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The Buzz on Natural Insect Repellent

6 Jul 2014 – 04:30 PM EDT

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Hiking in the woods, catching fireflies, picnicking, a canoe trip: all fun outside activities – that can be ruined by a swarm of mosquitoes or a tick invasion. No one wants to see their kids suffer from the itchy, red bumps, not to mention run the risks of Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus. Here are some tips on bug bite prevention and ideas about natural insect repellent.


Before applying any sort of repellent, first prevent bug bites from occurring. Cover yourselves with lightweight long sleeves and pants. We know it’s dorky but you could go as far as tucking pants into socks – your call. Use netting over strollers on babies and their cribs. Conduct body checks at the end of the day for ticks. Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed and cover any containers that would collect water. Also, mosquitoes have a liking for dark colors so wear pastels.

Store Bought Repellents

The Environmental Working Group recommends using products that contain Picaridin, iR3535, DEET (30% concentration and below), and oil of lemon eucalyptus and its synthetic derivative PMD. These four ingredients offer strong protection and are safe in low doses.

Do note that in extreme doses, DEET is known to cause neurological damage and in any dose is a strong eye irritant according to the Environmental Working Group’s Insect Repellent Guide and a number of scientific journals. This will give any parent pause before applying DEET on their child.

Remember: babies under six months shouldn’t use insect repellent, ever. Also, the CDC advises not to use lemon eucalyptus essential oil or PMD on kids under three; avoid while pregnant as well.


There is a variety of insect repelling bracelets on the market today that are more natural alternative. Some reviewers found them to work wonders while others were disappointed. Most bracelets aren’t terribly expensive so worth a try. The BugBand is even recommended by the Boy Scouts of American. BugBand uses geranium extracts to repel the bugs.

Natural Insect Repellents

Now that you know some of the most effective ingredients, why not make your own? The internet is filled with recipes for natural insect repellent. It seems that geranium, tea tree, citronella, and lemon eucalyptus essential oils work best. Recipes instruct you to either use a “carrier” oil, witch hazel, water or vinegar base. Do your own research or try one of these:

Water based bug repellent from Scratch Mommy

30 drops tea tree essential oil

10 drops geranium essential oil

1 teaspoon carrier oil: extra virgin olive, castor, coconut or other preference

Fill remainder of 3 ounce spray bottle with water

Mix and apply with spray bottle

Oil based bug repellent from Primally Inspired

12 drops lemongrass essential oil

6 drops eucalyptus essential oil

2 drops citronella essential oil

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive or other carrier oil

Mix and rub onto skin