The Science of Mosquitos and Repellents

Posted by Monika Meulman on

Bug Off already!

As the weather gets nicer and summer is all around us, it seems all we want to do is spend time in the great outdoors! But with that beautiful weather comes the seemingly unavoidable pests and mosquitos. Many people don’t realize that mosquitos pollinate blueberries… so, they are quite the necessary evil you might say! But just because the blueberries need them near, doesn’t mean we do, right?

Did you know that some essential oils are natural pest repellants?

Lemongrass, Lavender, and Eucalyptus essential oils, among others, deter insects naturally! These essential oils are overlooked next to the infamous Citronella, but often work better to keep the pests away. Read more to learn about the aromatic fascinating world of mosquitoes..

In the seventh century AD the Slavic people used Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary), Ocimum basilicum (Basil), Iris germanica (Bearded Iris), and Mentha viridis (Spearmint) in cosmetics, Alium sativum (Garlic) as a remedy and Veratrum album (False Hellebore), Cucumis sativus (Cucumber), Urtica dioica (Nettle), Achilea millefolium (Yarrow), Artemisia maritime L. (Sea Wormwood), Lavandula officinalis (Lavender), Sambuci flos (Elderflower) against several injurious insects, i.e. louses, fleas, moths, mosquitos, and spiders…

 Historical review of medicinal plants’ usage

essential oils used in our bug repellent



But what is this thing we call a repellant?

There are so many terms on the market and sprays, lotions, chemical blends marketed toward us to ‘get it quick’ and keep ‘bugs away’. How does this work? What actually happens when you spray yourself with a repellent? Let us define what we mean by repellent:





The term “repellent” is often used with different meanings. The traditional definition describes a repellent as a thing that causes oriented movement away from a source, essentially the opposite of an attractant, which is a thing that causes oriented movement towards a source (Dethier et al. 1960)…It is important to discern between chemicals that cause specific oriented movement away from a source (repellent chemical), and chemicals that physiologically prevent an insect from responding to an otherwise attractive stimulus.


all natural mosquito repellent safe for pets

There are so many options out there from synthetic formulas that can be sprayed on clothes and skin to all natural products. If synthetic repellants irritate your skin, you might want to try natural occurring plant blends.

We blend a natural Hydrosol based mosquito repellant – BUG OFF, a true repellant – because it actually stops the mosquitos from landing on you. More on this further below (Nature Lovers…)



 Did you know that mosquitos find their sugar food sources by sensing volatile (smelly/aromatic) compounds in nature and find their next host that way too! (humans express over 350 chemical smells from their bodies)

One more fact!

The mosquito has received the distinct notoriety as the most dangerous animal in the world?!


And, it may all be monkey business.

There may be a time in the future where we have repellant application family gatherings like the White Faced Capuchin monkeys. Sometimes they apply repellant on their own, sometimes they do so in groups! Quite a few monkey species and even birds cover themselves with volatile plant materials that repel various mosquito species.

But I digress. For most of us, we are content and capable to apply a spray repellant onto our own skin or clothing, with the exception of the youngest members in our families.

Did you know:

Burning of various plants/plant oils and other materials to produce smoke as a spatial repellent is the oldest recorded method for repelling nuisance mosquitoes by humans…

burning sage for insect repellent

"the fumigant toxicity of some insecticidal components in the smoke of burned plant materials results in an excito-repellent effect where low concentrations irritate the insects so that they escape before knockdown”


If you want to promote nature, explore nature, stop putting chemicals on your skin. AND, refuse to pollute on your adventures, you need a naturally blended plant based mosquito repellant.
Currently, only one compound has been recognized as an alternative to DEET internationally: the monoterpenes found in lemon eucalyptus.

Globally there are four major DEET alternatives, only one of which, PMD, is registered in Canada. These alternatives include Picaridin (2-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperidinecarboxylic acid 1-methylpropyl ester; KBR 3023; Trade-name Bayrepel®), DEPA (N,N-diethyl phenyl acetamide), as well as the naturally occurring IR3535 (Ethyl 10 butyl acetyl aminopropionate) and PMD. IR3535 is derived from the amino acid – alanine, whereas PMD, which became registered for use in 2002 (PMRA Regulatory Decision Document, RDD2002-04), is a monoterpene in the residue of steam distillates of lemon scented eucalyptus, Corymbia citriodora (Myrtaceae).

The aromatics, the volatile components of aromatic plant extracts – essential oils, CO2s, absolutes, and hydrosols all serve well in repelling various outdoor pests from the body. The trick, the science, the magic is in finding the right formula for the numerous flying pests near you. This changes every year. 


Essential oils from such plants as andiroba, basil, catnip, cedar, citronella grass, clove, lemon scented eucalyptus, garlic, geranium, neem, rosemary, and thyme have all been identified as effective mosquito repellents. For most essential oils, it appears that repellency is most commonly due to the presence of terpenoids, which are often tested in repellency bioassays based on their status as the most abundant compounds within the oil……of 43 compounds …most ubiquitous of which were -caryophyllene, linalool, 1,8-cineole, geraniol, and geranial.


Long Story Short:

Using a natural repellant is a time tested practice.
Also, we blend essential oils and floral waters that are pet (dog/canine! - not feline/cat) friendly. You can use the aromatic safely on your dog, when enjoying the great outdoors. 

If you enjoy spending time in the garden with your favourite canine furry friend, you may enjoy learning about gardening with your pup too: Ultimate Guide to Gardening with Dogs on this DIY site (Happy DIY Home)



You must use a natural mosquito repellent that has been tested over time and is constantly evolving to reflect the changing needs in our environment. Our Bug OFF is a true repellant: it keeps bugs from landing on you, especially mosquitoes. We reserve the right to alter the formula over the years as better extracts and essential oil compounds come on the market. The one constant: 100% all plant natural.

bug off insect repellent lotion


The ingredients we have found work best for the mosquitoes of our provinces and neighbouring states/province are: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) and Peppermint (Mentha piperita) hydrosols. Our super aromatic blend also contains Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), Eucalyptus radiata & Eucalyptus citriodora essential oils. 

Happy Bug Free Hiking, Camping, Gardening and Out-doorsing this Summer!


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