Summer is pretty much over here in Alaska, but the last couple months we seemed to have more than our share of little flying biting critters – mosquitos, flies and god knows what else. The tiny flies were worse than the mozzies this year it seemed.
Having grown up in the interior of Alaska, where mosquitos are legendary, we have a pretty fair amount of experience with insect repellents. 100 Percent DEET is still our choice for the bug-pocalypse, with high concentrations of Picardin a runner-up. If you want to get all scientific about it, you can visit the EPA's "choose your poison" site, or check out the CDC site with links to specific destinations. DEET is proven safe, and mandatory for areas with a lot of insect-borne pathogens, but for very young infants and pregnant women it might be a good idea to avoid it if you can, and that's where the natural stuff comes in.
One other reason to be careful with DEET: it can degrade your expensive technical fabrics rather quickly, so you need to be careful how you apply it. There are a number of studies showing that lemongrass can be an effective repellent. Similar to citronella, lemongrass has been studied as a deterrent to mosquitos and flies, and the evidence shows it can be effective. We checked out Bug Soother, which comes in a handy one ounce spray bottle. We like the fact that it smells really nice, a mix of lemon and vanilla, and that it's all natural, but does it work?
On a recent hike to a dead salmon-infested beach, with low-flying swarms of no-see-ums, it seemed to work just fine. We wore low-cut socks and sprayed around our ankles to see if would collect the expected ankle-biter harvest, but at the end of the hike we were pleasantly surprised to be bite-free. We will be keeping Bug Soother in our kit for next summer and give it a shaking out in the Spring to report back, but we are encouraged by our initial test. And did we mention it really does smell good?