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Bug Off: Repelling Ticks, Stings & Other Things

Feeling a little stir crazy? At some point, every one of us experience the sensation. Your boss is nagging you. Your loved one reminds you every 5 minutes to finish the “Honey-Do” list. The kids just turned your HD TV into a finger-painted Picasso. Enter the outdoor excursion.

After meticulously planning the trip, the day has come, and you journey to that perfect spot. Initially fussing with a few tent poles, you resurrect your canvas castle. Feeling satisfied, you collect some fire wood and throw up a hammock. Finally, you can sit down, but something is bugging you… Literally.

The ticks march their way up your leg, hell-bent on sucking the life fluid from your body. Drones of kamikaze mosquitoes target your sweet spots, swooping in, as you attempt to swat them into bloody submission. Your peaceful outing turns into a war, as you frantically search for shelter. The insect incursion begins, and you are at ground zero.

So… How can you avoid this scenario? You could slather yourself in DEET, but some reports suggest incorrect application may cause skin irritation, disorientation, dizziness, or in some instances, death. Also, the substance is rumored to cause cancer, but this is unproven.

Another means of repelling those pesky bugs is creating your own spray out of backyard plants, garden herbs, and typical household items. This recipe will help ward off ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests.

To begin the process, collect a handful of the following plants or bark:



Lemon Balm




Cedar Wood/ Bark


Also, you will need:

½ cup Witch Hazel

½ cup Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

1 tablespoon High Proof Vodka or Ever Clear

Next, you’ll want to make a decoction, which is the process of extracting the essence of the plants/ bark by means of boiling and simmering them in water or oil. Either option will work, but the oil will make a stronger solution. As the plant material heats in the fluid, their medicinal properties leach into the resulting liquid.

To prep for the decoction, thoroughly rinse off any unwanted dirt and debris. Cut/ Break the items into small pieces. Make sure to crush, or pulverize, the plants/ bark as much as possible.

Place a stainless steel pot on the stove and fill with water, or Olive/ Vegetable oil. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the minced portions from above. (The liquid should cover, in excess, the raw bits). Immediately, turn the heat down to low. Let the mixture simmer for at least 20 minutes. As the fluid evaporates, you should see the concoction changing color, as the chemicals from the plants dissolve.

Once the fluid has evaporated down extensively, and the mash is exposed, pour more water/ oil into the pot. Once again, let the solution boil down (at least another half hour). When finished, turn off the heat and strain the suspension into a sealable glass container. Keep this decoction stored in the bottle for multiple usage.

Continue by getting a large Mason jar with a lid. Once obtained, fill the jar with the vodka (high proof alcohol), the apple cider vinegar and the witch hazel. Add one ounce of the decoction into the jar, as well. Put on the lid and lightly shake.

If you used an oil base in the decoction, the alcohol will help keep the oil and water from separating in the final solution. Also, spirits help the decoction disperse easier.

Once you complete this process, pour some of the final product into a dark colored spray bottle. Screw on the cap. Before each use, make sure to vigorously jiggle the bottle to prevent separation.

One final word of caution. Both the garlic and cedar wood can irritate the skin. You may have response to tree oils. Allergic reactions are common, which could result in a poison ivy-like rash. Additionally, garlic can inhibit blood clotting. If you are on blood thinners, you should be mindful of this possible effect. As an allergic reaction may occur, consider testing the spray on a very small portion of the skin before wide spread use. Another option is to spray the mixture directly on your clothing to avoid any potential risks. Always seek professional medical advice before using any spray if you are unsure how it will affect you.

Now you can tell those buzzing baddies to bug off! "Bee" safe and…

Journey past your limits.

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