On the Internet, there are various email chains going about with regards to home-made insect controls. Virtually anybody can be Martha Stewart or Heloise thanks to the World Wide Web. Lists of alternatives to commercial products using stuff you've probably got lying around are numerous and very popular. But, where your health and that of your family is concerned, are you willing to rely on an anonymously-authored e-mail chain letter for protection? How many of you have received the mosquito repellent one lately? It boasts the use of Bounce dryer sheets, Vicks Vapor Rub, not eating bananas, Vitamin B-12, pure vanilla, etc.
The list above bears some similarities to an earlier chain touting the mosquito repelling properties of Lemon Fresh Joy and Avon Skin So Soft. The source of the advice above is never given in these e-mails, so we have no way of knowing to what degree the author(s) went to test these so-called tips. While interesting, at best, such advice doesn't always work and can cause other health issues. What that means is if a particular home-made remedy hasn't been proven in tests, it could increase your exposure to bug bites. And in this day and age, we have to do all we can to prevent mosquito bites, because of the threat of the West Nile Virus.
West Nile virus is carried by mosquitoes and passed on to animals, birds and humans through the bug's bite. The virus causes a form of encephalitis that can be deadly to those whose immune systems are compromised, include the very old and the very young. Native to Africa, West Nile Virus was first seen in the U.S. in 2000. It spreads deeper into the country's interior every summer. Thus, the best way to avoid infection is to reduce your exposure to mosquitoes.
The only proven way to repel mosquitoes is by applying an insect repellent containing DEET. DEET works by "confusing" the bug's nervous system to prevent it from detecting all of the normal bio-signals it relies upon to find prey. In essence, it makes you invisible to the bug. Cedar Oil-based products like Cedarcide are the next best thing on the market, especially for the organically-minded, and they have lotion formulas available these days. Most insects are naturally repelled by the essence of Cedar Oil. Granted, you smell like a Cedar Closet, but that's better than Vick's Vapor Rub isn't it???
However, there is a persistent repellent in society that chemicals are bad (DEET does require special care when used on children) and that safer equivalents to any man-made substance can be found in nature. Most of the advice given above is unproven, and some could even increase your exposure to bug bites. Break this chain. Also, for those of you who have been getting the email tips for some time, may remember the tip sheet about using the Snopes.com to help debunk anything that sounds too good to be true or sounds like an urban myth. And, as I suspected, there's a lot of stuff on Snopes.com with regards to home-made insect controls.
Be sure to check out Randy's event page to see where else Randy will be for the next few weekends. Bring your plants, bugs, and diseases for identification purpose.
And you can still purchase a copy of my new book
Until our next issue, here's to great gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively weekend mornings 8 a.m.-noon on TALKRADIO 950 KPRC.
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