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The "Just say no to DEET" thread

 
pollinator
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DEET has been with us for a long time, a "better living through chemistry" project brought to you by the U.S. Army. It's not a particularly offensive molecule, bacteria and fungi can easily break down the molecule, so it is not going to accumulate in the environment. There are years and years of exposure history, with a tiny number of adverse effects, according to the EPA, so it is very low on the list of things they ought to regulate.

However, it remains a synthetic, not natural product, and so it doesn't fit in with the permaculture ethic of plant products cycling through the biological processes of nature. And it's always possible that people could develop an allergic reaction to it and not be able to use it. So I would like to use this thread to focus on plant products and extracts that can be used in place of DEET for that all important job of keeping the mosquitoes and biting flies at bay.

I came across this most interesting study on PLOS ONE that tested 20 plant extracts for their mosquito repellant properties. They even went further and sub-divided the effects on the mosquitoes as repellent, irritant, and toxic. That last category caught my eye, as any compound that could kill mosquitoes when then encountered it, while being safe for humans would be like the Philosopher's Stone.

In going down the list, I saw that coleus, thyme and lemongrass were both rated as +++, meaning that they had quite obvious mosquito repelling properties. Since I had the latter two growing in the garden, all I had to do was buy some coleus plants and I would be ready to make my own extracts and try them out. What I have done is to clip some sprigs of these three and put them in a bottle with 1 part of rubbing alcohol diluted up with 3 parts of water. After steeping for a couple of days, the liquid has taken on a brown color, and the only odor I can detect is that of the alcohol. I've been trying it out this last week, around sundown when the mosquitoes are at their most pesky, and it works!

I think I have found a replacement for DEET, one that I can grow in my own back yard. This is going to be a lot cheaper than shelling out for a bottle of "Deep Woods OFF". What do you use to keep the mosquitoes at bay?
 
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I have tried most of the natural products and made my own. Most of the home made natural extracts and recipes I have tried work very well, but burn/sweat off very quickly.

I had a friend make me a combo sunscreen/bug repellent that lasts all day, but it is too long lasting and extremely hard to wash off without lots of hot water and good soap. Not a good option if camping or off-grid.

I have gone old old school--long sleeves. Putting the essential oils on my hat lets them last longer and keep the bugs out of my ears.
 
steward
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I have gone old old school--long sleeves. Putting the essential oils on my hat lets them last longer and keep the bugs out of my ears.


I have been in situations where the DEET products were my only choice.
Yes, long sleeves (and pants) is half of the battle.
Rather than apply the toxin to my skin, I would apply it around the cuffs of my pants & sleeves, plus around my collar, and cap brim. This seemed to be sufficient to keep the bastards off of me all day.
 
steward
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'Mozzies' haven't been much of an issue in my life, but I've spent a lot of time living with sandflies (Austrosimulium ungulatum).
They don't look like much, but there's never just a few...
We got pretty used to them and generally just coped, but our standard sandly repellant was (and still is) citronella oil.
Potent stuff-you do not want it in your eyes!
Tea tree oil is also really effective.
When I was a kid we used to rub pennyroyal and other strong-smelling herbs on our skin if the sandflies were driving us nuts.
 
John Polk
steward
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Curious if 'sandflies' are the same thing we called 'nosee'ems' in the Bahamas?
You 'no-see-'em', but the little bastards would eat you leg off if you gave 'em a chance.

 
Leila Rich
steward
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John Polk wrote:Curious if 'sandflies' are the same thing we called 'nosee'ems' in the Bahamas?

I think they're similar-especially in the 'eat your leg off' department-but are a different species.
We had an inventive variety of sado-masochistic childhood challenges/entertainments involving sandflies
 
John Polk
steward
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We had an inventive variety of sado-masochistic childhood challenges/entertainments involving sandflies


OMG! Thank goodness you never met my sister. If you two had teamed up, I'd be in a wheel chair today. LOL
 
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Does anyone have an effective method of repelling ticks. Here in New Hampshire ticks with Lyme disease is our biggest issue.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Kate Muller wrote:Does anyone have an effective method of repelling ticks. Here in New Hampshire ticks with Lyme disease is our biggest issue.



It looks like someone has thought of working on this topic. Here is some work done in Sweden on the efficacy of Labrador tea extract at repelling ticks. And this study seems to show that tansy is very effective at repelling ticks.

It seems that these two Swedish researchers, PĂ„lsson and Jaenson, have been quite busy trying things out. These two references are from a few years ago, if you are serious about cooking up some tick repellent, you might want to see what they have done lately.
 
gardener
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Non-DEET mosquito control article.
If you are going out onto your porch, I would just use a fan. Apparently mosquitos can't fly in greater than 15mph winds. I can verify that this works; I can't verify the other items listed.

I live in the Seattle area, so I can usually count the number of bug bites I get per year, on one hand. However, I visited a friend in Wisconsin over the 4th of july weekend. I can tell you, going outdoors in the summer is suicide without DEET. I resisted using it for 2 hours, then I gave in. If I lived in an area that had mosquito/tick borne disease I would think the cost-benefit equation shifts in favor of DEET. Most people don't have full control of the surrounding country-side. They can't implement the "attract Bats" solution to a local insect problem; which seems like it would be a good wide-area solution to a large insect population.
 
pollinator
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Found this bug repellent page in passing. Looks worth a read.

https://www.homemadehints.com/homemade-mosquito-repellent/


Rufus
 
pollinator
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I mostly use dragonflies. They eat the mosquitoes and are very pretty.

Long sleeves have never helped for me -- if you wear clothes that fit, the mosquitoes can bite through them.
 
pollinator
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Meg Mitchell wrote:I mostly use dragonflies. They eat the mosquitoes and are very pretty.

Long sleeves have never helped for me -- if you wear clothes that fit, the mosquitoes can bite through them.



Yes and so can horseflies and almost everything else, other than midges, and they can push their way through pretty much any cloth!
 
pollinator
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Lives literally depend on cheap and reliable access to DEET (and other insecticide) impregnated bednets in the developing world, as they are the cheapest and most effective way of reducing exposure to malaria. I get quite uncomfortable when us in the affluent developed countries, speaking from a position of privilege, start to demonise products that are essential for the health and well being of the most vulnerable in the world.

The very title of this thread "Just say no..." is purposefully drawing parallels to the illegal drugs campaigns of 1980s and 1990s. Intentionally or not, it is going to lead to strong negative connotations towards a product that has been overwhelmingly beneficial for humanity.
 
pioneer
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Michael Cox wrote:Lives literally depend on cheap and reliable access to DEET (and other insecticide) impregnated bednets in the developing world, as they are the cheapest and most effective way of reducing exposure to malaria. I get quite uncomfortable when us in the affluent developed countries, speaking from a position of privilege, start to demonise products that are essential for the health and well being of the most vulnerable in the world.

The very title of this thread "Just say no..." is purposefully drawing parallels to the illegal drugs campaigns of 1980s and 1990s. Intentionally or not, it is going to lead to strong negative connotations towards a product that has been overwhelmingly beneficial for humanity.



In addition, the natural products simply don't work in areas where repellents are really needed.  People that disagree are welcome to try to walk outside here in WI during tick or mosquito season and see the results.  I have tried every natural product I can find, as well as every home-concoction I have seen and they simply don't work.  I don't like the idea of using DEET, but there are times when I absolutely use it.
 
gardener
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I think a lot will depend upon where you live and how often you are willing to apply your alternative.
Beauty bush leaves work great but you have to crush and rub a handful of them once an hour for it to remain effective.
In Arkansas, the "Mosquito bush" (citronella) doesn't work on our "no-see-um" mosquitoes, but it will work a bit for the Anopheles species we have.

Deet at a 100% concentration will even repel ticks, sand fleas, mosquitoes, and gnats. Most times Black Flies seem to be immune to every type of repellent.

 
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65IHjLM_GWY

The effectiveness of Tea tree oil
 
master steward
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We don't--yet--have the Zika carrying mosquitoes, so all they give us is itchy bites. We don't use DEET, but we have preventative measures to reduce the amount of mosquitoes (ducks to eat the larve and bugs, bats to eat them, and we don't leave water sitting out. I need to make bird houses for swallows to encourage them to eat our bugs, too!). We have pretty good success with keeping the mosquitoes away by rubbing garlic on ourselves &/or lemon balm. Garlic works really well--lemon balm is less effective, but smells better and is easier to apply. I also never get bit if my husband or son is with me, as the buggers like them more than me.

I wonder if anyone has discovered how to make a mosquito lure that draws the bugs to it, rather than to humans...
 
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