Itching, scratching, stinging, swelling and redness? That’s right, Summer is officially in full swing and those pesky bugs are even bigger and braver than last year. And not just a solitary few, they have united in their swarms determined to ruin our long-awaited plans to relax alfresco.
Although most insect bites and stings are just irritating, some can result in serious infection or in some countries; disease. Whether its mosquito’s, gnats, wasps, bees or ticks – they can all have a nasty nip. Sometimes we just simply want to keep the bugs away from our delicious grub, but despite our extra vigilant efforts to deter these picnic-predators – we still suffer their wrath.
Most of the widely available Bug Repellents contain, N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET, as it’s more commonly known. Although it is designed to repel rather than kill insects, studies have shown that DEET could have a detrimental effect on wildlife and water sources, it is unkind to birds and aquatic life and in some cases people have also reported severe skin and eye irritation as a result of using DEET based products.
So what are we to do? Enjoy our chargrilled sausages in the vibrant sunshine whilst adorning a head-to-toe bug proof onesie? All is not lost – once again nature leads the way with a safe, friendly, botanical defense. No doubt you’ll already have an array of Oils in your kitty which provide great protection over the Summer months. With a little planning you can protect yourself, your family and your home from an unwelcome critter .
All Citrus oils are unpopular with insects however the most renown Essential Oil guaranteed to deter bugs is Citronella. For some people an unpleasant scent, but definitely a winner as a repellant. There are lots of Citronella blends you can create which will sweeten the scent and still do the same job, and all are skin-kind, environmentally friendly and inexpensive.
Protect yourself in the home by adding 8 drops of Citronella and 4 drops of Lavender to either a cotton wool ball and keeping it on the window sill, or applying it to a ribbon and hanging it from the curtain poll above open windows. This will deter bugs from entering the home, and also provide a cleansing scent as the breeze passes through. This could also be tried with Peppermint instead of Lavender.
Peppermint is also particularly unpopular with ants. And these little crawlies often like to unite in a corner of the kitchen or outside on the patio. Just a few drops on their stomping ground will see them start to disperse. For a more widespread protection try adding 6 drops of Peppermint or Lemongrass to your mop bucket when cleaning the floors, or make a cleansing surface spray for the worktops.
While you’re dining alfresco, cooking with plenty of Garlic and Herbs will help stave off bugs, also lighting a Citrus candle will help your plight. Another great trick is to soak a piece of rag in a blend of Eucalyptus Citriodora, Peppermint and Lemongrass with a little water, place in a lidded jar up to 24 hours before your planned feast. When the event arrives, place your jar on the table and remove the lid. The gentle aroma will flow with the breeze and your food should remain unscathed. If you are surrounded by trees or tall plants – just a few loose ribbons, doused with Essential Oils and tied to the nearby branches will offer a beautiful sight, and scent; as the breeze whooshes through. Herb Essential Oils such as Basil, Clove, Pine and Thyme also offer pest-protection, but are best used in addition to a Citrus oil.
The most bothersome annoyance of a critter intrusion is the nipping of the ankles, they love to hide in grassy areas and pounce when we least expect. Why not make yourself less ‘tasty’ with a protective spray. Disperse a blend of 5 drops of Lavender, 5 drops of Rosemary, 5 drops of Eucalyptus Citrodora and 5 drops of Tea Tree into 10ml of Vodka or Witch Hazel, then mix into 100ml of distilled (or boiled) water. Put your potion into a spray bottle and apply liberally to all areas of uncovered skin, through your hair and on your clothes. Do this an hour before you’re due outdoors and apply regularly to top up. Refreshing in hot weather and helps the bug-battle. This blend can be sweetened with a little extra Lavender, or made fresher with a touch of Peppermint. Should you prefer you could make a lotion instead by swapping the water and vodka for base lotion. If you don’t have time to blend – just a simple drop of Lavender on the ankles and wrists will help. Be aware – not all Essential Oils can be used raw on the skin in this way.
Moths particularly dislike Lavender and Citrus Oils so a great tip is to put a few drops of these oils onto a cotton wool ball and keep in your wardrobe and draws to keep your clothes fresh. Bed bugs have an aversion to Cedarwood and Eucalyptus – just a few drops on cotton wool and placed under the mattress or under the sheet will keep your bed a bug-free zone.
Oh No….they got you.
How to treat your sore, inflamed bites and stings. In the case of a sting firstly its best to remove the sting if possible, clean the area and apply a cold compress of Chamomile Roman (or a cold Chamomile Tea Bag). Do this for the first few hours and then you can begin to treat it. Apply just 1 drop of either Lavender or Chamomile directly to the sting to soothe the skin, take down the inflammation and keep it free from infection.
Bites from fleas, gnats and mosquitoes usually leave behind an itchy, raised blotch. Calm the skin down with a cold compress of Chamomile Roman, and then apply either 1 drop of Lavender or 1 drop of Chamomile Roman directly to the area, 3 times a day. Or if you have several bites you could bath in a blend of the two oils, aim for 6-8 drops of oil to a bath. Tea Tree is a great anti-septic oil – if any of your bites or stings have not started to heal after a few days just a dab of Tea Tree or a Tea Tree compress directly to the area should eradicate any infection. You can then revert to the Lavender/Chamomile remedy.
As always, protection is the best defense. Keep your emergency Essential Oils of Lavender, Chamomile, Tea Tree, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus, Peppermint and Citronella close to hand for a relaxing, bug-free Summer.