The Real Deal with Candice Deal: Spring into Natural Bug and Itch Defense

Spring has sprung!  Finally, the trees have leaves and flowers are budding up all around.  Spring brings a renewing sense to the earth with so much emerging life.  Unfortunately, the bugs start emerging and buzzing with life, too.  Here in the south, our mosquito and fly season starts as soon as the warmer temperatures stick around.  So, while everyone is excited to get back outside and enjoy the fruits of spring, the bugs are excited for us to be out, too.

Your typical bug repellents will start popping up on the end caps and aisles of the pharmacy and grocery stores, but keep walking and head on over to the essential oil section and you can whip up your own bug repellents that will leave the toxic chemicals on the shelf!  There is no need to spray chemicals all over your body to keep the bugs at bay.  A few simple steps and you can enjoy the outdoors without worrying about bug bites or being covered in Deet (an insecticide), butane and propane from head to toe.  Some formulas are Deet free but they still often contain butane and propane just to create the spray from the bottle and those aren’t necessarily ingredients you want mixed into something you put on your skin, or the dreaded “fragrance” ingredient along with benzoate products.

Essential oils are a great toxin free, natural alternative and with just a few ingredients you can make a season’s worth of bug repellent to keep you bite free while staying toxic chemical-free, too. Even the plants from which some of the oils come have been staples in gardens for centuries to help keep away the biting bugs.  Citronella can be planted in garden beds near outdoor seating areas to help repel the bugs.  You will often find outdoor candles and tiki torches using citronella oils.  When it comes to the candles, make sure they contain natural soy wax or beeswax and real citronella oil for the fragrance.  Bee Balm is another great choice for planting or containers. When the beautiful blooms blossom, they emit a scent that is unbecoming to the mosquito while attracting bees and butterflies.  Lavender, the timeless plant known for responding to so many ailments, is also a great mosquito repellant oil and plant.  The lovely light purple buds and leaves will repel biting mosquitoes and you can literally crush the buds and leaves against your skin for an instant repellent while outside.

To create your go-to bug repellent spray for biting flies, mosquitos, gnats:

  • Spray Bottle, 10oz
  • Spring or Distilled Water, 6oz or 3/4c
  • Apple Cider Vinegar, 3oz or 1/3c (you can use isopropyl alcohol if ACV offends your nose)
  • Citronella Oil 15 drops
  • Lemongrass Oil 10 drops
  • Cedarwood Oil or Lavender Oil 10 drops
  • Optional – Peppermint Oil 6 drops
  • Olive or Coconut Oil – 1 tsp
  • Shake well and spritz to exposed skin

If you have pets, they would appreciate help in these warmer buggy months as well.  In fact, dogs contract heartworms from mosquitoes more than any other method of development.  So, while it’s necessary to keep them on monthly heartworm preventative, helping them stay itch free while they begin to extend their time outdoors will make them happier through the spring and summer, too.  A few spritz of the bug spray will work if they are going hiking or on an outdoor playdate.  If they have collars, you can add a drop of citronella oil to the collar to keep the mosquitos in the yard at bay while they bask in the sun rays.

Horses battle flies and mosquitos in the warmer months, and using this bug spray recipe instead of traditional fly sprays will cut down on the fly spray costs and cut out the permethrin insecticide and other chemicals.  For horses, adding in tea tree oil is great to help combat the skin fungus associated with horses and the warmer, wetter months of spring and summer.

When you need to find fast relief from bug bites, essential oils can again be in your line of defense.  The welts you get from mosquitos and other bug bites are an allergic reaction of the body.  They can be red, swollen, and very itchy or painful.  There’s a handful of oils that are helpful to relieve the side effects: chamomile, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree.  Lavender is a great all-around choice for bee stings, mosquito, spider, and fire ant bites.  It’s soothing like chamomile but can be applied directly to the bite or sting site.  Lavender has cellular anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that will help ease the itching and pain associated with the bites and has been shown to also be antibacterial and antifungal so if an itch is scratched, it can help prevent any infections.

Just a few simple ways to combat the bugs and leave the chemicals behind!

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