Natural Ways to Repel Bugs

There are a lot of things that cross our mind when we think about being in the wilderness of our own volition or if we find ourselves up a certain creek without a paddle. We think about shelter, fire, water, food, and getting rescued. These are obvious survival priorities and should be addressed as soon as possible in that order.

We do, however, overlook things that seem like a priority of comfort rather than survival. They’re afterthoughts like headrests, meat drying racks, or fancier ways to purify your water. All of these things suggest that you’re either very bored while waiting for pickup, or you’re extremely skilled. But there’s one thing often deemed as a comfort consideration which can make or break your time trying to survive; insect repellent.

“It’s just some mosquito bites, I’ve got more important things to worry about like cliffs and bears!” You might be thinking this, or your mind jumps to a time when you thought the flies and mosquitos were driving you out of your mind. In many places in the world, there are so many biting insects the latter will happen way before you start starving. You’re going to be mad, itchy, and on edge. That is not the recipe for a smooth survival situation. That’s saying nothing about the risk of disease.

If you brought your trusty DEET laden toxic skin sauce, then bully for you. That should keep you bug-free for several hours and a small bottle is good for even a week-long hiking trip. But let’s say you only brought a half-full bottle from last time or your rescue is going to be a while. What then? Well, I have some remedies for the biters you can find in most adverse places.

1. Peppermint

I featured peppermint in my series on medicinal plants in the field. While humans have an endless affinity for the herb, insects and spiders hate it. Peppermint grows like a weed and the leaves are very oily. You can rub the leaves on your skin to repel most insects for a few hours or make a barrier of mint leaves around your shelter to deter visitors. Then use the leftovers for tea.

2. Wild Onions

Sometimes that cluster of thick grass taller than the grass around it will have small onion bulbs down in the ground. They can be added to a makeshift stew or you can rub them and the grass all over your exposed skin. It doesn’t smell nearly as good as the mint, but it does the trick.

3. Fire Smoke

If you’re like me, I like standing near a fire whether it’s warm out or cold. I like the smoky smell on my clothes that last for days. Luckily for me, bugs do not like it. Burn green vegetation and place your clothes on racks near the fire so they can absorb the smoke, then you just need to worry about your skin. Speaking of which…

4. Urine

This is only for EXTREME SITUATIONS. This is unsanitary and should only be used as a last resort and if you have excessively exposed skin. Maybe your clothes on the rack caught fire. Oops. With this method, you urinate into your leftover ash and coals then spread the mixture on your skin. You will repel everything and everyone and it stays on for hours and hours. Use this only when there is an extreme risk for West Nile and other insect-borne diseases and the swarms are hounding you day and night. Do not touch your face or food without thoroughly scrubbing the mixture off your hands.

I hate to suggest it at all, but sometimes we must do what must be done.

There are many more plants out there which repel insects but are not found in abundance like the others listed here, and most only repel certain insects which are not a problem unless you took up gardening while surviving. But how about we just bring two bottles of DEET from the get-go, okay?

Stay safe and happy hiking.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Bryan Bintliff

Bryan is an Army veteran, Masters Student at NYU, and a freelance writer dabbling in travel advice and survival tips... sometimes both at once. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and is enjoying his new weekend warrior status.
Bryan Bintliff

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