You want to play outside all summer, but how do you avoid mosquito- and tick-bourne disease? You need to deter those bugs somehow.
Don’t Breed Bugs
Start with the cause: the fact that the bugs breed in numbers. Don’t give them fertile ground—or water.
Do not leave standing water in your yard. After rain, empty plant saucers, shake out pool covers, clean the bird bath, and keep your yard either free from water that can breed mosquitos or keep any water in your yard clean.
Create a Physical Barrier
In order to bite you, the bugs need to get to you. So, create barriers. When you are inside with open windows, make sure the window screens have no holes. When you are outside, wear long sleeves and long pants. Keep your shirt tucked.
Even ankle to wrist coverage outside won’t keep the bugs away completely. You will still need some kind of insect repellent to stay bug free.
That is where the trouble begins.
Health Canada and Natural Bug Sprays
If you look at Health Canada’s recommendations for insect repellents, you will notice that there are none of the familiar brands of natural bug sprays.
And, here is where you find the sad tale of how Health Canada killed DEET-free, natural bug sprays like we have been using and selling for years.
Adria Vasil, author of the Ecoholic books available at bynature.ca, explained what was essentially a ban on natural bug spray last year. It is still possible to get approval for some ingredients, but few manufacturers can afford the testing. The fact that they have no testing doesn’t mean the products are unsafe, but it does mean they can’t sell anything they call “insect repellent” or “bug spray” or “outdoor spray.” For the full story, read her TorontoNow column “Black Bug Down: How Health Canada Buzzed Natural Insect Repellents off the Shelves.”
Amusing in a very discouraging kind of way is the fact that the ingredients that will deter bugs naturally are still fine to include in many other cosmetics. So, you could search in other cosmetics for those ingredients known to deter bugs, if you can get anyone reliable to tell you what the ingredients are.
Doesn’t that seem like an ineffective way to keep your kids bug free? Yeah. I thought so, too.
Sure, there are still plenty of bug sprays in the stores that include synthetic neurotoxins like DEET, but we find that most eco-aware parents avoid these.
Your new options are:
- put DEET insect repellents on clothes only;
- make your own bug spray or lotion; or
- buy one of the few natural bug sprays left, if you can find any.
I don’t think #1 is a good option, since you are still exposing your child to DEET.
I wouldn’t recommend #2 either, since there is too much misinformation surrounding essential oils. It’s confusing to non-professionals to hear self-appointed professionals giving contradictory advice. Don’t make your own unless you start with a trusted source—a professional herbalist with more than just a degree in Google search or a one-day multi-level-marketing sales pitch.
So, we’re left with buying whatever natural insect repellent you can find.
At bynature.ca, we usually have several options. Our favorite that is still on the market is Take a Hike Outdoor Joose. This is the bug spray Naturemom and her family use when they go back country camping and canoeing. It comes family size (250ml) and travel size (125ml).
- Handmade by herbalists.
- Safe for daily use.
- Safe to re-apply throughout the day.
- Essential oils recognized by Health Canada as safe alternatives to DEET.
- Not sticky! 25% aloe vera mix in a witch hazel base.
Ingredients: Witch hazel extract, Distilled water, Aloe vera juice, Essential oils of Cedarwood, Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Pine, Lemongrass & Lemon Eucalyptus.
All bug sprays have cautions. We like that these cautions are few and easy to follow.
- Avoid eyes.
- For babies under 12 months, spray on clothing or carrier.
- Spray on your dog’s coat, but avoid face and eyes.
Maybe next year we will have more options for you. For now, we are happy to give you the natural bug spray that we love.