Insects can be quite the burden when you’re trying to enjoy some quality outdoor time. There are few things worse than coming home from a long day of hiking only to realize that you have a slew of budding mosquito bites, or discovering a tick that’s been hiding in your pants.
Bug repellent is important, especially in areas where insect-borne illness is prevalent. Believe it or not, mosquitoes are the deadliest animals in the world! This is due to the multitude of viruses they can spread. Malaria has ravaged many parts of the world, killing hundreds of thousands of people every year. The Zika virus has become a huge problem for pregnant women in recent years as well. In the United States, viruses such as West Nile and EEE have put an increased focus on mosquito prevention.
We should not take risks when it comes to exposing ourselves to potentially dangerous insects. However, we also have to maintain our standards of sustainability and eco-friendliness. This unfortunately means avoiding almost all store-bought insecticides.
Why Are Store-Bought Repellents So Bad?
Most of the effective bug sprays on the market today have tons of chemicals in them that can be harmful to not only the ecosystem but also to your own health.
DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) is revered as the gold standard of insect repellent (especially against ticks), and that’s because it does a great job of keeping pests away. If we take a closer look at this ingredient, we see that it’s absorbed into the skin of the applicant within 6 hours in most cases.
In excessive doses, DEET has been linked to serious health issues such as memory loss, seizures, and blisters. Due to its ability to be absorbed into the soil, DEET has also been detected in natural water sources, and it can be harmful to wildlife.
Cyfluthrin is another common ingredient in bug repellent that can be harmful to aquatic life. When used on humans, it may lead to a loss of coordination, behavior changes, and muscle trembling among other issues.
Let’s not forget about pyrethroids, which is a large group of over 1,000 insecticides (some of the most common ones include Tetramethrin, Prallethrin, and Lambda-cyhalothrin). These chemicals have the potential to cross the blood-brain barrier in the human body and become toxic to the central nervous system. It goes without saying that these are also harmful to aquatic life.
These chemicals may be super common in store-bought insect repellents, but they’re not your only option for staying bug-free. Luckily, there are ways to make your own bug spray with ingredients you can likely find at your local supermarket.
How To Make Natural Bug Repellent
This homemade bug spray is super easy to make and works wonders against mosquitos, gnats, and flies. All you’ll need is a mortar and pestle, a 4 oz glass spray bottle, a strainer, apple cider vinegar, and some fresh parsley. Here’s what you need to do:
- Add about 1 teaspoon of fresh parsley and 4 oz of apple cider vinegar into your mortar.
- Use the pestle to grind your ingredients together for about a minute or so.
- Strain the liquid so that all parsley bits are left behind.
- Pour the strained liquid into your spray bottle and spray away!
You can spray this recipe on anything, whether it’s your skin, your hair, your clothes, or even your hiking gear. Although it may be quite fragrant while it’s in the bottle, this solution doesn’t smell like vinegar once it dries on surfaces.
If you’re concerned about the odor, you can add a few drops of peppermint oil to your spray bottle for a more pleasant smell. If you do this, just be sure to shake the bottle before each spray.
If you’d like, you can also make this recipe in bulk. Just be sure to keep the same ratio as listed above and refrigerate your solution until it’s ready to be used. When made properly, this natural repellent works great at keeping bugs away. Also, the solution is good for your skin and can even help prevent sunburn!
Making Eco-Friendly Tick Repellent
Ticks are some of the scariest pests to encounter in the outdoors. These tiny bloodsuckers are basically tiny vampires with the ability to transmit debilitating illnesses such as Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and more. It is essential that you protect yourself from these creatures whenever you venture outside.
For a natural alternative to the big-name, chemical-filled repellents on the market, all you’ll need is a 2 oz. glass spray bottle, apple cider vinegar, water, neem oil, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, geranium oil, and citronella oil.
Here are the instructions:
- Pour about 1.5 oz. of apple cider vinegar into your spray bottle.
- Add roughly 1 teaspoon of neem oil into the bottle.
- Add 40 drops of geranium oil.
- Add 20 drops of tea tree oil.
- Add 20 drops of citronella oil.
- Add 15 drops of peppermint oil.
- Fill the rest of the bottle (leaving enough room at the top so that you’ll be able to shake it) with water.
- Shake well before each use and spray over all of your exposed skin, your clothes, your hair, and your gear.
Remember that this spray will not guarantee that you won’t be bitten by a tick, as these little suckers are super sneaky. You’ll have to take other preventative measures to keep yourself safe. This means performing full-body tick checks after returning indoors, drying your clothes for at least 10 minutes after removing them, and staying away from tall, un-groomed grass.
Keeping bugs away is about more than just avoiding pests. It’s about maintaining good health and preventing illnesses such as Malaria, Zika virus, Lyme Disease, EEE, and more. However, we don’t always have to turn to store-bought bug repellents to stay safe. Keeping bugs away should not come at the expense of your own health or the environment’s health.
Making homemade bug spray is more simple than most people would think, and these recipes work quite efficiently. Following this guide will help you avoid all of the toxic chemicals found in store-bought products, and it’ll give you some peace of mind next time you want to ward the bugs off.
About The Guest Author:
Mike Nicosia is a writer and New Jersey native who is passionate about hiking, nature, and sustainability. He’s also the founder of Conquerwild.com, a blog site with articles on all things camping/hiking.