Baby Steps: Shoo fly (and mosquitos and fleas…)

A little bit late, but Baby Steps are back this week nonetheless! :)

This week's Baby Step is:
It's summer and the bugs are out in full force, so your Baby Step for the week is to find some alternative methods for dealing with the bugs this summer, rather than resorting to conventional insect repellents.

Why this step is important:
DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellents, such as Off!, Repel, etc., is actually a highly toxic chemical that should be avoided at all costs! Although groups such as the American Association for Pediatrics recommend that it be used only minimally (their recommendation is once a day- I'm not so sure I think that's minimally!), many serious concerns have been raised about DEET in recent years.

"The environmental protection agency and the CDC both state officially
that DEET is not harmful when used as directed. However, this advice is
based on the idea that DEET is not absorbed through the skin. This is a
common myth in the medical and pharmaceutical industries — that
cosmetically-applied lotions somehow stay outside the body and don't
interact with the blood stream and internal organs of the body. In
fact, as any good medical researcher knows, nearly all chemicals that
are placed on the skin, especially in liquid form, are eventually
absorbed and enter the bloodstream. DEET is known to cause neurological damage,
and once it enters the bloodstream, it makes its way to the nervous
system, where it is known to cause seizures and even deaths. It can be
especially harmful to children, which is why its use should be strictly
limited with children."

MIke Adams, (full article here)

It's interesting to read the warnings and directions on the back of one of these repellent bottles containing DEET. They are very specific, and it states that it is actually a Federal violation to use the product in any way other than what it stated on the label! Hmmm, is there something they're not telling us? Read this to see for yourself.

How to get started with this step:
I'll be honest with you. Though I don't touch the stuff myself, I am also not particularly well acquainted with natural alternatives. We are fortunate to live somewhere where bugs are not a huge concern, and the few times that we go camping, etc. we usually just make do and come home with a whole lot of itchy bites.

I was intrigued by a product one of my friend's showed me recently, as although they live in the same area as us, she is one of those people who will be bitten by the only mosquito in a 10 mile radius! She had found a natural bug spray, made with essential oils (lemongrass, basil, lavender, patchouli).

I will be the first to say that I do not know which oils to use, which to avoid, which work better for different kinds of bugs, which cannot be used on children or pregnant women, etc. As this has not been an area of concern for us, I have not really gotten into it.

However, I sure bet that many of you have! And so, I'm going to call in your help! Although I will leave a few online resources that I found, with some ideas for natural insect repellents, the simple truth is that I don't actually know what works. If you have bought or made any of your own repellents, or used any other techniques to naturally avoid insects, I want to hear from you! 

Please leave a comment with your thoughts on products you've tried, homemade recipes, informaiton on which oils to use or any other tips and tricks you have for dealing with insects naturally!

Online Resources:
(Disclaimer- I haven't tried any of these methods, they are simply links that I came across in my research)

Natural Insect Pest Control

Natural Mosquito Repellents (, and Which Repellents Work Best?

Natural Bug Repellents

Natural Mosquito Repellents (using essential oils)

Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipe

The Hazards of DEET

Skin Deep Database (I tried searching for "repellent" and came up with lots of products to review)

Vita Cost– An online supplement store, that carries a good selection of natural beauty products, including things like repellents and sunscreens. Again, I searched for "repellent" and started coming up with a nice list of products to check out. These could be searched for on the above link to Skin Deep, to see how they rate for safety.

Edit: For reasons I didn't expect, I've had to remove the Mr. LInky that was originally up for people to add a blog post link to. If you have written a post on this topic or have great information you'd like to pass on to the rest of us, please leave the link in a comment below, or email with with the link to your post and I will do a separate post highlighting the links I've received. Thanks for understanding!

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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  1. I have a bottle of Buzz Away (main ingredient: citronella) because it got such rave reviews from Good Housekeeping among others but the smell is so bad it keeps away more than just mosquitoes.

    Mostly I use a homemade recipe (which is basically odorless) from the book Healing with Herbs by Penelope Ody. Combine in a spray bottle:
    4 drops of eucalyptus EO
    4 drops of lavender EO
    4 drops of rosemary EO
    4 drops of tea tree EO
    2 teaspoons of witch hazel
    8 ounces of water.

    Shake to mix and spray this directly on the skin. I find that it lasts about an hour before you need to respray. Also, a word of caution – rosemary is one of those herbs that should be avoided during pregnancy. For that reason I am interested in what your other readers suggest.

  2. Rebekah says:

    I made some homemade bug spray for my husband to take to work because he works nights and here in Alabama we have TONS of mosquitoes. At first we just tried eucalyptus oil and water and it didn’t work to well and then we added some citronella oil to it and he says it works pretty good. We just put it in some little spray bottles we got for 50 cents over in the trial size stuff at wal-mart.

  3. I consult with an herbalist who has 25 years experience in the field. She developed a mixture of oils as a mosquito repellent. She later discovered that not only is it a good repellent, but it also has many other wonderful properties as well. It is called Five Oils and it contains wintergreen oil, cajeput oil, peppermint oil, mullein oil, and eucalyptus oil. It is sold through Pure Herbs Inc. ( if you are interested. I’ve actually never used it as a repellent, but it could be another option for you.

  4. Heather, that is so interesting about the sugar! I’m going to have to research that more and see if I can find any more info on that concept!

    Kristen and Ken, thanks for the recommendations!

  5. For over 120 years nothing has replaced the all natural Ole Time Woodsman flydope for effectiveness against biting insects.

  6. Just wanted to let you know that Avon has a line of bug sprays that do not contain DEET called Bug Guard. This might be a good alternative for those not wanting the harsh chemicals and not ready to go totally “natural”

  7. I learned a neat trick a few years back when I had to go on the Candida (no sugar) diet. I grew up being eaten alive all summer–at any given point I would have at least 30 bites. Then I went on the diet (2 carbs a day total–used lots of Stevia) and didn’t have a bite all summer, or the next summer. We are off the diet now but as long as I eat no more than 2 cookies worth of sugar a day I don’t get bit–I use stevia in tea and coffee and on top of berries etc. My kids ahve found the same to be true and don’t get bit as long as they stay out of the cookies and wear a hat. :) (the hat keeps the horse flies off the head. :)

    • Yes! Apparently if you completely cut sugar out of your diet, you’ll stop getting bitten. Now I don’t know if I have the will power to completely cut it out. But I’m hopeful to know about this limiting sugar trick! I live in Texas where the bugs are killer!

  8. Really? It’s not a mosquito? I couldn’t tell the difference, obviously (and neither could the stock photo artist who took the photo and labeled it as a mosquito!). I’m so tempted to change the picture, but hey, a little humility is always good for me. :) Thanks for letting me know!

  9. I bet I won’t be the first to say this but the photo is of a crane fly (or sometimes referred to as a mosquito hawk), which is perfectly harmless.

    That said – I recently bought a spray with EO (perhaps the same one as your friend) for my daughters. Bugs rarely bite me but they seem to plague my youngest.

    BTW this might be my first post on your blog. I am not sure but I’ve been reading the Baby Steps postings with particular interest.


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