July 15, 2011

To Kill or Be Eaten.

Photo: dr_relling

Kill or Be Eaten, is this the only question?

Every summer I am haunted by the same question, “Do I actively kill those who might harm me, or do I harmlessly repel those who are attracted to me?”

You might think that any morally upstanding person would automatically choose the latter. But when you learn that the objects of my query are mosquitoes you may hesitate just as I do. Because, come on, they’re just mosquitoes, harmful parasites that are at the very least mildly annoying and at most bringers of death. So, what’s the diff? Kill a few, protect me and mine with whatever chemicals will be sure to get the job done, and we’re all square.

Are mosquitoes really sentient?

Except that some of us are not so comfortable with either killing sentient beings (although thinking of mosquitoes as sentient is a stretch) or spraying ourselves and the earth with known toxic chemicals.

Moral high ground aside, there are also health concerns to spraying ourselves and our OFFspring (that was a DEET joke) with chemicals we know to be harmful to humans. But maybe it is justifiable to use them with the possibility of West Nile on the tip of our next offender’s needle-like proboscis?

The choice is yours, but arm yourself with some good information about your options. I did some research into a few natural herbal insect repellents and found some surprisingly good news.

Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent

The first natural insect repellent of note is Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent Pump Spray. Lemon eucalyptus oil repellents have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (which means that the materials have been reviewed and approved for effectiveness and human safety) and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for mosquitoes that may carry the West Nile virus.

In fact, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine comparing different synthetic chemical and herbal repellents, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Repellent provided 120.1 minutes of mosquito protection, more than a repellent with a low concentration of the chemical DEET (Off Skintastic for Kids with 4.75% DEET provided 88.4 minutes of protection) and less than Off Deep Woods with 23.8% DEET, which provided 301.5 minutes of protection.

Higher concentrations of DEET have been proven not to work better, only longer, and carry the risk of absorbing more DEET into the body.

This is great news, especially if you take the hint and reapply every two hours. What’s not so great is that although the label will tell you that a whopping 30% of the product is made up of it’s very natural active ingredient Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus, it won’t tell you what makes up the other 70% of inactive ingredients.

This is suspect. Any natural product on the market that wants to be taken seriously should be accompanied by its full-disclosure ingredient deck. A few other drawbacks are that it’s not safe for use on children under age 3, has a strong odor and can stain leather.

BiteBlocker Xtreme Sportsman

Next up is BiteBlocker® Xtreme Sportsman Pump Spray 6 oz Bottle which relies on a natural combination of soybean oil, castor oil and geranium oil for it’s bug protection. A study by the United States Department of Agriculture ranked BiteBlocker number two in effectiveness behind Repel as a mosquito repellant, confirming The New England Journal of Medicine study findings that Bite Blocker provided 94.6 minutes of protection against mosquitos.

So you will want to reapply more often than Repel, but it beats out its covert competition with its trust factor: all ingredients are listed on the label proving that it contains nothing objectionable.

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Soybean Oil (3%), Geranium Oil (6%), & Castor Oil (8%) Inert Ingredients (83% total): Purified Water, Coconut Oil, Glycerin, Lecithin, Wintergreen Oil, Citric Acid, Sodium Bicarbonate & Benzoic Acid.

BiteBlocker also claims to be sweat-proof, non-flammable is and safe to use on people of all ages (including children under 3). And as a bonus, field test results prove BiteBlocker® to repel black flies for up to 3 hours!

The Third Option

If you don’t like the thought of having to rely on an insect repellent made by a large company, make your own! This is a simple project you caneasily do in your own kitchen. I recommend using a funnel to prevent mess.

First, purchase  an empty perfume rollerball container that holds 10ml or 1/3 oz of liquid. Then fill it mostly full with a carrier oil or create your own blend. Sesame oil makes a great base for an outdoor insect repellent because it has natural sun protecting qualities. You can use it alone or add castor oil and soybean oil like in the BiteBlocker formula.

My feeling is that the proportions will not be that important, just play with your mix until you get the desired consistency. Then you will want to add your essential oils to the mix. For a safe dilution you will want to start by adding about 4-5 drops each of the lemon eucalyptus (eucalyptus citriodora) essential oil and the geranium (pergonium graveolens) essential oil.

Be cautious not to overdo the essential oils; they are very powerful and not to be used undiluted on the skin. Mix your concoction well and you’re done! Just roll the rollerball over your skin, hair and clothes where you want protection and then rub it in. You’ll never smell so alluring while the mosquitoes recoil in disgust!

Use them as a DIY summer gift, since you have to buy quantities of the base oils and essential oils, you might want to make up a few of these and give them to your friends and family as presents. . .

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