We’ve waited all year for summer to arrive, and now we’re in the thick of it. But along with sunshine and outdoor activities come bug bites and insect stings to dampen summer fun. Don’t hide indoors or douse yourself with commercial insect repellents. Try natural ways to outsmart these pests or take the sting out of getting bitten.
Don’t let the bugs bite
When it comes to bugs and insects, think defence. Although mosquitoes can bite at any time, they’re most active at dawn or dusk. Ticks favour trail edges, wooded areas, or tall grass.
Wear light-coloured clothing that is less attractive to mosquitoes.
Cover up in loose-fitting, tightly woven long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants and closed shoes.
When in tick territory, tuck in your shirt and pull your socks over your pant legs. Before going inside, check clothing and exposed skin for ticks.
Avoid heavily scented soaps, lotion, perfumes, or colognes that may attract bugs.
When taking infants outdoors, cover cribs, playpens, and strollers with mosquito netting.
Use netting when sleeping outdoors or in unscreened structures.
Natural bug repellents
Currently, two natural bug repellents have proven effective when compared with low concentrations of DEET:
- lemon eucalyptus oil (which should not be used on children under the age of 3)
- 2 percent soybean oil
Small-scale studies looking at fennel, thyme, clover oil, celery extract, and neem oil have shown promise. However, don’t try to make your own repellents, as some oils can be toxic and irritating in high concentrations. Citronella repellents give limited protection, while ingesting vitamin B1, bananas, onion, or garlic doesn’t seem to work.
Bug-proof your property
Health Canada has many suggestions for making your property less attractive to mosquitoes and ticks.
- Over-the-counter insecticides are insufficient for overall mosquito control. Instead, remove their breeding ground: standing water.
- Dump or clean standing water from pool covers, wading pools, and bird baths.
- Keep swimming pools and ornamental ponds aerated. In ponds, get nature on your side: let fish, beetles, water bugs, and dragonflies eat mosquito larvae.
- Store flower pots, watering cans, wheelbarrows, and wading pools upside down.
- Cover outdoor containers—garbage, recycling, or composting bins—and rain barrels.
They bit. Now what?
Bees, wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, fire ants, and biting flies can all cause painful reactions. Bites from infected mosquitoes and ticks can lead to disease.
Reactions result when insects inject venom or other substances into the skin. The severity of the response depends on personal sensitivity and the number of bites or stings. Most people suffer mild reactions such as itching, stinging, or swelling.
For natural ways to alleviate swelling and pain, cover the area with a paste of water and baking soda essential oils including tea tree oil, peppermint, winter green, eucalyptus, or lavender white or apple cider vinegar or lemon juice poultice of crushed plantain leaves, camomile, or goldenrod mud or clay oatmeal poultice for a small area or oatmeal bath for overall relief cold pack or ice, 15 to 20 minutes each hour for the first six hours after being bitten or stung homeopathic remedies such as Apis mellifica, Ledum, Hypericum, Staphysagria, or Urtica urens.