Do you have a problem with pests? Unwanted creatures invading your space can be annoying, unpleasant and even dangerous for you and your family, so you need to know the best way to get rid of them. Our guide to natural pest repellents is here to help!
Faced with an invasion of mosquitoes, gnats or other bugs, it’s tempting to reach for a tub of chemicals to exterminate the little critters. Insecticides – the term for any chemical substance used to exterminate insects – can be extremely effective at killing creepy crawlies at any stage of their life, including eggs and larvae as well as adults. This method of pest control gained popularity during the 18th century, when it was developed alongside the industrial revolution, so it’s tried and tested and we now think of it as the ‘traditional’ way to deal with an infestation.
Sadly, modern day science has now shown that chemical insecticides can also kill or harm other species, aside from the one targeted – and that includes humans. Small children and pets can be badly affected when exposed to even low levels of chemical pesticides, with outcomes ranging from neurological damage to asthma, allergies, hypersensitivity and even a risk of cancer.
And if that’s not enough to give you pause for thought, chemical pesticides are bad for the natural environment too. Their widespread use in the agricultural industry has certainly led to increased crop yields, but has contaminated land, water and air and damaged global ecosystems at the same time.
So, to avoid harming yourself, your family, your pets and your environment, what safe alternatives can you trust to keep the bugs at bay?
Simple tips for natural protection
It’s not always necessary to kill the offending insects; you just need to keep them away. Here are a few simple ways to protect yourself and your home from biting or stinging insects:
- Wear long sleeves and pants, plus closed-toe shoes. Yes, it’s obvious, but bugs usually attack bare skin; they can’t bite through moderately thick fabric, so cover up.
- Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so get rid of ponds or puddles in your backyard. If you have a bird bath, empty it weekly and replace with fresh water.
- Close screen doors and switch on the fan! Mosquitoes and other small flying bugs can’t operate well in windy conditions, so use a fan to create a turbulent environment indoors or on your porch.
- Use a bed net (mosquito net) at night to avoid waking covered in bites or stings. Make sure to cover cribs and strollers too.
Homemade pest control
If you’re the homesteading type, you might like to try making your own insect repellents so you know exactly what ingredients have gone into them. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of recipes available – simply search the web for ‘homemade bug repellent’ - but here are a few suggestions to try:
- Neem oil - a natural product made from the seeds of the Azadirachta indica or neem tree - is an anti-viral, anti-bacterial immuno-stimulant that has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for almost 5,000 years. It’s used in many cosmetics and skin products but is also an excellent mosquito repellent.
- Essential oils such as lavender, rosemary, citronella, eucalyptus and others have insect repellent properties. You can mix them up together with Witch Hazel, vinegar or other ingredients to make a natural spray that can be applied directly to your skin to encourage the bugs to go elsewhere.
- To keep insects out of the house (or tent, trailer, cabin etc.) you can also burn essential oils or candles made from neem, citronella, eucalyptus, lavender or other herbs. Again, there are plenty of online tutorials to follow if you’re not already an expert candle maker.
These homemade remedies work against mosquitoes, gnats and many other kinds of small flying insects, to prevent bites and irritation.
Non-toxic off-the-shelf products
Some experts claim that the so-called ‘natural remedies’ are simply not effective. If you’d rather rely on a commercial formulation– or you’re just not the DIY type –there are a few non-toxic products that you can easily pick up from the local store or online.
- Formulations containing Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) against mosquitoes and, to a lesser extent, ticks. It’s important to know that OLE is not the same as eucalyptus essential oil, mentioned earlier. OLE is available in spray-on formulations from Repel and Cutter or, if you prefer not to breathe in airborne particles, in the Mosi-Guard Insect Repellent Stick.
- BioUD contains an active ingredient called 2-undecanone, which is derived from the tomato plant and is also recognized by the CDC as effective against mosquitoes.
Electronic zappers and ultrasonic devices
Although the safe, natural remedies we’ve mentioned are great for most folks, they don’t suit everyone – and you need to re-apply them regularly.
If you need non-toxic, child- and pet-friendly pest control that you can ‘plug in and forget’, there are a number of devices that work to keep your entire home bug-free. No need to spray each individual member of the household or re-apply every few hours; no candles or oil burners to replenish; and no toxic chemicals released into the environment. Here are a couple of popular options:
- Silent Strike attracts insects using UV light and traps them on ultra-strength fly paper. It’s effective against mosquitoes, gnats, house flies, moths and more – simply plug it in, in any room, to instantly protect yourself and your family.
- If you’re keen to make your home a total no-go area for all types of pest, then the Ultrasonic Pest Repeller is worth a look. As well as mosquitoes, this ultrasonic plug-in device will deter ants, cockroaches, spiders and even rodents! The combination of ultrasonic waves and magnetic pulses is undetectable to humans, but gets rid of pests without the need for traps, poisons or harmful chemicals of any kind.
That’s our round-up of the best, natural and eco-friendly ways to keep your home and family safe from bugs and pests. Do you have any top tips to share? Let us know!