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The "Just say no to DEET" thread

 
John Elliott
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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?
 
R Scott
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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.
 
John Polk
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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.
 
Leila Rich
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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
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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
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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
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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
 
Kate Muller
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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
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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.
 
Bill Crim
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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.
 
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