Eco-Parenting: Homemade Bug Spray

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Welcome to the Earth Day Blog Carnival! This post is part of the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival hosted by Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction. The participants have shared their practices and insights for earth friendly, environmentally conscious, eco-living. This carnival is our way to share positive information and inspiration that can create healing for our planet. Please read to the end of this post to find a list of links to the other carnival participants. Happy Earth Day!

Although we live in the city, we spend most warm days hiking in the woods, picnicking on the grass, and otherwise absorbed in the natural world around New England. I have never felt comfortable using commercial insect repellant on children, especially those that contain DEET, but I also want to take some precautionary measures while allowing my children to grow up with a deep appreciation for nature and the wilderness.

I must temper my personal concerns about nature's potential threats, particularly the threat in this area of tick-borne Lyme disease, with the much greater good that I believe comes from allowing children to freely explore the natural world. As author Richard Louv writes in his book, The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder: "Spending time in nature, particularly in wilderness, can pose physical dangers, but rejecting nature because of those risks and discomforts is a greater gamble."

I researched various bug-spray options, including commercial brands, natural brands, and make-your-own recipes and finally decided on two, simple, homemade recipes that I like best.  You can try both and see what works well for your bugs!  The ingredients are said to be natural tick and bug repellents that are safe for the whole family. Using a small spray bottle, I spray the mixture on our skin and clothing before a hike in the woods. I cannot guarantee that these recipes are as effective as commercial bug-sprays, but they are mixtures with which I feel comfortable and ones that I hope, along with daily body tick scans, help us to reduce our likelihood of a tick-borne illness.

Homemade Bug Spray Recipe I

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup water
20 drops of Peppermint essential oil

Homemade Bug Spray Recipe II

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Witch Hazel
10 drops of Peppermint essential oil

(You can use a variety of your favorite essential oils to add potency, especially eucalyptus oil and citrus oil, but I like peppermint essential oil because it is both gentle for children and nursing mothers, and effective as a bug repellent.)

I believe that the benefits of instilling in our children a love of the earth, of nature and the wild world around us, far outweigh nature's potential risks. I try to take reasonable precautions for my family, stay vigilant, and remember early homeschooling writer, Charlotte Mason's wise words in her 1906 book Home Education: "With regard to the horror which some children show of beetle, spider, worm, that is usually a trick picked up from grown-up people."

Thank you for stopping by the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival! Please take the time to read these other great eco-living posts: Earth Day Blog Carnival - Child of the Nature Isle and Monkey Butt Junction
  • You are a Child of the Earth - Using the Earth as their classroom, Patti from Canadian Unschool teaches her 4 children their spiritual connection to the Earth and she accepts that loving the Earth can get really, really messy.
  • Cutting Out Paper - Jorje of Momma Jorje shares how she went from curiosity and concern to actually cutting out the use of paper towels in her household. She is proud to be "greener" as each Earth Day passes.
  • The World is Brown - Debra Ann Elliot of Words are Timeless believes in keeping the Earth green, but because so many people inhabit the Earth it is turning brown because people aren't doing their part by reducing, reusing, and recycling.
  • 7 Child And Eco Friendly Activities To Honor The Earth (Plus Some Environmental Books For Kids) - Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her favorite books that help children become more aware of the importance of respecting and caring for Mother Earth. In addition, she hosts a guest post outlining seven child and eco friendly activities to honor the earth.
  • 5 Ways We Teach Our Children To Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle - Valarie at Momma In Progress shares a few tips for encouraging young children to care for the earth.
  • Little Changes - Big Results - Meegs at A New Day talks about how sometimes it’s the little decisions and changes that can lead us to find big results, and how she's baby-stepping her way to a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
  • Inspiring the Next Generation - aNonyMous at at Radical Ramblings hopes to inspire her daughter to live a green and sustainable lifestyle, in the same way she was inspired by her high-school science teacher, and talks about the changes her family are making towards this vision.
  • Eco-Friendly Cleansers: Safe For the Environment, Healthy For Every Body - Rebekah at Liberated Family writes about safe and natural alternatives to toxic, household cleaning products..
  • Lightening My Footprint with Cloth Nappies (Diapers) - Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares the biggest eco-choice she has made so far, and why she is so passionate about it.
  • Clutter Free for a Cause - At Living Peacefully with Children Mandy's penchant for decluttering and simple living cuts down on consumerism, taking less of a tole on the Earth.
  • Eco-Parenting: Homemade Bug Spray - Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares a homemade bug spray recipe that helps her family to enjoy the natural world while taking precautions against bug bites.
  • Let the Scales Fall From My Eyes...Just Not Too Quickly - Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about the discomfort of no longer being able to live in denial over how her choices affect the world around her.
  • Fostering Love of Earth - Justine at The Lone Home Ranger instills a love of nature in her daughters by embarking on their first backyard vegetable garden together.
  • Being in Nature - Carrie at Love Notes Mama knows that just being in nature is more than enough.
  • 5 Ways to Pass Down Environmental Values to Your Children - Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares how easy it can be to instill environmental values in your children.
  • Viva Portlandia - Amy at Anktangle writes about the place she lives and loves in: Portland. She describes the ways this green city makes it easy for her family to take care of our earth, and also the steps she's taking to further lessen her family's environmental impact.
  • Conspicuous Conservationism - Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction examines the phenomenon of eco-conscious behavior as a status symbol.
  • Time for Radical Sustainability - Terri at Child of the Nature Isle ponders how she can model a truly sustainable lifestyle for her children and raise them in a way that their environmental consciousness is as natural as breathing!
A big thank you to all of the 2012 Earth Day Blog Carnival participants!


  1. Thank you for sharing this Kerry!

    I used to be all about the DEET before I had Bean (mosquitoes love me :p) but now we go all natural as well. I've found Herbal Armor to be very effective (though it is VERY potently smelly - I generally tend to save it for camping!) and have found a natural rub made w/beeswax and essential oils I really like that smells a bit nicer. We also plan to plant some mosquito repelling plants in our backyard this year - looking forward to seeing how they work!

  2. Great recipes! And a nice quote from Charlotte Mason too. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Making your own bug spray is such a good idea. We frequently have to deal with mosquitoes in the evenings here in Toronto. Citronella and Lemongrass Essential Oils are also insecticidal and can be used on the skin.

  4. I look forward to trying this recipe...

  5. Ooh, great idea! I'll definitely be trying these out this Summer. Thanks!

  6. I'll have to bookmark this! I just bought some organic bug spray (made with essential oils), but when I run out, I'll definitely try making my own!

  7. These are great, thanks so much for sharing, I'm definitely going to try them, as we battle with mosquitoes more than anything, but we don't let that put us off exploring outside :)

  8. Yay for homemade bug spray! I make this every year but will try your recipes! Homemade always works best and of course is much better for our skin like you discuss!