Summer has arrived: Backyard barbecues, swimming, hiking, cycling… and, of course, mosquitoes. The bites of those little critters are not only annoying and itchy, but may carry harmful viruses, such as West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis virus. Outside of the U.S., mosquitoes may carry even more dangerous diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
Many people are concerned about the toxic effects of conventional insect repellents, which contain chemicals such as DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET remains popular because it’s so darned effective. If you want to avoid this synthetic compound, what are natural alternatives that actually work to keep these bugs at bay?
- Natural insect repellents that have been tested to actually work on par with DEET include catnip oil (yes, the same catnip that your cat loves!), and lemon eucalyptus oil (the Centers for Disease Control actually recommend this for prevention of spread of West Nile virus). There are commercially available sprays that contain these herbs. By the way, skip the Avon Skin-So-Soft — its bug-repelling reputation is greatly exaggerated.
- Think outside the spray: physical repellents include backyard tiki torches (whether they contain citronella or just plain oil — it’s the smoke that drives mosquitoes away), and fans. Set up an oscillating fan on your patio pointed out toward the yard — mosquitoes will literally be blown away!