Make Your Own Non-Toxic Bug Repellent
It is exactly Mid-May, 2020. Post Mother’s Day. Covid-19 quarantine restrictions are slowly easing. Two more weeks of homeschooling. And, the end of the month marks another glorious trip around the sun for me.
Summer is near and the bugs, heat and humidity are ramping up. I wore Christmas knee socks this morning just to go out and take this photo of the lake behind our house. Those little buggers love to rise up from the grass and chew up my ankles in the morning like vicious little vampires.
If you are like me, biting bugs LOVE to feast on you. It is my curse. I can be the only human being standing in a group of twenty or forty people, swatting crazily at mosquitos dive-bombing me. Clearly, I was born with a bug target. Seriously. I think my husband didn’t believe me until we moved to Florida.
Mosquitos, Red Ants, Spiders, Wasps, No See Ums…
You name the bug, it will hunt me down and torture me as long as it can.
The Horror of Bug Bites
After a lovely, pampered Mother’s Day weekend with my little family, I woke up in the middle of the night with the WORST compulsion to scratch my back since my feet were attacked by red ants last year (nasty devils).
I had to grab ice packs to get back to sleep…the only thing that works. (I prefer large gel-filled, reusable ice packs with straps…like these.) Nighttime is the worst. When moving around during the day, the bites don’t bother me as much. As soon as I start to fall asleep, the insane itching begins.
The next morning, I crawled out of bed, looked at my back in the mirror, and was shocked. There were several, large clusters of red and insanely itchy bumps across my shoulder blades and below my bra line. I thought they were red ant bites because those little guys have also clustered on my feet and legs, but not to this extent. I wondered why they were so high up on my back with only a few on my legs.
Seriously, my back looked like a teenager with a severe case of acne, but itchy…like a heroin addict on withdrawal. At least what I imagine it must feel like based on movies I’ve seen. I’ll never know. But it’s TERRIBLE.
When red ants attack, they are sharp and painful, so you know exactly what is happening the moment they bite. I don’t remember feeling anything for several days, so I scrapped that theory. All my bites usually take 24-48 hours to develop welts. That’s when the itching starts. And the itching lasts up to a month, sometimes longer with red ants.
I was trying to figure out what it could’ve been because mosquitos don’t travel and bite in clusters. Plus, after a few days, red ant bites develop white pustules. Trust me, you don’t want to scratch these open, it just makes the insane itching worse and last longer. Lovely. Their venom makes the area around the bite feel like bugs are crawling under your skin…for days. Sometimes weeks in my case. Ugh.
I’m convinced. Red ants are the Devil’s spawn.
So if they weren’t red ants or mosquitos, what were they??
Then I remembered…the week before our wedding, my husband and I had attended a friend’s wedding. It was a sunset wedding, right on the water. It was absolutely gorgeous…but at the reception, I kept feeling very tiny but very painful pinches all over my legs. When I swatted, there were no mosquitos. It was frustrating. I wrapped my shawl around my legs because the biting wouldn’t stop.
The Mystery is Solved
Someone at the wedding told me they were No See Ums.
No See Ums are also known as Sand Flies or Biting Midges. They’re bloodsuckers like mosquitoes, but so tiny you can barely see them. And they bite hard!
Growing up in Northern Ohio, I had never heard of these little tyrants. We live in South Florida, and this is the time of year when No See Ums come out, especially at dawn and dusk, and especially by water… or when it’s wet (AKA raining).
Second Ah ha!
Saturday night, I made the mistake enjoying a glass of vino on my patio while having a chat with my neighbor who was also enjoying her wine while sitting on her patio…eveyrone practicing proper social distancing, of course. I was wearing a tank dress.
I had slathered on Badger Anti-Bug Balm all over my legs and arms, but I did NOT put anything on my back. Whoops. Huge mistake.
I love the Badger Brand for my kids and for me. But those little No See Ums apparently got me when and where I least expected.
Fast forward to the next day…Mother’s Day. I spent a blissful 3 whole hours by myself, in light rain, wearing a thin t-shirt and jeans (boot cut at the bottom). I was digging up a path of our terrible Florida grass around a huge firebush out front in order to plant flowers.
Florida grass roots are tough as nails to cut through, and the blades are thick, scratchy, and no fun to walk on barefoot. Seriously, I think you could get a paper cut on our grass.
I grew up in Ohio with the softest grass…everyone went barefoot all summer. Ah, those were the days.
I’ve learned this week that no see ums can get under your clothes very easily, which explains the bites on my legs and back. I’m sure they crawled up inside my pants and possibly bit right through the thin t-shirt. I DID apply Burt’s Bees insect repellent spray on my arms, but didn’t bother with anything else…they were covered, so I thought I was safe. Maybe safe from mosquitos, but NOT from no see ums. Good grief, another hard lesson learned.
Naturally, I have been looking for homemade remedy this week, specifically to repel both Mosquitos AND No See Ums, that is Non-Greasy, Non-Toxic, AKA DEET-FREE. Required for my family.
I love the natural sprays out there, but not the grease factor.
Finally, after days of research, I came up with my own recipe that works great and is non-greasy!
Yesterday, my son and I planted the flowers that I never finished on Mother’s Day, simply because it took me THREE HOURS to dig up a two-foot path of tough-as-nails grass around our giant orange firebush…which recently bloomed! Yay!
I used the spray and no new bites have appeared! The recipe below specifically targets Mosquitos and No See Ums.
Non-Toxic Mosquito & No See Um (Sand Fly/Biting Midges) Repellent
UPDATE June 3, 2020: I have since ordered these amber glass spray bottles and will continue to make other sprays using them. I promise I’ll share my recipes!
First, make sure the spray bottle has been cleaned and sanitized as you will be spraying this directly on your skin. This is not a room spray.
- 10 oz spray bottle
- 10 drops Tea Tree Oil
- 10 drops Eucalyptus Oil
- 10 drops Rosemary Oil
- 10 drops Lemongrass Oil
- 10 drops of Lavender Oil
- 1/2 tsp Neem Oil (best to repel bugs, but any carrier oil works, see below)
- Witch Hazel
- Add all drops of essential oils.
- Add the carrier oil.
- Fill bottle with witch hazel.
- Shake to mix.
Apply liberally and reapply every 1-2 hours. Please shake the bottle before each use.
It’s that easy!
You can adjust oil amounts as needed for different size spray bottles.
We like Thayers Original Witch Hazel. It’s alcohol-free and can be used as a wonderful aftershave. My husband loves it! You can get Thayers Lavender Witch Hazel and skip the lavender essential oil ingredient. The original blend is good to keep on hand for multiple uses.
I use a variety of essential oil brands…I’m not a die-hard fan of any. Many people are, but I look for them mostly at Whole Foods (10% off if you are an Amazon Prime Member). But any oil from a health food store will work.
Bonus 1: If your husband uses the lavender witch hazel blend for his face…he’ll smell good too!
Bonus 2: Witch Hazel also relieves existing bug bites when you spray it on as a preventative!
NOTE: Please use caution when using essential oils. If undiluted, some essential oils can burn the skin. Do not take orally. It is important to shake the bottle before each use.
So that’s it. This week’s post is all about avoiding the hell of never-ending bug bites that plague my reality. I’m aware everyone has different body chemistry, but I’ve tried everything and so far, the natural, essential oil-based recipes work the best for me.
This spray is NON-GREASY, SAFE to use on my kids, and I know exactly what is inside the bottle because I mixed it myself! No chemicals you can’t pronounce. AND…very inexpensive!
Hope this spray works for you! Leave a comment and let me know if it does work, and/or what you like to use. Here’s to enjoying the beautiful outdoors…bug-bite-free! 🌷