Thursday, August 9, 2012

Are Flying and Biting Insects Bugging You - Non-Toxic Insect Repellents

One of the most toxic things I've ever done to myself is cover myself in mosquito/bug repellant! Granted I was just a child and we didn't know that DDT should have stood for "Deadly Deadly Toxin" but we used to spray down our picnic areas, our camping tents and our yards to rid ourselves of mosquitos, ticks, fleas, and biting flies.

I should also mention that in the irrigated farming areas of western South Dakota mosquitos are the size of small birds and they rise out of the marshy areas around the irrigation ditches at dusk like a black cloud . . . so they were not just a small nuisance!

While DDT is no longer available many other chemical laden, toxic mosquito repellants still line the shelves of drug stores, home improvement stores and even grocery stores! 

It's clear that no one wants to risk contracting blood borne diseases like West Nile Virus, EEE and Lymes Disease, insect repellents can be more dangerous than these diseases . . .  

Current insect repellents contain chemicals like DEET (N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), permethrin, ethyl and isopropyl alcohol. Individually they each carry significant health risks . . . 

DEET has been linked to severe central nervous system disorders, and when combined with Permethrin genetic damage has been observed in animal studies. When used frequently the prolonged skin exposure to these chemicals have been demonstrated to produce skin allergies, eye irritations, redness, skin discoloration, inflammation, shortness of breath, constant fatigue, muscle and joint pain, generalized physical weakness, memory loss, persistent headaches and tremors. 

The great news is that there are many practical and botanical solutions to rid yourself of these pesky, persistent, pests! 

Here Are a Few Biting Pest Deterrents:
  • It seems that repelling them from your own yard is a simple as adding some marigolds, citronella, mint, catnip, lavender, geraniums and lemongrass to your landscape and garden.
  • Standing water is a great breeding ground for mosquitos and a watering hole for other pests like fleas and ticks. So be sure to eliminate any standing or puddled water - including still bird baths and decorative ponds because a female mosquito can lay up to 400 eggs at a time in still water. So if you want to have a pond or bird bath as a decorative accent be sure to add a bubbler to keep the water moving. 
  • Introduce beneficial insects like praying mantis and dragon flies to your yard eliminate countless unwanted pests! 
  • This next suggestion may not be the most popular with many of you, but it is one of the most effective ways to eliminate mosquitos, fleas, flies and other flying pests . . . install a few small bat houses to your yard. Small bats consume thousands of insects in a single night and they have no affinity for people!

Here Are a Few Flying Pest Attractants:
  • Dark Clothing - many mosquitoes use vision to locate hosts from a distance. Dark clothes and foliage are attractants. Use dark colored foliage around the perimeter of your yard and wear light colored clothing when outside.
  • Carbon Dioxide - when you are exercising or hot you give off more carbon dioxide. Burn a candle (particularly a citronella or mint candle), light a fire or start your grill to provide an alternate source of carbon dioxide.
  • Fragrances - synthetic fragrances in perfumes, hair care products, fabric softeners and dryer sheets are favorites of mosquitos and flies. To avoid the chemical exposure from synthetic fragrances as well as the bug bites they attract, switch to essential oils that smell great and deter pests - think lavender, geranium, lemon balm, mint or citrus oils. 

DIY Insect Repellent:

Make your own sprays for your home, yard, pets, children and yourself by making your own sprays. Use any combination of citronella, mint, catnip, eucalyptus, lavender, geranium, citrus, tea tree and lemongrass.  

Mix 3 tablespoons of almond oil with 50 drops of essential oils and 1/4 cup pH 11.5 ionized water or witch hazel. Mix well and place in a spray bottle with a very fine mist sprayer.  

I spray my dogs down daily and find it very effective. When using on the skin, spray thoroughly and repeat every 2-3 hours for maximum protection. Repeat more frequently if exercising, perspiring heavily or swimming.

I hope you find these tips helpful in creating a more pleasant, greener and chemical free environment!

Dr. P

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