I am so grateful for the rain we have been getting this year. The countryside is incredibly lush and my garden is thriving, but naturally so are the bugs. Living out in the country, I see ticks on a daily basis—partially because my cats like to roam and are thoughtful enough bring them home to me. I have chickens and guineas that do their best to cut down on the bug population, but my cats clearly wonder far beyond the predatory range of my chickens. The mosquitoes, too, are enjoying the moisture. Both of these pests can make us itch and scratch, but worse they can spread diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and West Nile Virus. The most common recommendation to avoid these bloodsuckers is to use an insect repellant containing DEET, but I would personally rather avoid this questionable chemical.
Alternative insect repellants often contain essential oils like citronella, basil, grapefruit, lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus, and peppermint. When initially applied essential oils are just as effective as DEET, but these volatile oils evaporate fairly quickly, so they don’t repel insects for more than an hour or two. Some people don’t mind reapplying these formulas frequently since they have a pleasant odor and can be diluted with water to be a refreshing mister during hot day. However, if you’d prefer not to continually reapply throughout the day, another option is to buy a formula that is oil based and designed to last longer. An example of such a product, Buzz Away Extreme, was shown to still repel 90% of mosquitoes after 3 hours, making it at least as effective as a conventional insect repellant containing 15% DEET. Natural insect repellants containing citronella have also been shown to be as effective as DEET at repelling chiggers and ticks, as well. Similarly, geranium and lemongrass essential oil have also been shown to be effective at repelling chiggers.
Though despite taking these precautions, I do sometimes still get bitten. For tips on how to deal with insect bites, you can read my blog from this time last year.