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Plants for Bug Repellent?

On a recent backpacking trip, I underestimated the amount of mosquito repellent we'd need. Is there a North American plant that can be used, or something one can do to avoid being eaten alive?

Question:

On a recent backpacking trip, I underestimated the amount of mosquito repellent we’d need. Clothing did not deter the little buggers, and fires were not allowed. Is there a North American plant that can be used, or something one can do to avoid being eaten alive?

Submitted by - B.E.P., Indianapolis, IN

Answer:

In the war against bug bites, literally thousands of plants have been tested as possible insect repellents. Nothing has come even close to matching DEET, but quite a few plants do have some repellent qualities that last from several minutes to about two hours (It’s the oil from these plants rubbed on your skin that works, not eating them).

The plants are soybeans, citronella, cedar, verbena, pennyroyal, geranium, lavender, pine, cajeput, cinnamon, rosemary, basil, thyme, allspice, garlic, and peppermint. Although the studies are far from conclusive, oils from soybeans, citronella, and peppermint may work the best.

Sitting between a couple of candles reduces mosquito bites by up to 40%, says one test, and any old candles will do. You could also fall back on the old Native American tradition of rubbing mud on your exposed skin.

1 Comment

  1. Steven

    I just completed a trip in the Sierra navada and this year the bug are very bad. To protect my head I used a hat and head mmosquito netting. The mosquitos would land on it but couldn’t reach the skin. For cloths I used a long sleeve nylon shirt and nylon pants that can be converted to shorts. If the clothing is loose fittting the mosquitos can land but cannot reach the skin. I only used DEET for my hands and ended ujp using very little of small amount I brought.

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