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How to fight insects the eco-friendly way

Enjoying the outdoors when the weather is pleasant can become bothersome if biting insects are part of the equation. However, not everyone wants to rely on chemical repellents to keep bugs at bay. There are some greener options that may be adequate for most daily situations.

Biting Insects

Mosquitoes, biting flies and other insects can be a nuisance when the weather warms. Though many bites create a mild reaction that subsides after a few days, some insects are harbingers of serious diseases. Malaria and West Nile virus are just two of the many maladies that can be hiding inside of the common mosquito.

According to, only female mosquitoes feed on blood and bite their victims. The males feed on plant juices and nectar. Females need blood to feed their eggs and reproduce. When a mosquito bites, she injects chemicals to prevent blood from clotting and reduce pain. Afterward, however, these same chemicals can cause topical irritation.

Like mosquitoes, female tabanids, or horse and deer flies, also bite. Most prefer warm seasons and the warmth of daytime, but some species are most active at dawn or dusk. Tabanids bite deep and hard, potentially causing a lot of irritation.

Especially in early summer, swarms of small black flies can make life difficult for those who venture outdoors. Again, females of this species bite, but males may hang around and swarm when a female is nearby. Black flies need running water to feed larvae, so they differ in this respect from mosquitoes and other insects that grow from larvae in sitting water. Biting occurs during the day and may intensify before a thunderstorm.

Repelling Insects

The standard bug repellent is one that contains the product DEET. It was originally developed in 1946 for military use, but some have questioned its safety. The EPA says it has been associated with seizures in children, but this claim hasn't been fully substantiated.

Still, many people prefer to look elsewhere for their repellents, preferring natural products. There are oils that can be extracted from different plants and herbs that provide short-term protection against many biting insects.

Citronella is one of the more effective natural repellents. It has been used for more than 50 years as an insect repellent and as an animal repellent. The oil is taken from dried, cultivated grasses. Pure citronella is most effective against bugs, more so than the synthetic varieties used in many candles.

Citronella is safe for human use and produces no threat to the environment when used correctly. It is generally applied to the skin and may cause mild irritation if used in abundance. Because some people find the smell of citronella off-putting, it can be mixed with lemongrass oil to minimize the smell. Lemongrass may also be another natural insect repellent.

Rosemary and cedar can also be tried as insect repellents. These are two other aromas that bugs find offensive. Individuals who spend time in the yard may want to plant rosemary nearby in garden beds to help repel insects in that respect. Rosemary is also multifunctional, as it is commonly used in cooking.

Other safe items to try as insect repellents include:

* sage

* mint

* neem oil

* bay leaves

* eucalyptus

* cloves

Individuals can experiment with these herbs and oils to produce a product that works for their repellent needs.