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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Keeping the Bugs at Bay

Female mosquito feeding on human.

Bugs can feel like a crazy ex who just won’t leave you alone. No matter where you go, they’re there. All you want is to relax in the sun, but your summer enjoyment is ruined by the infuriating insects that routinely antagonize you.

We try everything to keep the pesky bugs away, especially mosquitoes (which spread Zika virus and West Nile virus) and ticks (which spread Lyme disease). We avoid them by applying bug repellents from the store which contain the active ingredient DEET, or diethyltoluamide. DEET is great for repelling insects and circumventing bug bites. What many people don’t know, however, is long-term exposure to DEET can be damaging to your health. Headaches, fatigue, vomiting, rash and redness can result from DEET exposure.

What else can we use to keep the bugs away, then? There are several natural remedies to this problem. Here are some tactics to avoid insects without using chemically charged products.

When Insects are the Problem

Turn on the Fans

Most pesky insects have wings and fly around us constantly. We can combat this with fans, which eliminate the insects’ ability to cruise near you. The powerful wind gusts created by fans make it difficult for insects to fly. Plus, you get a nice breeze during warm summer nights. This creates a win-win situation.

Use Yellow Light

I would be lying if I said this was a true bug repellant. While it is a great start to keeping the bugs away, it does not repel them. Yellow light makes your house less enticing to bugs. Why? Bugs are attracted to blue and ultraviolet light because they can see it. Yellow light, on the other hand, does not emit that same light, and insects have a harder time seeing it. In other words, yellow light makes your house less of a target.

Yellow light will not get rid of all the bugs. While it is harder for them to see, it is not impossible to notice. I would advise using another kind of bug repellant combined with yellow light for effectiveness.

Outdoor lighting fixture using yellow light.

Beauty and Clothing

We dress to impress, but we don’t want to impress the pesky insects. Disappoint the bugs by wearing loose layers outside. Insects have a harder time biting you when clothing is not tight-fitting and when there are layers to go through.

Layers aren’t the only option when it comes to our bodies. We love to smell good, but our scent might be attracting bugs. An easy and inexpensive solution to insects is to not wear perfume. If you’re planning on going outside, especially at night, avoid wearing it. This will not repel insects, but you won’t attract them either.

When Mosquitoes are the Problem

Get Rid of Standing Water

Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Bird baths, gutters, planters and kiddie pools all have standing water in them. Remove, clean and change the water in these areas regularly to eliminate the mosquito breeding site. Fewer areas for mosquitoes to breed equals fewer mosquitoes around your home in general.

Standing water in a bird bath.

Use Mint

There’s something about a minty fragrance that mosquitoes don’t like. Luckily, mint plants are inexpensive — all you have to do is plant one in the garden and crush a leaf occasionally to release the fragrance. I’d suggest crushing a leaf or two when you’re outside to deter the pesky mosquitoes.

Planting mint in a bed rather than in a pot might not be the best solution as the plant is very invasive. If you don’t want to plant anything outside the house, try using peppermint essential oil. Peppermint oil can be diluted with water and applied to directly to the skin. The oil acts as a deterrent against mosquitoes, repelling them naturally and safely.

Mint leaves.

Try Essential Oils

Many essential oils have been shown to repel mosquitoes. Use caution when applying essential oils because everyone reacts differently to them. Never apply an essential oil directly to your skin because they are very potent. Essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil. Coconut oil and olive oil are common household carrier oils used for diluting essential oils.

Lemon eucalyptus oil is an essential oil shown to repel mosquitoes effectively. It’s comparable to the repelling powers of DEET. Dilute it with coconut oil and try applying it to your skin before you head outside.

Citronella oil is another essential oil that repels mosquitoes. Always dilute citronella before applying it to the skin. Citronella oil only repels adult mosquitoes, but some mosquitoes are better than none.

Insects are irritating and can cause many problems. These natural remedies will help repel and keep them away. Some of these solutions may work better than others — I suggest you try one or two and decide for yourself what works. When in doubt, use trial and error and live insect-free this summer.

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