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Natural remedies against mosquitoes, horse flies and other insects

Natural beauty treatments

Summer sun inevitably invites us to spend more time outdoors and in contact with nature. However, in this renewed experience with the natural environment, mosquitoes, gnats, ticks and horseflies (the so-called blood-sucking insects that feed on our blood) can become unwelcome companions, which can spoil our barbecues at the park or a leisurely bike ride with friends.

However, there are some natural remedies against mosquitoes and other insects, which can help to avert their attention or which, after being bitten, limit effectively itching and discomfort.

Indeed, one of the downsides of summer are the annoying insect bites that cause itching, localised redness, and swelling. In addition, in individuals more prone to insect bites, these can even cause allergic reactions, sometimes even severe. Particular attention should be drawn to the tiger mosquito, a very aggressive insect that can also be carrier of some diseases.

Why do insect bites cause irritation?

The reactions that we see on our skin after an insect bite are due to allergens, irritant compounds, or small doses of toxic venom that insects inject in us when they bite to feed on our blood.

Moreover, in addition to the annoying itching caused by the bites of mosquitoes, a further aspect of these irritating insects is their buzz that sometimes makes it difficult to fall asleep. Interestingly, mosquitoes buzz around our ears because they are attracted by carbon dioxide, and, since we exhale carbon dioxide through the nose and mouth, these insects are especially attracted by our head!


Why do mosquitoes bite me?

Researchers are still divided as to why some people attract, more than others, the attention of these insects (among possible causes are hormonal factors, sweating, food etc.).

Some speculate that even the colour of the worn clothing may increase or decrease your risk of being bitten by these insects (according to some studies, mosquitoes would be more attracted to the black and dark colours in general).

What is certain is that people who habitually attract the attentions of mosquitoes would surely know the most effective remedies to keep them away, or at least those to lessen the discomfort of their bites.

Natural remedies against mosquitoes

Step 1: prevention

Prevention is the first, crucial step to keep our skin free from redness, swelling and itching caused by insect bites. It being understood that, at home, it can always be useful to install a good mosquito net, here are some tips to follow to ward off these pesky companies.

  • Natural Sprays with essential oils of neem and citronella. The application on the skin of natural sprays made from essential oils of neem, citronella, lavender and basil, can create an unfavourable environment for mosquitoes and other insects, such as horseflies, lice and fleas. The synergistic presence of the essential oil of peppermint not only repels insects but can also help soothe the consequent nuisance of possible bites.
  • Beware of stagnant water! The mosquito can also breed and proliferate even in a little water. That's why it is good to pay attention to stagnant water, especially in the homes or close to dwellings. Also be careful not to leave standing water in flowerpot saucers, where mosquito larvae could easily develop. Some advise to put some copper in it (for example, a few coins or copper wires without sheath) to kill any larvae.
  • Beware of sweat and odour! According to some studies, mosquitoes would also be particularly attracted to sweat and the body odours. That's why you should always dry the skin after outdoor physical activity and do not skimp on showers, especially in full summer.
  • Less alcohol. Some research suggest that mosquitoes are attracted by the smell emanating from hardened drinkers and alcoholics. As a result, you should avoid excesses in the consumption of alcohol and beer.

Step 2: soothing

If, despite all the precautions you have been bitten by mosquitoes, you can still act on irritation to try and ease the discomfort. Except in the cases in which intense reactions occur (for which it is always good to seek the opinion of a doctor), the discomfort caused by insect bites fade away after a few days. To mitigate small burns or localised discomfort you may, however, require a certain care and use specific natural remedies. Let's look into them together:

  • Immediately ice! To reduce itching and swelling resulting from the bite of a mosquito or other insects it is advisable to apply ice immediately on it. Possibly the ice should not be applied in direct contact with the skin but wrapped in a soft tissue. The cold effect will be useful in getting a vasoconstriction and "numbing" any itching or burning.
  • Lavender, calendula and aloe. To soothe minor burns or localised redness you can benefit from applying the essential oil of lavender, with refreshing properties, or natural gels containing Aloe and Calendula, with emollient and soothing properties.
  • Do not scratch. Although it is difficult to resist the temptation to scratch, it would be better to try to endure the discomfort caused by mosquito bites. Scratching the bites, you might further irritate the skin and accentuate the itching.

Are there remedies against gadflies?

Gadflies are rather widespread insects, especially in the heat, in wetlands or marshes, also known as "horse flies". The females of gadflies generally feed on the blood of mammals and their bite can be very painful.

The sting of a gadfly is indeed deeper than that of a bee and, consequently, generates more pain. The bite of a gadfly can also take several days to heal, and can also develop infections.

Remedies against gadflies

To keep out horseflies it can also be useful to use natural sprays based on essential oil of neem, lemongrass, mint and others, whose smell is particularly unwelcome to insects.

What if a gadfly has already stung? In case of a gadfly sting it is advisable to immediately clean the wound with water and antiseptic soap, to prevent future infections. A "first aid" for pain relief may be attained by local application of ice and, subsequently, of an Aloe vera-based gel. To reduce the risk of infection, it is always good to cover the wound with a sterile gauze and in case of allergic reactions (such as, for example, hives) or dizziness/difficulty breathing, contact a physician immediately.

The "human" origin of Mint

As we have seen, Mint is one of the most effective herbs in natural remedies against mosquitoes: the leaves are used to prepare an oil or protective lotions; also, rubbing a mint leaf on the bite of a mosquito or other insect you can get relief from the itching on the skin. However, mint, as well as many other plants, is linked to a legend taken from Ovid's Metamorphoses, which gives it a human origin: Mentha was a nymph, daughter of the God Cocito, "loved by Pluto and transformed into the plant by the goddess Persephone, his bride. According to mythology, the goddess discovered her husband's betrayal and, taken from a fit of jealousy, wanted to get revenge by turning it into an inconspicuous and seemingly insignificant plant. [...] However, not to humiliate Pluto completely, she allowed the small plant to still have something pleasant in every part of its body: the fresh aroma of its perfume». (Manuale di Aromaterapia, a cura della French Academy, Rifreddo 2016).


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