Whether you are worried about the harmful effects of pesticides and chemical insect repellants like DEET (N, N, diethyl 3 methylbenzamide), or whether you just want more natural alternatives to keep those pesky insects away, there are a number of ways to make insects avoid you, your yard, your house, your pets, and your loved ones. By using a range of these techniques, you will be much more likely to have a pest-free time outdoors!
For this information, I searched hundreds of research journal abstracts and selected those studies where sixty per cent or greater effectiveness was scientifically proven. In fact, some of these plants gave results up to a thousand per cent better than traditional repellants!
The reason there are so many kinds of repellents listed for each kind of pest is that we have to remember that flies, fleas, ants, mosquitoes, and ticks are not just one species, and so depending on which species is prevalent in your area, different kinds of natural insect repellents will have varying effectiveness against each species of pest insect. Without having to trap and identify each species of insect that is bothering you, it is best to simply have a variety of alternatives, and observe for yourself over time which natural insect repellents work best against whatever species of insect pests are resident in your area.
To repel flies: flies, of whatever species, are annoying and spread germs. Basil generally repels flies. Grow it in pots near windows to prevent flies from coming in; it has been proven to work this way. You can also rub basil on yourself to keep flies from bothering you, and this works well with pets and horses as well. Pennyroyal (a species of mint) and sage will also repel flies. There has been some success reported with hanging large clear plastic bags filled with water in repelling flies. The crushed seeds of Monk's Pepper (Vitex agnus castus), are also highly effective. Cocoa oil was also effective, a real surprise! For any of the plants, simply crush a few leaves in your hands, and rub them on yourself or your pets. You will find the protection lasts a surprisingly long time!
To repel fleas: is there anything more annoying than fleas? Rosemary, pennyroyal, fennel, mints, and tansy can be planted in your garden to keep fleas away. The crushed seeds of Monk's Pepper (Vitex agnus castus), are also highly effective, as is Neem oil. For any of these, simply crush the fresh or dried leaves between your hands, and rub your hands on yourself, or pet your pets with your hands after crushing the leaves. By doing this daily, you will help keep fleas to a minimum.
To repel ants: Fire ants are a particular problem, but they are attracted to yards with few species of plants. By increasing your yard's biodiversity, you can encourage them to move elsewhere. Tansy and most species of mints are also good for discouraging ants. However, you have to remember that ants play an important role in the ecosystem, and therefore the desired result is not to eradicate them, but to keep them away from you, your family, and your pets.
To repel mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are not just annoying and painful, but can also spread diseases such as malaria and West Nile Virus, and so it is vital that mosquito repellents work; however, it is also vital that you do not poison yourself, your family or your pets with toxic chemicals such as DEET, so it pays to research natural ways to repel mosquitoes. Basil, and in fact, other species of the same genus (Ocimum), particularly O. suave and O. kilimandscharicum, and pennyroyal are good as mosquito repellants, as is catnip and eucalpytus oil. In a very surprising study, catnip was found to be more ten times more effective than DEET. Lemon thyme has sixty-two per cent of the effectiveness of DEET. Other plants known to have significant mosquito repellant effects are Apium graveolens, Cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass), Corymbia citriodora, Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Kaempferia galanga, Curcuma aromatica, Woira (Olea europaea or olive tree leaves), Tinjut (Ostostegia integrifolia) , Neem (Azadirachta indica), Wogert (Silene macroserene) , Zanthoxylum limonella, Zanthoxylum armatum, DC. Syn. Z. alatum Roxb., Zanthoxylum piperitum, and Kebercho (Echinops sp.). Most of these had a much longer effective time when combined with five per cent vanillin. The crushed seeds of Monk's Pepper (Vitex agnus castus), are also highly effective. southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and the essential oil from flowers of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllum ), Piper aduncum, Aegle marmelos, Andrographis paniculata, leaves of Cryptomeria japonica, Andrographis lineata, Cocculus hirsutus, and Artemisia monosperma. Again, by crushing the leaves of these plants in your hands, and rubbing your hands on yourself, family, or pets, you will help keep mosquitoes from bothering you.
To repel ticks: Ticks carry diseases as well, particularly Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease. Geraniol (found, not surprisingly, in geraniums), and eugenol (found in cloves), extracts of plants, were shown to have a very high tick repellent effect. So did the resins from Commiphora holtziana. Tansy, regardless of its essential oil components, also showed extremely high tick-repellent effects, as did lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and geranium Pelargonium graveolens, southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) and the essential oil from flowers of carnation (Dianthus caryophyllum).
Wasps are another problem. The best way is to give them somewhere to go where they will not disturb you. For this, there is no better solution than to place a glass of beer on the other side of the yard from where you plan to hang out. The wasps will be attracted to the beer, and will prefer to hang around the beer rather than bother you.
Be sure to observe your family and pets carefully for signs of adverse reactions to any of these plants. Remember, just because something is natural does not mean it is safe: cyanide is natural! But by observing for yourself the effectiveness of these natural insect repellents, you can determine whether these natural alternatives will work for your family or pets, and if so, you can avoid the toxins in chemical insect repellents and save your family's health.
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