Saturday, April 7, 2012
In Search of Organic Redemption
That can't be good, right?
Just like the insecticide vs. neurotoxin of the black widow spider drama, you are going to have to decide what level of vulnerability you are willing to live with. Since mosquitoes now can be suspected of carrying West Nile Virus , nationwide, isn't using a powerful product worth the risk? These products also repel ticks which carry Lyme disease.
Here's the link to the state by state numbers from the CDC: West Nile Virus-Statistics, Surveillance, and Control.
Click here to go to the CDC's Lyme Disease statistics page.
On the other side the organic community rails against what it sees as a highly toxic substance with dangerous side effects being applied to (and possibly absorbed through) the skin.
Click here to read the EPA's DEET Fact Sheet.
It should be noted here that the CDC is sufficiently concerned about these diseases to recommend the use of products using DEET.
Click here to read the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry about the health effects of DEET in humans.
I really wanted there to be an alternative. I did a little research and found several recipes that people claim work. Snopes.com verifies that many home made remedies work somewhat, but not very effectively and not for very long. A recent favorite theory is that Listerine decanted into a spray bottle will act as a mosquito repellent. It's pretty clear that if that were the case Pfizer would be flooding the airwaves with a bold summer ad campaign. The fact that they we don't see that, tells me that they've probably tested it and can't prove it.
Most of the home made recipes involve essential oils that mask your natural body scent that is attractive to the little buggers. Pretty much any combination will do the trick. You can try: lavender, vanilla, spearmint, or anything with a strong scent. Here's the recipe I put together:
Home Made Insect Repellent:
1 C. witch hazel
2 TB. vegetable glycerine
1 ts. tea tree oil
5 drops essential lemon oil
THE TEST: I mixed it up, put it in a sterilized air freshener spray bottle (Why buy one?) and sprayed myself down. A few minutes prior to this I'd been in my front garden and been bitten 3 times in 5 minutes. I returned to the same spot. I stood there for 5 minutes looking down at my legs. (I'm sure my neighbors have given up trying to figure out what goes on over here.) No bites! I was excited! I went inside for 30 minutes to start dinner, at dusk I headed out to the back garden. I was standing around deciding where to plant beans when I noticed a mosquito hovering all around me. I watched him for several minutes. He would land on my skin and immediately jump off as if my skin was hot. I thought we had a winner. I went about some other garden chores and went back in to finish dinner only to find a large welt on my arm where I'd been bitten. Had I missed a spot? Had it worn off within an hour?
My advice: To cut down on using the harsh chemicals I would use a home made solution in the daytime or if you won't be outside long. I would also double or triple the tea tree oil or whatever essential oil you are using. If you are one of the fortunate folks that they just don't seem to like that much, you could get away with it. You are going to have to reapply almost constantly, if you are using something like lavender that might actually be quite nice. However, if you are very susceptible and you will be out doors at dawn or dusk, if you are hiking in the woods, or camping, a commercial product is going to be your best bet.
I will be keeping the home made version on hand for times when I have scrapes or cuts.
Given how much these annoying insects love me, maybe I should rent myself out as a human mosquito shield...
Next up: Tackling ants.