It’s the first day of summer! Summer in West Virginia is a wonderful season of warm weather, days at the pool, and trips to amusement parks. Unfortunately, due to the many lakes and rivers across the region, it’s also a prime time for mosquitoes. So many times I’ve spent an evening outside enjoying the wilderness and then wake up to a swollen itchy red dot. Those tiny creatures are stealthy. Much of the time I don’t see them and I don’t feel them but I wake up and have proof they were there. The itch of the bite is enough to drive even the calmest person crazy. But the itch isn’t the worst thing that can happen from a mosquito bite. The West Nile and Zika viruses are now in the US and that’s an even better reason to keep those bugs away.
Last year as confirmed cases of the Zika virus grew and travel advisories were issued there was an announcement that Lemon Eucalyptus oil was as effective as DEET. DEET is the most common ingredient in commercially available insect repellents. This announcement turned out to be a bit misleading. While there is a component in Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) oil that does repel mosquitoes, it is only occurs naturally in the oil in a very small amount. The product that was tested and compared to DEET had this component in a much larger amount. So if you are purchasing the essential oil and expect it to work just as well as the insect repellents you’ve used in the past you will be disappointed.
Here are a few tips if you’d like to create your own spray. Keep in mind these sprays will have a short shelf life if you are using water without a preservative. Catnip and Peppermint oil are both effective oils to use in a spray for your skin to keep away the mosquitoes. (Peppermint is fine for adults and older children but shouldn’t be used on children under six.) You could also begin by using a Catnip or Peppermint hydrosol and then adding essential oils to it. Turmeric is a great essential oil to use in a mosquito repellent. And, of course, Citronella essential oil has been found to be effective at keeping these pesky insects away. Just remember that natural insect repellents need to be applied more often than others so reapply often if you don’t want to end up with those itchy bug bites!
If you decide to create your own mosquito repellent, make sure you do a skin patch test first to ensure you do not have a reaction to the oils. Another alternative is to use the spray on your clothing. Safe dilution rates will depend on how often you are using the repellent. If you have any questions, let us know. Wishing you a fun-filled and bug bite free summer!