a l l  n a t u r a l  i n f o

Bug-Free Naturally

 by Jeanne Rose

     With Summer come those little pests that can ruin a good time.  Rather than put up with them, or spray potentially toxic chemicals into the environment, why not use natural solutions that will keep them at bay, and keep your environment clean and fresh?  Essential oils and pure botanicals are the perfect alternative, and the following information will help you to enjoy your Summer, and send those bugs packing.



     In the course of my practice during the years I was an herbal practitioner I got almost as many inquiries from people about their pets, as from people about themselves. At most times of the year, the questions had to do with fleas and insects bothering pets, people, and infesting houses. Short of hammering these horrible creatures over the head individually, nothing really wipes them out effectively, except for really potent flea sprays or internal medications and poisons. In the past, my technique was to have the house professionally sprayed about once every five years, and then use herbal remedies as repellents to keep fleas away. I also fed myself, members of my family, and the dogs and cats with plenty of flea repellent foods, such as those that contain B vitamins, as well as using supplements of Brewer's yeast and B vitamins.

     Nothing is as detracting to a flea as B vitamin tasting skin. They just refuse to get near a pet that has been made healthy, whose coat and skin are shining with health, from a daily dose of B vitamins, Brewer's yeast, additional fatty acids from wheat germ oil and a little zinc. There are wonderful products on the market that one can use to effectively repel fleas as well as flying insects. Royal Guard Insect Repellent is one of the many completely natural products that are available at health food stores or natural pharmacies. Usually these products are composed of a variety of essential oils in a carrier oil base. These oils traditionally known for their insect repelling qualities include Myrrh, Pennyroyal, Citronella, Lemon Eucalyptus and others in a soy oil or Calendula-infused base. The addition of Australian Tea Tree oil also helps to soothe the itch and sting of insect bites. You can rub the oils on yourself or on your pets, especially on the back or belly of pets. Everyone will smell good, while repelling the fleas. One can also compound various herbs and rub them on cats, dogs and people to repel insects and fleas. These powders can be very effective and usually smell good as well. Now, more often than not, I use the Royal Guard or similar product.

     Fleas like to inhabit dark corners, and when they smell warm tissue will jump to it. If you mix powdered herbs, like Bay leaf and Eucalyptus together, along with Boric acid powder, and sprinkle this along the baseboards, and in corners, the flea population will be considerably reduced. You can also make flea herb pillows for your pets to sleep on. The pillows should be made of Pennyroyal, Eucalyptus and Bay for dogs and Catnip, Valerian and Chamomile for cats. These pillows are so entrancing to pets that they will claw, suck and chew, generally attempting to destroy them to get to the herbs inside. For this reason, use a really tough fabric, like denim to make the pillows. Each should be stuffed with at least 8 ounces of the mixed herbs.

     A natural flea collar is easy and simple to make. You will need a jelly jar, 4 - 8 feet of 4-inch cotton rope or thick yarn, 1 Tablespoon of cocoa butter or petroleum jelly and about 2 ounce of pure essential oil. The oil should be a mixture of Pennyroyal, Citronella, Cedar, Bay, Eucalyptus, Lavender or Sassafras. Do not use Pennyroyal alone – always use a mixture of oils. I especially prefer a combination of the first four in equal parts. Mix the essential oil with the cocoa butter or petroleum jelly and cover the cotton rope with it. Remember to get the mixture into all parts of the rope. You may have to untwist it a bit to force the mixture into the spaces. Place this rope in the jar, put the cover on, and allow it to steep for a few days. Remove the rope and pull it through your fingers to remove all the excess. Cut lengths that will fit your children's ankles, pet’s necks and tie in place using a square knot.



     The following formulation will require frequent reapplication. Another option would be to increase the Lemon Eucalyptus instead and substitute more Coconut or Grape seed oil.
1 oz Neem oil to 1 oz of Coconut oil
1 cup 95% neutral grain spirits. (Total 9000+ drops)
1 dram (120 drops) catnip oil - (will attract cats but repels bugs, so don't use this in the jungle or woods where tigers, lions and panthers live!)
1 dram (120 drops) Lemon Eucalyptus E.O. (bug repellent)
1 dram (120 drops) Lemongrass/Citronella mixture E.O (bug repellent)
2 ml (60 drops) Lavender/Peppermint E.O.
E.O mixture for scent (Total 420 drops)

 Mix the essential oils together well to integrate (succuss). Then add the Neem and vegetable oil and alcohol and shake well (succuss) before using each time. When you wish to use this, dilute 1-2 times with hydrosol or distilled water. Put into spray containers and use liberally. Shake before each use. This recipe must be reapplied frequently.  I prefer the alcohol to vegetable oil because oil makes you feel greasy/oily, which makes you feel sweaty, which attracts bugs. A light spray of the scented alcohol works better for me.

     I use essential oils of Catnip, Lemon Eucalyptus and Lemongrass for a bug repellent control. I have experimented with many blends, and find that adding the Catnip oil significantly increases the effectiveness. The spray mixed 50/50 with distilled water or Catnip hydrosol lasts from 1-3 hours depending on how much a person sweats. In an unscented lotion base, it will last longer. The total essential oil content is about 1.5% in the spray and less than that in the lotion since it stays on longer and people tend to apply more if using the lotion.

Use at dusk and spray the screens and mosquito netting (both at dusk and before bed).


wasps & yellow jackets    

     I live in a Victorian home that has a 100-year history of housing paper wasp and yellow jacket nests. During the course of the year, when I teach Aromatherapy Classes and Distillation classes and instruct people via the Aromatherapy and Herbal Studies Courses, I have to deal with these pests and instruct my students how not to get bitten, irritated or stung. I have also developed an Aromatherapy Travel & First Aid Kit to handle such emergencies.

     Yellow jackets are voracious predators of insect pests such as caterpillars and flies. They are a type of wasp but are often mistaken for bees. Sometimes they are confused with other less aggressive predatory wasps, especially paper wasps. Yellow jackets are relatively short and stout compared to the longer slender paper wasps. Paper wasps also have more dangling legs.

     Yellow jackets nests are spherical and are enclosed in a papery envelope with a small entrance hole at the bottom. They may also bed in the ground, in old logs or other places where they can burrow and make their nests. They have been found in the logs that I use to line my pathways.

     Yellow jackets build nests in abandoned rodent burrows and other holes in the ground, in attics (Christmas didn’t happen one year in my house because we could not get into the attic for a month, thus we could not get the Christmas ornaments out), in wall voids, in shrubs, in rotting logs lying in the garden and hanging from trees (tree climbers always check our trees for nests). They release a sort of fragrant glue that will attract them repeatedly to the same property. I have had yellow jacket nests in the rear wall of my home (1970), on the fence (1980), in the Avocado tree (1985), under the porch beams (1990), under the overhang of the greenhouse ledge (1995, killed with Nutmeg oil) and in the attic (1997, in the kitchen wall above the cooler (2001)). And it wasn't until they were removed from the attic that I was told about the fragrant attractant that they release. [That was the year that we had no Christmas tree, as we were afraid to go into the attic to get the ornaments]. Paper wasp nests are usually suspended from eaves or porch ceilings and look like tiny umbrellas filled with hexagonal cells.


• Don’t swat at yellow jackets as you will only aggravate them, instead flick them off your skin with the edge of a credit card, key, the laminated card that comes in the first aid kit, or other flat surface.
• Wait until it lands on a flat surface and then trap and remove the creature then either release it or freeze it to get rid of it.

• Do not strike at a yellow jacket. Slow, gentle motions like a breeze are better.
• Brush a yellow jacket off with a piece of paper and move slowly and deliberately
• Do not squash a yellow jacket. They emit a chemical when dying that can attract and cause other nearby yellow jackets to attack.

• Wear protective clothing near underground nests
• Avoid outdoor cooking if you are sensitive to stings
• Carry an epinephrine kit if you are hypersensitive to insect stings
• Outdoors, do not carry sweet drinks or snacks with meat, if you must put them in closed containers with lids. Better to carry plain water and have a nice vegetarian salad.
• Do not wear perfume. Use unscented body products.
• Wear socks and shoes.
• Wear light colored clothing.
• Move slowly and deliberately near a nest.
• When distilling, move slowly and don't distill near a nest.
• Remain calm and do not get nervous and sweat – they smell fear.

     There is a danger of multiple stings when you mess with a yellow jacket nest so it is best to have a professional remove the nest. In my area, we have a company called Beebusters. Also, there are university students doing research on the creatures and sometimes they will remove for free a particularly large nest for homeowners.

• Seal holes and cracks in foundations, walls, roofs, and eaves. They come back year-after-year to the same locations because of the familiar odor.
• Cover attic and crawl space vents with fine screen.
• Clean recyclables before storing them and keep garbage cans clean and tightly covered because Yellow jackets scavenge for meat and sweet foods.

PROBLEM: On June 30, 2000, Christine Wenrich and I distilled the Lemon Verbena; I trimmed half of the tree and cut only those branches that had flowers as well as good-looking fragrant leaves. In the past, it has been my experience that Lemon Verbena should be cut in the spring or before flowering so that it will regrow. We harvested and distilled.

     While sitting awaiting the completion of the distillation, I looked towards the division fence (divides my yard from the dog/still yard) and noticed the new Lemon Verbena from two years ago, had a very dead looking branch. I went to it and reached down the stem of the Lemon Verbena with my left arm towards the place where the plant entered the ground and was swarmed by 6 or so yellow jackets. I did everything wrong. One was caught in my hair, which I managed to brush out. However, one particularly nasty creature had already stung me on the lower left arm about 6 times and another had me on the upper left arm above my elbow. My arm became immediately painful and began to swell — I began walking quickly towards the house and warned Christine to get out of the area.

CURE: I had available the Tea Tree oil in my Travel & First Aid Kit that had been distilled from the flowering Tea Tree in Golden Gate Park and applied this oil liberally to my arm and neck. It eased the pain. I think I should have used meat tenderizer to dissolve the protein of the sting or as someone else suggested, cut half of a Tomato and apply directly to the stings to neutralize the poison.

     Over the course of the next three weeks, the sting areas swelled and became two hard knots, one on the forearm and one above the elbow. There was quite a bit of pain involved and for the pain and inflammation I took Advil® several times a day. I also continued to apply Tea Tree oil regularly and occasionally tried Lavender (anesthetic use but no healing). Occasionally, I also applied Helichrysum but I think that was just a waste of very valuable oil.

     After one week, the stings, now one hard knotty mass began to itch unbearably. I would spray them with Tea tree hydrosol, which reduced the itching considerably but would often forget and scratch unconsciously. After two weeks, the skin over the hardened knots flaked and finally the swelling subsided. I continued to spray with hydrosols. Now 3 weeks later all that is left is pinprick-sized scabs that are very slowly healing.

FUTURE CURE: One should definitely include meat tenderizer (Accent) in your first aid kit if you are near the seashore for jellyfish stings or on land for yellow jacket or hornet stings. Apply cut Tomato to dissolve acid. Bromelain, which is also a meat tenderizer, may work (Pineapple).

ADVICE: When around yellow jackets, do not run or sweat. Walk away with purpose and if one lands on you, brush it away, do not swat. They have the ability to bite or sting multiple times. Before sticking your hand into or around a plant, look for a nest. Where yellow jackets have nested in the past, they will nest again as they leave behind their odor that is persistent and will attract new colonies repeatedly.



All rights reserved 1980 - 2009. No part of this article may be used without the prior permission of Jeanne Rose. © Authors Copyright Jeanne Rose, 219 Carl St., San Francisco, CA 94117 http: www.jeannerose.net info@jeannerose.net

This article is based on 3 separate articles:

'Herbal Insect Repellents' - by Jeanne Rose©, August 1980, June 18, 2009

'Insect repellant' - Formulation given by a student of the Herbal Studies course, with additional information by Jeanne Rose

'WASP– Aromatherapy Treatments

By Jeanne Rose (Late June 2000, 2008)

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Jeanne Rose also runs a non-profit aromatherapy organization called the 'Aromatic Plant Project'. Along with the many wonderful things that this organization does, they also make a bug-repellant soap for the troops. You can buy bars of this soap for $8 + $1 s & h. Please contact Jeanne Rose at the Aromatic Plant Project for more information.

(415) 564-6785 / http://www.aromaticplantproject.com



Please visit the Jeanne Rose Site:


Author, teacher, herbalist & aromatherapist,
Jeanne Rose, shown signing one of her many books
at one of her seminars taught across the country



All views expressed in the articles on the "All Natural Info" page are those of the various authors, they are presented here for your enjoyment and enlightenment.  These views do not necessarily represent the views of SharAmbrosia or the "all natural beauty" website. 


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