Key things to do:

  1. Make a solution of dishwashing detergent and water to spray insects.
  2. Citronella candles scent the air and many insects hate them, so stock up.
  3. Stay on top of summer cleaning and give insects no reason to visit.

Warm weather is a time to fling open doors and windows. But no one wants uninvited guests in the form of insects, especially the kind that sting. Here’s how to keep bugs at bay without a haze of pesticides.

1.     A bug-free zone

Commercial insect killers may affect health, so try these approaches instead:

  • Spray ants and other crawlies with a solution of diluted dishwashing detergent in water.
  • Leave cucumber slices, garlic cloves or bay leaves in areas where insects gather to deter them. Garlic or pepper powder work well too.
  • Plant marigolds around your garden, or in window-sill pots, as most flying insects don’t like them.
  • Remove any standing or still water around the home to stop mosquitoes breeding.
  • During a braai, put some rosemary or sage on the coals to drive mosquitoes away.
  • Citronella candles smell great and mosquitoes don’t like them.
  • Plant lemongrass in outdoor areas. You can also use it in Thai food.
  • Mix 1 teaspoon of neem oil with 1 litre of water and a tiny amount of dishwashing detergent to make an insect spray for the garden.
  • Cinnamon sticks in the kitchen will help keep insects away, and ground cinnamon can be sprinkled in outdoor areas.

2.     Personal protection

  • Buy fresh lemongrass, peel a stalk and rub the core between your palms until it is soft and can be spread over the skin. It has healing properties as well.
  • Crush fresh peppermint leaves and rub over your skin. Or spray yourself with diluted peppermint essential oil – a few drops in a cup of water - to be insect free and have a minty fresh aroma.
  • Smell delicious and repel insects with 3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 to 4 tablespoons of vanilla extract and 15 drops of lavender essential oil combined in a spray bottle with 500ml of water.
  • Cinnamon, citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender oils are disliked by insects. Experiment with combining different essential oils in water-based sprays to see which works best for you. Castor oil and witch hazel can also be added to natural repellents. Lemon, orange and clove essential oils can work well too.

Be careful when using essential oils as they can be toxic to pets. Essential oils should always be diluted, and children should not handle them. If any member of your household accidentally consumes essential oils or has an allergic reaction to them, then please seek medical advice.