Bug off, nicely

June 24, 2014

A better insect repellent

For many of us, summer means mosquitoes, black flies and other annoying pests. Most commercial repellents contain Deet as their active ingredient. It’s approved by Health Canada, but with some cautionary words – like “prolonged use should be avoided in children under the age of 12.” (More from Health Canada here.)

If you’d prefer an alternative you can make yourself with a few basic ingredients, here’s a recipe courtesy of Green Ideas subscriber Dab Napthine in Nova Scotia:

  • In a 16 oz bottle, combine 15 drops lavender oil, 3-4 tablespoons of vanilla extract and 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Fill bottle with water
  • Shake!

Voila – ready to use as a topical spray! Thanks for the tip Dab!

Simple ways you can help bees

Bees are among the most important and hardest workers on the planet, pollinating an estimated one third of human food crops. But their numbers have been declining in recent years. Experts suspect diseases and parasites; exposure to pesticides; loss of habitat and food sources as land is converted from native vegetation to fields, lawns, subdivisions and cities; and a shifting climate are responsible.

Here are ways you can help bees and other pollinators:

  • Avoid the use of pesticides, particularly insecticides. When pesticide use is unavoidable, apply in the evening after bee activity has stopped; use products with lower toxicity to bees; and avoid spraying during flowering periods when bees are most active.
  • Help build bee populations by providing habitat and a continuous food supply. Manicured lawns provide neither food nor habitat, so why not convert a corner of your property into a cluster of clover and other wildflowers (no mowing required!). Consider planting a spectrum of perennials that flower all summer long; your garden center can advise you on bee preferences.
  • Create bee habitat by making a bee house or bee bath: perfect projects for kids and their parents!

Let’s not take our bee friends for granted – they’re workers we depend on!