Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bugging me!

Originally published in Snap Milton, July 2011. I thought it should be available to read all summer.

Out in the garden on a summer night, the sun just low enough to make it warm but not blazing. The day just wet enough to make the plants happy and those pesky mosquitoes even happier. If only I could get some weeding done, but the weeds get forgotten as I carefully plan my attack on the mosquito on my arm dining on my blood. Sojourner, one of our dogs, is lounging in the freshly turned soil periodically flapping his ears, wiping is nose with his paw or attacking an unseen horse-fly who is making it’s best stealth attempt at reaching skin through Sojourner’s black coat. Enough. I will not be eaten alive. With the same determination of a soldier cleaning out the barrel or a rifle, I march to the bathroom in search of our weapon. Poor Sojourner follows sporting a welt on his nose from where the horse fly managed to get its revenge. But like many families, we no longer reach for chemicals or pesticides to stop the attacks. We reach for nature’s help - natural essential oils and herbs.

On the outside, we protect our skin and fur with natural oils and essences. There are several oils that are used when repelling biting insects and we find a combination often works best at addressing the majority of mosquitoes, horse-flies, deer-flies, black-flies, fleas and ticks, too. Nature provides us with natural repellants that do a wonderful job. There are a many oils that we think do a great job at repelling and smell wonderful, too. The most common are Citronella, Eucalyptus, Cedar, Lemongrass, Lavender and Peppermint. Patchouli and Neem Oil also work very well, but have a very strong odors. If you don’t mind the smell, add both oils to any natural spray you buy (if they don’t already contain the oils), it will increase the potency. Patchouli has been shown to repel for up to 2 hours. Let’s face it, anything smells better than those deet bug sprays!

In your home, a basic Cedar spray can go a long way. Yes, your home will smell like Cedar wood, too. In our view this is an added bonus. Spray a diluted Cedar spray on the pet’s beds, on the couch and on the carpet in areas they like to sleep. This will repel bugs from bothering them while they sleep – and also repel fleas. Two other oils that can be used on bedding, but are not recommended for directly on the pet are PennyRoyal, which is in the mint family, and Lemon Oil, which is the oil from lemon skin.

From the inside out, you can also repel many biting insects. Remember how garlic can scare vampires away. Well there is some truth to that part of the Dracula story, as garlic can also repel biting insects from sucking you and your dog’s blood. For your pet, you would use it dried and we sprinkle it on our dog’s food. Much has been made about the relation of garlic to onions and that if onions are unsafe, garlic must be too. However, garlic does not contain thiosulphate in the same concentrations as onion and it is safe for your dog in any reasonable amount (but should not be used for cats). We also use Brewer’s Yeast to repel bugs from the inside out and Brewer’s Yeast is safe for your feline companions, too.

Sojourner gets sprayed down with our Herbal Bug Repellant and I get the same treatment. I always say if it’s not safe to be on my skin, then it’s not safe for my dogs. So I am happy we can both avoid being the garden buffet using the same product. Sojourner and I march back outside smelling like a herb garden and I enjoy the satisfaction of removing those pesky weeds that I’d left behind, while Sojourner enjoys the smells of the garden, dines on a buffet of fresh grass and squishes some Junebugs, much to my delight. Now that’s a dog’s life!

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