Saturday, April 23, 2016

DIY Herbal Mosquito &Tick Repellents - Part 1

Spring Greetings To Everyone!  If you've been following my blogs, then you know that I live in the beautiful state of Maine . . . and spring - if we have one - doesn't unfurl her pretty face here until sometime in May (after everyone else in the United States is already in full spring swing).

Yesterday, while out puttering in my garden, I noticed something teensy and black hovering and buzzing about my head . . . then, apparently, it decided to weasel its way into the curls at the nape of my neck and settled in for a blood meal - OUCH!  It was our native black fly (jokingly referred to as the Maine State Bird)!  "They're here", I grimaced!  The mosquitoes will follow soon enough, then the fleas and ticks start hatching, and the deer flies, which look like little brown stealth bombers, arrive in June.  Such fun!  With the beauty of each season also comes its darker side . . . yin and yang . . . life always strives to balance . . . lol!

Well . . . lucky for me, I know how to make effective natural, chemical-free bug repellents and use them all season long . . . nary any DEET in sight, and rarely a bite!  And, lucky for you, my latest book, Naturally Bug-Free: 75 Nontoxic Recipes for Repelling Mosquitoes, Ticks, Fleas, Ants, Moths & Other Pesky Insects (Storey Publishing c2016), was recently released.  It contains herbal formulations that really work to keep bugs off your person, your dogs and cats, and out of your home. Mother Nature gave us insects, but she also gave us the means to deal with them.  Using herbs, essential oils, diatomaceous earth, and other natural ingredients, this book shows you how to make insect-repellents sprays and balms, herbal bug repellent sachets, mild pet shampoos and effective flea and tick powders, and aromatically-pleasing insecticides for for your your home.  


Today, I'm going to begin another series of blogs in which I will share a handful of recipes and tips on how to make a variety of bug repellents and insecticides.  In case you're wondering, this book DOES NOT contain recipes for keeping bugs off your house plants or out of your garden.  It is strictly written for repelling bugs from people, pets, and keeping them out of your residence.

This initial recipe, found on page 82 of my book, is one of my more aromatically pungent formulations and it works quite well when the bugs are buzzing and biting at a pretty steady level and the ticks are crawling about looking for their next meal.  It has a heavy-earthy lemony essence that many of you will find quite pleasant - though a bit on the strong side.  Strong, safe, and effective - yet no toxic chemicals.  Isn't that what we are all seeking in a repellent?  If you scroll down to the bottom, I've attached photos of the plants from which the valuable essential oils used in this recipe are extracted.

Regarding the Zika virus . . . no one can claim that their repellent - whether commercial or homemade, chemical-based or natural - will completely prevent bites from mosquitoes carrying this dangerous virus, nor mosquitoes/ticks that carry other blood-borne pathogens.  It is up to you to, if going outside in areas infested with dangerous insects, to use common sense and wear clothing that covers your bare skin. If you wish to use DEET as a secondary protection, then I suggest that you only apply it to your clothing, but that is your call, then apply a strong natural repellent to your bare face, neck and hands.  DEET is toxic - and you need to be aware of that - but I'll get into that matter in another blog. 

Lemony Eucalyptus-Geranium Tick Repellent Spray

When these four essential oils - lemon eucalyptus, geranium, lemongrass, and citronella - are combined, the result is a potent, safe, and pleasingly aromatic tick repellent that works wonderfully well at fending off flying insects, too.

(NOTE:  You can substitute Eucalyptus globulus essential oil, if lemon eucalyptus - Eucalyptus citriodora - is unavailable.  The formula will still be effective, but the earthy-lemon aroma will be slightly lighter.)

Cautionary Note:  DO NOT use this formula on children under 3 years old.

Ingredients:

- 20 drops geranium essential oil
- 14 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
- 7 drops lemongrass essential oil
- 7 drops citronella essential oil
- 1/2 teaspoon liquid castile soap, peppermint or eucalyptus scent 
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
- 1/4 cup purified water
- 1/4 cup unflavored vodka (inexpensive vodka works just fine)
- 1, 4-ounce spray bottle (glass or plastic, though, I prefer glass)

To Make The Repellent:  Add the geranium, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, and citronella essential oils directly to the 4-ounce storage bottle, then add the liquid soap, glycerin, water, and vodka.  Screw the top on the bottle and shake vigorously to blend.  Allow the spray to synergize for 1 hour.  Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year.

For Application:  Shake well immediately before use.  Spray liberally onto skin as needed - you may need to reapply every 20 to 30 minutes.  Avoid spraying directly into eyes, nose, and mouth. Note: It may stain light-colored fabrics.

Yield:  approximately 4-ounces or 1/2 cup

 Photo of Eucalyptus citriodora

Photo of Rose geranium

Photo of Lemongrass (obviously)

Photo of Citronella (obviously)
 
 
NOTE:  Portions of this blog were adapted with permission from the book, "Naturally Bug-Free" by Stephanie Tourles, (Storey Publishing c2016). The information is true and complete to the best of the author's knowledge.  All recommendations are made without guarantee.  The author disclaims any liability in connection with the use of this information.  It is for educational purposes only.