When mosquitoes are out in full force, many people turn to bug sprays filled with harmful chemicals. While these sprays might be effective, it’s alarming how many chemicals we expose ourselves to on a daily basis. Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and drenching it in harmful chemicals isn’t the only way to keep insects at bay.
The same is true for your garden. Many people grow their own food in order to avoid many of the harmful pesticides used in commercial farming. Yet when plants get attacked by insects, sometimes chemicals seem like the only way to solve the problem. Luckily this isn’t the case either. There are many ways to create DIY bug sprays and pesticides with ingredients that you already have in your own home.
Commercial Bug Sprays
Both active and inactive ingredients in commercial bug sprays can be a cause for concern. DEET, Cyfluthrin, Permethrin, and Pyrethroids are some of the most common controversial ingredients.
- DEET stands for N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, and is extremely effective against mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. One study found that 48% of the amount of DEET applied to the skin is absorbed within 6 hours. When mixed with common sunscreen chemicals, it is absorbed even quicker. Large doses of DEET have been found to cause memory loss, seizures, and skin irritation. When washed off, it has the potential to contaminate groundwater.
- Cyfluthrin has been linked to loss of coordination, muscle trembling, and neurotoxicity. It is toxic to fish, honeybees, and aquatic invertebrates.
- Permethrin is often used to treat bug-resistant outdoor gear and clothing, but can also be used as a crop pesticide and an ingredient in bug spray. It has been linked to seizures, neurotoxicity, and problems with motor skills and memory. It is toxic to honeybees, fish, and other aquatic life.
- Pyrethroids are a large group of chemicals that are often in insecticides. The group consists of over 1,000 different chemicals, which are linked to nausea, incoordination, and burning sensations. The majority of these chemicals are toxic to aquatic life.1
A Safer Alternative
There are many essential oils that have bug-repellant properties. Some of the most powerful include citronella, lavender, sweet basil, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, catnip, clary sage, and tea tree. Depending on your personal preferences, you can use one or a mixture of many oils to create a fragrance you enjoy using.
What You Need:
- A dark glass spray bottle (dark blue or amber)
- Vodka or rubbing alcohol
- Witch hazel
- 50-100 drops of essential oil of your choice
In your dark glass spray bottle, mix one part vodka or rubbing alcohol, one part witch hazel, and two parts water. Add 50-100 drops of essential oils. Spray on clothing before going outdoors.
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Unfortunately, these pesticides do more harm than good. They leach into the water, contaminate the soil, and are in the food we eat. Some of the most common negative effects of frequent pesticide exposure include:
- Respiratory problems
- Abdominal cramps
- Memory disorders
- Parkinson’s disease2
One of the best ways to avoid pesticides is to always be sure to buy organic fruits and vegetables. Another way is to ensure that you aren’t using these same chemicals in your house and on your lawn.
A Safer Alternative
Shunning commercial pesticides doesn’t automatically mean garden failure. Luckily there are a handful of safe and inexpensive ways to create your own pesticides at home.
A simple spray of vegetable oil mixed with liquid castille soap can be very effective against mites, aphids, and other pests. Simply mix 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 tbsp of castille soap. Take approximately 2 tsp of this mixture and add it to a quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray directly on plants affected by pests.
- 1 bulb garlic
- 1 small onion
- a tsp of cayenne pepper
- a tbsp of liquid Castile soap
Puree the garlic, onion, and cayenne pepper together. Mix in the castille soap. Let steep for approximately one hour, and strain. Instead of mixing this with water, spray it at full strength on the upper and lower surfaces of leaves.3
Essential Oil Insecticide
Mix together the castille soap and essential oils and transfer mixture to a spray bottle. Fill the rest of the way with water.
With a little bit of creativity and experimentation, you can find safe alternatives for nearly all the chemicals you use on a daily basis. You can spray this mixture directly onto pests, or spray on the upper and lower surfaces of leaves.4
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