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Now that summer is here, it’s time to enjoy all the things that it brings with it. From picnics to backyard barbecues to just hanging out and enjoying the company of good friends, there’s plenty to love about the warmer weather. Unfortunately, summer hangouts also tend to attract other attendees, the unwelcome six-legged kind. Whether it is mosquitos, ants, or other annoying pests, if you’re spending time outdoors, you’re going to have to deal with them.

Of course, there are ways to deal with them before they are sampling your food or blood. You can buy bug sprays or candles. You can even buy special wristbands or little clip on fans that circulate insect repellent around you. However, when you do that, you’re also exposing yourself, your food, and your family to chemicals that are, quite frankly, poisons.

The most effective bug sprays use DEET, which can protect people for up to 5 hours per application. The downside to this is, of course, the negative health effects that some people experience. While the EPA says that DEET is only a Category III toxin (meaning that it is only slightly toxic), there are still people who are more sensitive to it and may suffer things such as tingling of the lips, skin rashes, headaches, or nausea.

So you may wonder if there’s any alternative that doesn’t leave you wondering about your health and well-being. After all, what else is there to do? Well, don’t think that you have to suffer the bites of mosquitoes who find you extra tasty. Instead, we’re going to show you how to make your own insect repellent from all natural ingredients. As a bonus, when you apply them, you aren’t going to smell like a chemical warehouse. We’ve even got some advice on how to make something that will help you keep ants at bay from your picnic table and deck.

ants all over muffin on floor

Things that Crawl

Ants, spiders, and other creepy-crawlies always seem to find their way to your picnic table. If you want to keep them at bay, sprinkle a combination of cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and garlic around your table. Pretty much every insect that crawls finds the pungency of these spices abhorrent and will avoid them whenever possible.You can also create a spray barrier that’s super effective using only apple cider vinegar and a combination of mint, lavender, and sage. Take a spray bottle and fill it half-full of the vinegar. Then add two heaping tablespoons of each type of herb. Shake well and then let it rest overnight. Before you use it, fill it the rest of the way with water and you’re good to go. The pungent spray will provide an effective bug repellent.

mosquito up close

Mosquitos, Gnats, and Flies, Oh My

Flying insects can ruin a party, especially during the dusk hours when the gnats and biting flies come out in droves. While lighting citronella candles can help keep them at bay, the best course of action is to create a multi-layered defense.

First, there are several types of herb that you can plant around your house and deck to create a primary line of defense against flying pests. Basil is a great mosquito repellent.

You can grow multiple types in pots or grow bags around your deck or patio. Not only are they pretty, but fresh herbs can really provide extra zing for your cooking. When you know you’re going to be outside, crush a few leaves. The smell of fresh basil might be appealing to us, but mosquitos hate it.

Another plant that is a great mosquito and gnat repellent is a lemon balm. Pretty much anything from the mint family will work great as an anti-mosquito defense. Catnip is a mint plant that contains nepetalactone, an essential oil that is ten times as effective at repelling mosquitoes as DEET. If you don’t have feral cats in your neighborhood, planting catnip and crushing it when needed will provide a highly effective mosquito barrier.

Even better, you can use catnip or other essential oils as a second line of defense. If you use a clear alcohol such as unflavored vodka, you can add selected the essential oils right to it. And, if you use essential oils for aromatherapy, you can make them perform double duty. Take a small spray bottle and fill it with vodka. It doesn’t have to be expensive; the alcohol will evaporate off when you apply it. Add about ten drops of lemongrass essential oil or lavender oil and then another ten drops of catnip essential oil. The combination will repel mosquitos and you’ll smell great as well.

Summer fun doesn’t mean that you have to put up with unwelcome insect guests or the noxious chemicals from commercial bug sprays. With just a few simple ingredients, you can craft your own mosquito and ant repellent that will keep your parties and gatherings pest free.

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