, or have a natural insect repellent in your general vicinity. Citronella is probably the most well known of the natural insect repellents, and it can come in topical body spray form, or its essence or oil can be incorporated into candles. The lemon smell is actually very pleasant for humans, but not desirable to mosquitoes in particular.

Other natural insect repellents that work in the same way as citronella include herbs and plants like peppermint, penny royal, eucalyptus, lavender and cedarwood. You can dilute the essential oils with vodka and spray around a room and in your bedding for night protection. Alternatively, you can try soaking paper and material scraps in these oils and hang them up near doors and windows.

If you want to apply the insect repellents to your skin, you'll need to combine them with a base oil, as they'll cause irritation if used neat. Jojoba or apricot kernel oil are perfect for diluting essential oils. Try combining 1/8 oz of pennyroyal, jojoba and tea tree oil with ¼ oz lavender oil and ½ oz of citronella oil. Then dilute in 16oz of apricot oil and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

Catnip is also thought to be a good mosquito repellent. Why not try planting it near seating areas to try and discourage mosquitoes from coming in to land?

In The Garden

Unwanted insects in the garden can be controlled by natural means too. You should bear in mind that any repellents or sprays designed to kill insect pests will also repel or kill the helpful creepy crawlies. Introducing companion planting schemes is one way to discourage unwanted insects.

You should also try to encourage the 'helpful' insects that enjoy feasting on plant-destroying pests. Ladybirds, lacewings, hoverflies and even wasps are just some of the insects that can prove to be a gardener's best friend. Also clearing away weak or diseased plants will help to keep insects at bay.

Sticky fly traps are not nice contraptions, as they are completely indiscriminate when it comes to trapping and killing insects. There have even been cases of small birds becoming stuck to the paper and subsequently dying. A much better alternative is to hang up insect repellents that do not kill hapharzardly, but simply discourage insects from approaching!

Peppermint is a popular insect repellent in the garden. Plant peppermint near valuable plants, or alternatively mix up a solution of peppermint in water and spray onto the afflicted plants. Likewise, Rosemary, catnip and marigolds are also two pest-repelling plants that you can plant in your garden.

Coddling moth eggs will suffocate if you apply your own dormant oil to the tree trunk. You'll a pump spray capable of holding at least 4 litres of water. Then mix in 2 tablespoons of liquid soap and one cup of vegetable oil and shake vigorously. During use you'll need to keep shaking the solution to ensure that the oil is evenly dispersed throughout the water.

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