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The only real downside to being a northerner is the fact that when summer finally hits and we’re all ready to head outside to soak in the sun’s rays and enjoy, the voracious salivating bug fiends make their move. In hordes. Endlessly biting and torturing. Until even the most hardened northerner runs indoors screaming, slapping, scratching, and swearing.
Known bug criminals include: black flies, mosquitoes, ankle biters, no-seeums, deer flies, horse flies, ticks, and the occasional spiteful pine beetle.
The protection between us and bug biting parts include bug nets, bandanas, screens, mosquito coils, butane-powered mosquito repellants, citronella products, catnip sprays, fly swatters, and DEET products. Not surprisingly, I’ve had a chance to test out a few of these lately.
I’ve lost my bug head net somewhere, unused, so can’t report on that. Bandanas work great at protecting the hairline from black flies. We’ve all choked on the mosquito coils. They do work, but best when humans aren’t around to inhale. I’ve played with citronella products and find they sort of work. For a short time. And then forget it without constant reapplication.
So it’s the butane-powered mosquito repellants, catnip sprays, fly swatters, and DEET products that I’ll be reporting on.
This past weekend, out on the lake, the ankle biters were so bad, that I figured out that one person easily averaged a fly swatter kill rate of about 4 kills per minute. If you consider that only a half hour at this rate equals 120 vicious previously-undead ankle biters. That’s a lot of bite potential.
The next day, we were actually too exhausted from the previous day’s fly assault and massacre to keep up the kill rate. That’s when I pulled out the Catnip Mosquito Repellant I’d made from catnip essential oil and rubbing alcohol. A few sprays on exposed legs, ankles, and feet, and those evil flies avoided landing and so biting. But did it really work or was there just a lull in Evil Fly Biting 101 Class?
The test. After jumping in the lake for a swim, so washing off the repellant, the ankle biters swarmed in a biting frenzy once again. After a quick spray down, there was us and flies living together in harmony. And for once, we were the happy ones, while the ankle biters were the frustrated ones.
In a 2001 News Release the American Chemical Society said, ‘Researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.’
Obviously no one has studied it for the damn, darned ankle biters! But it works, no matter.
Just remember: External use only. Do not use on infants or small children or if you are nursing. Do not use if you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant; product can trigger menstrual cycle. Do not use on open cuts or wounds. Avoid the eyes. Do not combine with medications that promote sleepiness. Do not use while driving or operating heavy equipment. Some people may be sensitive to catnip; discontinue use if allergies, nausea, irritability, or other problems occur. And stop using especially if you notice cats stalking you.
And always research for any other contraindications.
The Standard Catnip Spray Recipe:
Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup of isopropyl alcohol, 1 cup of water, and 1/4 to 1/2 a teaspoon of catnip essential oil. To make smaller batches, just half or quarter the recipe. Easy conversion: 10 drops = 1/10 tsp, 12.5 drops = 1/8 tsp, and 25 drops = 1/4 tsp.
Catnip essential oil is available from Mountain Rose Herbs.
All summer, I’ve been waffling about buying a Butane-Powered Mosquito Repellant Device. I did pick one up, finally, and found it worked absolutely great on windless days for deterring those darned mosquitoes. Which makes me wonder if, like the Catnip Mosquito Repellant, it will also deter the ankle biters? Worth a try.
I’ve heard from friends about Watkins Great Outdoors Insect Repellant Lotion, a product that works well against mosquitoes and ankle biters. Yes, it is a DEET product, at 29.55%. So if you’re a DEET avoider, this one might not be your choice. However, it is a DEET preferred product by some people who aren’t keen on DEET at all. So that makes it well worth a try. Note: The Canadian version may have variations in name and DEET levels.
As with all products, check out the cautions and contraindications, be especially careful when it comes to children, and stop using immediately if you notice any adverse reactions.
We don’t have much summer left, so don’t let the bugs stop you from enjoying it. Arm up and head out into summerland. You’ll be glad you did.
Photo Credit: Rene Asmussen
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