Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Bug Spray Update

A while ago I wrote a post about homemade bug spray.  Since that time I had a chance to test my original formula against noseeums and found that it wasn't as effective as I had hoped.  So, I continued playing with concentrations and ingredients and researching what others have tried or claimed would work.

It has taken some time, but I think I have an improved formula. The last several days at the boatyard I've been working well into the evening. And the area has plenty of mosquitoes, noseeums, and some species of horse-fly that are quite annoying. So, the past few days should have been a very good experiment. Although not 100% bite free, probably due to my application, I have to say I'm pretty impressed with its effectiveness.

My issue with application is the spray bottle I'm using. Somewhere in the move out to the boat, the old hairspray bottle I was using in Colorado was lost.  I had a small plastic spray bottle lying around the boat (I think it came with the installation kit for the boat name graphic), so I have been using it.  The problem is that it puts out a very fine mist and even in light winds I find it difficult to apply without most of it blowing away.  Since my wife isn't going through much hairspray these days, I haven't had a free replacement so I've been waiting for this bottle to die before I get another one.  Although the spray head leaks a bit (just like every bug spray bottle I've ever had), it has lasted over 6 months. Essential oils are known for eating plastics, so I didn't think the bottle would have lasted this long. I guess one of these days I'll have to just break down and buy some hairspray at the dollar store and use that bottle, hoping it has a coarse spray pattern.
Image result for spray bottle image

Anyway, here are the changes I've made to the old formula. For the carrier, I've swapped out the witch hazel for a generic version of Listerine (original flavor). I heard someone used it in a noseeum spray. It makes a cheaper carrier than the witch hazel and is easier to find.  I've also added tea tree oil at about 1/2 the concentration of the other two oils.

So, the current recipe, using the 4oz bottle I am using is:

  • 35 drops of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
  • 35 drops of Citronella Essential Oil
  • 15 drops of Tea Tree Oil
  • 2 ounces of Original Listerine (or store brand equivalent)
  • 2 ounces of water

Place the mix in a dark opaque container (or use something like duct tape wrapped around the bottle to "darken" it.. Shake well before applying as the water will separate.  I prefer a sprayer (just not my current one) but you can also just rub it on. I find I have to apply it every couple of hours or so when I'm working in the yard (or at least just a little before dusk if I haven't been sweating). Obviously if you go swimming it will probably wash off, so you would need to reapply.

The best part of this stuff is that it is rather pleasant smelling, unlike most bug sprays.  My wife jokes that I "smell lemony-fresh". Well, that and it is less expensive and I don't have a reaction to it like I do with the high concentration DEET stuff.

Obviously I cannot guarantee it will work for you, all I can say is a version of it has worked for me in Colorado as well as several places along the eastern U.S. coast. If you do give this a try, drop me a note and let me know if it works for you.  If it doesn't seem as effective, try higher concentrations of the oils.  All I can say is that it seems to work well for the bugs in Virginia.

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