Natural Ways to Prevent and Treat Bug Bites

| July/August 2007


Don't swat it: You can fend off bugs without chemicals.


It's hard to resist the lure of the outdoors during these summer months. But whether it's a chore, a meal or a simple frolic that beckons you into the open air, you're likely to be stung, feasted on or just irritated by bugs.

Rather than reaching for manufactured insect repellents that use powerful chemicals to keep bugs at bay, try these tips to naturally prevent bug bites.

Wearlight-colored, loose-fitting clothing when outside. You'll lower your chances of popping up on a mosquito's radar, as these bugs are attracted to dark colors and easily bite through tight clothing. Also avoid wearing bright or floral patterns, as resembling a scrumptious flower can make you attractive to bees and wasps.

Even if you don't have a pool or pond, you still need to eliminate standing water around your home, which is an invitation for mosquitoes to lay eggs near your abode. Drill holes in the bottoms of things like trash bins to drain water that may collect in them. Change birdbaths and pets' water dishes at least once a week and as often as possible in the summertime to wipe out any breeding grounds mosquitoes may have created. Check for other standing water sources, such as gutters, flower pots and children's toys.

Rosemary, basil, catnip, lemon balm and rose geraniums are a few of the plants you can grow that have insect-repelling qualities. Lemon balm and catnip are especially good for warding off mosquitoes: Researchers at Iowa State University found the essential oil in catnip to be about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the widely used synthetic repellent. Simply crush the leaves of any of these plants to release their scents and rub them on your exposed skin.

Make your own catch-all insect repellent from a concoction of essential oils:

2/23/2016 12:06:26 PM

My grandmother used to make a balm from hibiscus leaves and glycerin or cooking oil for treatment of insect bites. It was wonderful and took itch away immediately. She has passed away and has taken her recipe/formula to the grave. Does anyone know anything like this that I may try. I certainly miss her and her wisdom!

joe sturgill
8/8/2007 12:00:00 AM

for honey bees, chew green grass and clover, seems to only help with honey bee stings.

kiwi will
8/7/2007 12:00:00 AM

In last 20 years spent a lot of time in the outdoors tramping (hiking) sea-kayaking in New Zealand and other trips abroad in warmer climates and find all these fancy clothes which may look poncy for the city-slickers but are generally hopeless when it comes to insects. The colours are too appealing to them! Especially the dark colours. Look for lite colours every time and forget the purple, black, blues. Also get to know what the orginal folks (natives) used from their back doors. It works and is not only cheaper & environmentally & user friendly but also far more gratifying.

james sharber
8/5/2007 12:00:00 AM

While ticks are a common warm season pest where I live in Middle Tennessee, larval soil mites (chiggers, red bugs) are much worse as they are essentially invisible, one infestation may envolve up to 50 or more bites, and the reaction for many is a severe itch, inflamation, and often infection. It appears powdered sulfur is a time-tested repellent. It has its drawbacks, pungent odor, yellow stain (which washes out), and its a bit messy to use. Pour a quarter cup into a section of women's hose and dust around your shoes, socks, lower legs, and pant legs. I doubt there are any possible hazzards to its use and it works.

cynthia juengel
8/4/2007 12:00:00 AM

To prevent insect bites and stings ( including ticks and chiggers ), take a bath or shower with Fels Naptha Soap. It also helps relieve itching and stinging after you go inside. Farmers have used this for forever!

vernetta bunton
7/30/2007 12:00:00 AM

Another great all natural repellant and treatment for bug bites and bee stings is emu oil. Really relieves the itch and speeds the healing of bug bites and stings.

linda adsit
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

I make my own lotion and add peppermint oil for repelling insects in summer. It's also a very nice smelling lotion. The peppermint oil itself applied directly to insect bites provides temporary relief of burning and itching.

linda adsit
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

WARNING: Fragranced cosmetics of any kind contain chemicals that cause insects to react. Floral fragrances may attract them as a flower would, but chemical fragrances, Most Especially with pheromones in them, cause insects to attack, big time. This is serious.

k williams
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

I am noting all of these tips, but mosquitos /bees are my least concern. IIt's ticks we New Englanders need addressed! Within ten days of working on my new property, I developed Lyme-- this with my trousers tucked into my socks and DEET sprayed on my boots.Any sure-fire tick repellants?

james sharber
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

A good tick repellent: While employed as a biologist with the state wildlife agency, we were issued Permanone and Permethrin. These compounds should be sprayed on field pants and jackets and on field boots before putting them on. In from the field, take the field stuff off and place in a large enough sealable plastic bag. The clothes and shoes can be used over and over again. Not exactly a natural repellent, when it comes to Lyme, Rocky Mountain, and tick fever, you must protect yourself. A natural remedy for insect bites I've heard about is crushed leaves and stems of spotted jewelweed (touch-me-not). Its easy to grow, reseeds itself anually and attracts humingbirds too.

gretchen b
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

For mosquito bites, nettles, and most other bug bites, I put a dot of tea tree oil or Dr. Burt's Rescue on them to relieve itching and inflammation

carol keightley
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

We've found the "fake" wasp nests do really work!One on front and back of house has a wasp nest free and many less yellow jackets to boot!!We have two bat houses and several bird feeders. Sort of a free room and board program, in turn for seeds they lower the bug count! Helps!Also - watch what fragrant soaps and shampoos you use. Smelling like a flower is sure to attract flying critters.

arthur clemons
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

For bug and even poision oak itching, I use hot water. Carefully wet the tip of paper towel or wash cloth with very hot water (as hot as you can stand it). Apply dirctly to the itchy area for 10 seconds or so or as long as you can. You'll only need to contact the itchy spot. Works instantly and for hours.

angel zorad
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

I use Witch Hazel for itchy bug bites and anything else that makes me itch. I am very sensitive to bug bites and have numerous allergies, but have an obsession with the outdoors! Alcohol in products dry my skin, only to irritate it worse. I may apply a little essential oil or lotion prior to going outdoors and I still always have a reaction to something. But, I take some cotton and soak it in Witch Hazel, rub it all over my body and in about 20-30 minutes. The itching, stinging, and swelling feel better. I also use it on my face as an astringent and toner, works great and doesn't dry my skin!

pat sanders
7/28/2007 12:00:00 AM

vinagar can help reduce itching from cat and dog flea bites, vinagar placed in cat and dog drinking water can help to reduce fleas on the animal, very small amounts of vinagar introduced over time until a teaspoonfull in a drinking bowls worth .

dave swope
7/27/2007 12:00:00 AM

vitamin C works great. I mix about 4 grams (one teaspoon) of vitamin C in 2 oz, of water in a small spray bottle. I spray it on any bites or stings and it's very effective at relieving the itch or pain and hastening the healing. I also use it for minor cuts and scrapes. It relieves pain, prevents infection and helps healing.

aly scott_1
7/27/2007 12:00:00 AM

I've found that white vinegar neutralizes the itch/pain of mosquito bites. Not an original idea, heard it on NPR. It helps me. I carry little bottles of white vinegar in hotel shampoo cases whenever I know I'm going to be outside.Also, St. Gabriel's Laboratories Mosquito Spray (garlic, citronella, molasses??) sprayed from a hose onto your yard, porch, bushes, walkway - does actually seem to work!

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