Mosquitoes Be Gone

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There is a joke among we Wisconsinites that the mosquito is our state bird. A damp rainy June likely helped boost the population of the bloodsucking pests, and they’re everywhere this summer. People of all ages are complaining of itchy uncomfortable welts and unsightly scabs from scratching too hard.

But I’m armed, and not with the chemically-laden insect repellents found in big-box stores. Sure, those work. But they can also irritate the skin, and in extreme cases, can cause allergic reactions. After buying small-batch natural insect repellants made by local soap makers and artists, I began experimenting with my own homemade insect repellent formula, using essential oils known to repel bugs. I tested my concoctions as I lounged in the yard at night or went hiking. Overall, I was satisfied with the results. While homemade plant-based repellent doesn’t keep the pests away completely, I noticed that my arm treated with the natural repellent received very few bites, but I could play connect-the-welts on my arm that was untreated.

Photo: Fotolia.com/Vasileva

Here’s how I did it: take a small empty spray bottle and fill it about two-thirds full with witch hazel astringent. You can also use distilled water. Then squirt the juice of a half lemon or lime into the witch hazel. Most insects don’t seem to care for citrus scents. Then choose your essential oils. The oils I found most effective for repelling mosquitoes are rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree. Add a few drops of each oil variety into the witch hazel mixture. You can adjust the oils according to your preferred scents. Be sure to use good quality oils available at health food stores or businesses that specialize in natural beauty products, as they carry real essential oils extracted directly from the plants and trees. I’ve found that most “essential oils” found at dollar stores and discount outlets are really artificial scents just added to an oil base.

After you’ve added your oils to the witch hazel/citrus mixture, give the bottle a good shake and spray the mixture liberally to exposed skin before heading out into mosquito-infested areas. Reapply every one to two hours. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up a week. I have also safely used this spray on my dog, Lenny, to keep him comfortable on summer nights.

Photo: iStockphoto.com/Arghman

As for keeping mosquitoes away from the patio, I’m anti-bug zapper. Sure they make a fun sound, but instead of nabbing mosquitoes, they often trap and zap beneficial bugs, or harmless ones like lightening bugs. Here’s another way to enjoy a mosquito-free summer evening on the patio, again with no chemicals and just a little bit of electricity – a simple box or oscillating fan. I’ve noticed that mosquitoes aren’t present on breezy summer nights, as their slight little wings can’t seem to fly against the wind. Hmm. I brought my oscillating fan outdoors and set it up near our seating area. I plugged the fan into the outdoor outlet, turned it on the lowest setting, and simply blew the pests away!

I’m not sure where they ended up. Oz, maybe?