2008-04-17 / News

This year, I'm ready to wage war

Flotsam and Jetsam
By Donna Drago

For my entire life, I've been the person that every single mosquito, gnat, flea or no-see-um within a five-mile radius searches out when they are looking to feast on someone's blood.

I'm a human pin cushion!

I have no idea why I can sit on the porch just two feet from my husband and be itching and swatting various pests, while he sits calmly enjoying the breeze. This year it's going to be different.

It's the same whether I'm at my house in Jamestown, or in the south. Down there, the sand fleas bite my ankles, the no-see-ums get my neck and everybody else goes for the middle. In Jamestown, it's the mosquitoes that are the bane of my existence.

I've tried every store-bought preparation for keeping the bugs away. Whether it's DEET, picaridin, Skin-So-Soft, or something "natural," I've tried it. On summer nights, I burn incense sticks to throw the bugs off. Outside in the garden, I hide under long sleeves and a big hat, hoping they won't recognize me.

I've tried eating Brewer's yeast and garlic capsules, both of which are supposed to change the way I smell, to no avail.

Still, year after year, I'm covered with red welts that itch, and I'm just sick of it.

I've been doing some research on the Internet to see if anyone has come up with "the cure," for my problem. Alas, every herbalist, chiropractor, veterinarian, spiritualist and witch doctor has their own method for keeping pests at bay. Whatever! I'm ready to try anything.

Scientists in England are currently working on a repellent that's based on human body smells that mosquitoes are known not to like. By isolating the properties that make some people (like my husband) less desirable to the pests, the scientists hope to someday market a product. In their research, they have discovered that there are certain cows that give off odors that seem to repel bugs from themselves and all the other cows in the area. If anybody wants to lend me a cow like that, I'd be delighted to keep her in my yard for the summer!

The Internet is full of recipes for repellents. Here are a couple that seem plausible. Many of the recipes are based on the use of one or more essential oils that mask the human scent but must be reapplied often.

One recipe calls for 4 ounces of aloe vera gel, mixed with 4 ounces of inexpensive body lotion. To this combination add 10-15 drops each of citronella, eucalyptus, and patchouli oils. I like the idea of this recipe (assuming it works) because it smells good and would be beneficial to the skin, but the patchouli oil conjures up images of the Summer of Love and old VW buses, so I might have to make a substitution there. Other recipes call for lavender, peppermint, cedar and other aromatic oils, so I presume you can come up with the concoction that best suits your nose and other cultural hang-ups.

The recipe in Mother Earth News calls for a combination of essential oils suspended in 190 proof grain alcohol. The proportions are 2 1/2 teaspoons of oils to one cup of alcohol, steeped together for a week and then splashed on the body. I'd put it in a spray bottle to make it easier to apply.

There are some recipes that are not so plausible, too.

One guy, a backpacker, advocates splashing on a cocktail, made by putting stalks of fresh Thai lemon grass in the blender and whipping it up with some Absolut vodka, which he says works better than brandy or gin, and doesn't give the impression to friends and neighbors that you are a "wino."

The blender gets a spin in another recipe that combines several cloves of fresh garlic with some soybean oil and distilled water to make yet another splash on blend. This one might work, but I guarantee that you can name the resulting product a "Friend and Co-worker Repellent."

Some repellents are based on sound, rather than smell. The electronic, thumb-sized devices emit a high-pitched sound that mimics insects that mosquitoes don't get along with. They run on batteries and are worn around the neck or kept nearby on a key-chain. The jury is still out on their effectiveness, but a funny off-shoot of this product, dubbed the "Mosquito," is a device that urban shop-keepers are using outside their stores to repel teenagers. Apparently the unit emits an annoying sound only teens can hear and they disperse!

Other sources of insect repellent ideas are veterinary websites. Some recommend feeding a horse garlic granules along with its regular chow. They don't live indoors, so I wouldn't mind a garlicky horse too much.

The U.S. Forest Service recommends this repellent for horses, dogs and humans: Mix one cup water, one cup Avon Skin-So-Soft, two cups vinegar, one tablespoon eucalyptus oil and a few drops of citronella oil. Shake in a spray bottle and spray on man or beast.

I'd love to hear from anyone else who has a successful repellent they'd like to share. Send it to JTPflotsam@aol.com.

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