Whether it’s a ten-mile hike through wilderness with a backpack on your shoulders or a tent pitched just out of sight of your automobile, tensions and frustrations just seem to melt away when you’re spending time in the great outdoors.
But insects can ruin the best camping trip. Mosquito bites are no longer just itchy annoyances: since West Nile virus first appeared in North America, they’ve become the source of a dangerous infection Ticks are carriers of Lyme’s Disease. Wasp and bee stings don’t just hurt, they can be fatal to a small but significant proportion of the population. Commercial insect repellents are laden with chemicals that also have the potential to make you feel unwell. Fortunately you can stave off many marauding insects with home made remedies that use all natural, herbal ingredients.
Herbal Mosquito Repellants
Citronella, an essential oil found in citronella grass (Cymbopagon nardus) is such an effective mosquito repellant that citronella candles are common stock items in most household supplies stores. Several scientific studies testify to citronella’s effectiveness.
Although citronella is grown in many parts of California and Florida as an ornamentals shrub, extracting the plant’s oils is a labor-intensive process requiring steam distillation. For most people it’s more practical to buy the essential oil itself, either at your local health food store or through one of the many online sources. Citronella oil not cheap, but fortunately you won’t have to buy very much. Combine two ounces of witch hazel, a natural astringent that dries your skin, with three milliliters of citronella oil and half a cup of 190-proof grain alcohol, available from most liquor stores. Shake vigorously, and store in small two ounce bottles. Dab it on all exposed skin and you should be able to withstand an army of mosquitoes. Remember to test it first on a small patch of skin to rule out any allergic reactions.
In the late 90s, the University of Florida identified geraniol as the active ingredient in citronella, responsible for deterring mosquitoes. Geraniol is found in many other plants besides citronella, including geraniums, lemons and lemon grass, and these plants can also be used to make mosquito repellants.
Natural Tick Repellants
The most effective natural repellent for ticks is apple cider vinegar.
Vinegar is another name for acetic acid, and ticks hate acetic acid – it interferes with their metabolism. Take an inexpensive plastic spray bottle, add two parts apple cider vinegar to one part distilled water and voila!
The trouble then is that you end up smelling like apple cider vinegar – which will not only repel ticks but also many humans. To cut the sour smell, try mixing some eucalyptus, peppermint or citronella oil with the anti-tick mixture.
Natural Bee Repellent
Peppermint oil also works well as a natural bee and wasp repellent. Add one ounce of peppermint oil to 32 ounces of distilled water in a plastic spray bottle. You will need to add something to emulsify the ingredients as well – baby shampoo or a gentle dishwashing detergent both work well. Shake vigorously and spray on exposed body surfaces and you’ll be able to hike in a meadow of flowers bee free.