Keeping the bugs at bay

“There’s so much pollution in the air now that if it weren’t for our lungs there’d be no place to put it all.”Robert Orben

Nothing says summer more than relaxing in the sunshine, getting together with friends and sharing a meal in the great outdoors. However, with all the excitement, it’s easy to forget about the damage all the good times may be having on one’s health and the environment.

Citronella

No one likes bugs crashing the fun, but you may want to think twice before whipping out the bug spray. It turns out, bug spray could be harming more than just bugs. Two chemicals commonly found in bug repellents (among a host of other items) were responsible for nearly 30 percent of human incident adverse-reaction reports in the US in 2007, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

For a safer alternative, use a citronella oil-based repellent. The EPA states that citronella oil shows little to no toxicity, as well as minimal to no risks to wildlife, so it is not harmful to health or environment. Companies such as Burt’s Bees and Badger Balm have safe repellents for less than $10, and these products are DEET- and chemical-free.

You can also find citronella oil candles. Etsy.com has eco-friendly, soy citronella candles for less than $5 (plus shipping).


Lavender

Still concerned about pesky mosquitoes? Try using lavender oil to repel the persistent insects. Supposedly mosquitoes have a very limited olfactory system but are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide, the gas we breathe out as waste. Luckily, lavender oil temporarily blocks their ability to smell and keeps the insects from finding and feeding on you. Hood River Lavender Farms sells organic lavender oils and spritzers for $6 to $12.

If you have your own lavender plants, you can make your own lavender oil. While there are several different methods, wikiHow seems to offer the quickest and easiest way. In case of a needed instant fix, simply rub the plant itself on your skin. The best places to put the lavender oil (or plant) are on your ankles, wrists and behind your ears. Lavender as a repellent, however, only lasts about two hours, so fairly frequent re-application is necessary.

Food

I know what you’re thinking: It’s food that brings the bugs, so how can it possibly keep them away? Easy. Ants just don’t like certain foods. For a natural and non-harmful way to deter ants, try creating a food barrier. Salt, cinnamon, chili or cayenne pepper and lemon juice are all supposed to stop ants in their tracks. Another popular trick is setting out cucumber peels, especially bitter ones. Many ants appear to have a natural aversion to the vegetable.

Protecting yourself from bugs and their bites doesn’t have to come at a price. The environment, your health and your wallet can all benefit from a little thoughtfulness when choosing insect repellents. The only things that won’t be thanking you are the bugs themselves.

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