Spring has sprung and the fair weather has us flocking outside. Unfortunately, all of that pretty weather has also brought out the bugs. Commercial bug sprays and repellents contain toxic chemicals that are just as unhealthy for people as they are for the planet. DEET, is one popular bug spray ingredient that does a great job keeping bugs away, but has also been found to cause rashes, skin irritation, numb or burning lips, nausea, headaches, dizziness and difficulty concentration in some people.

There are a number of natural alternatives to DEET, made primarily from plant essential oils, that you can use to protect you and your family from bugs. Most natural insect repellents are made with citronella, a tall, aromatic grass indigenous to Southern Asia. Its pungent, lemony fragrance is pleasant to most people but objectionable to mosquitoes. My youngest daughter is particularly susceptible to bug bites, so I have grown very fond of the natural citronella bug lotion from California Baby. It does a great job of keeping the bugs at bay without harmful chemicals.

Other aromatic essential oils commonly found in natural insect repellents include cedarwood, lemongrass, eucalyptus, peppermint, pennyroyal, lavender, and bergamot.

Homemade bug repellents

To make your own natural insect repellent, mix one part garlic juice with 5 parts water in a small spray bottle. Shake well before using. Spray lightly on exposed body parts. Of course, this recipe may repel people as well as bugs, because you will wind up smelling faintly of garlic.

Another option? Try mixing rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, vodka, or olive oil with one of the essential oils listed below.

  • Cedarwood
  • Citronella
  • Lemongrass
  • Pennyroyal
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Geranium
  • Catnip

Mix these ingredients in a ratio of one part essential oil to ten parts base in a clean spray bottle and shake well before using. Also remember that essential oils are only to be used externally.

Preventative bug deterrents

Insects are attracted by perfumes and scented personal care products (such as shampoos and lotions), as well as by sweet foods such as ice cream, fruit juices, and watermelon. Avoid insects naturally by using unscented products on your baby and steering clear of sweet treats while in insect-prone areas.

Natural bug repellents
Healthy, natural bug repellent alternatives.