Biting Insects - What to Do?
UPdate Summer 2001
Now that you've stopped using pesticides on your lawn, you probably want to stop using them on your body. Spreading pesticides on your skin, hair and clothes doesn't make a lot of sense. DEET, the most common ingredient in chemical bug repellants is no longer allowed to be labeled "safe for children" by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
But what to
do about biting insects? Bug shirts ( and pants and gloves) are the
best protection. Don't get the chemically treated armed forces version.
Chemical free bug shirts, with hoods roomy enough for a sun hat, allow
for bite free gardening, fishing, and other outdoor summer fun. There are
also pesticide free bug repellents. Usually the main ingredient is
citronella. Mosquitos are attracted to sweet scents (perfumed products),
dark clothes and sweat. Using peppermint soap or unscented soaps
and shampoos can make you less attractive to mosquitos. And studies
have shown that waving your hands around to shoo mosquitos away actually
has the opposite effect, it attracts them.
At home you
can put a fan out on your deck on calm summer nights. Mosquitoes
are weak flyers and the breeze it creates should keep them away from you.
You can plant mosquito repelling plants around a deck or in planters. Lemon
thyme, lemon balm, scented geraniums and basil are some which work. Providing
a hospitable habitat for mosquito predators also makes sense. Bats
can eat 600 mosquitoes per hour, a large dragonfly can eat 100 in one feeding
foray, and toads are also big mosquito consumers. So perhaps some
bat and toad houses would be a good addition to your yard.