How I’m Fighting the Bug Bites of Summer, One Terrible Idea At A Time

When the first bites of the season sprouted all over my body in groovy constellations, I sought out some au natural tricks for prevention and relief.
Publish date:
June 26, 2013
mosquitoes, summer, bananas, creative solutions, Mark Ruffalo

Insects are really having their Big Moment, aren’t they?

Claire is eating them, valiantly. Cicadas are filling the air with a “stench of death,” charmingly. And is it not Pharrell who croons, “Bugs up all night to get lucky?” (It is not, but please bear with me, as I needed a third point.)

Yep, waking up with these red-hot mosquito mounds gives me that old “AHHH, Summatime!” feeling. The thirsty buggers have followed me near and far over the years, from the flatlands of Kansas to muggy college dorms to Amsterdam canals, gorging themselves by night and leaving their throbbing marks by morning. Even now, in midtown Manhattan, in the middle of the day, they are stalkier than ever! The ways of my particular flesh are simply irresistible to their eager little proboscises(es?).

My usual preventative measures include epic toxic mistings of Off! Deep Woods. It’s still inconclusive as to whether DEET ruins the environment, causes cancer, and makes life terrible, but I thought I’d try to steer clear this time. So when the first bites of the season sprouted all over my body in groovy constellations, I sought out some au natural tricks for prevention and relief. I’ve narrowed down this lengthy list and divided it into the rational and the ridiculous.

First, the Silly:

• Forget florals and color and any sign of life or trendiness in your wardrobe at all, because the bugs will be all on your skin like, “Wheredja get that maxi dress, gurl? Bzzz!, etc.” To borrow from Michael Pollan: “Wear long clothes. Very much. Mostly beige.”

• Get some garlic juice and water in a spray bottle and baby, you got a spritz going.

• Do not drink beer or soda, because they love the fizzies. Do not breathe, because they LOVE breath. Do not make any sudden movements.

• Have bats around. They are kind of cool, and they will have the bugs over for supper…TO EAT THEM!

I apologize. I did not try any of these Sillies. Combined, they seem like a fool-proof formula to get rid of mosquitoes, but also human companionship.

Hush. The bats are your family now.

Now, the Sensible:

• Bounce dryer sheets. Apparently carrying dryer sheets around in your pockets reduces your deliciousness by 30% due to a compound called linalool, which is pretty neat as far as words go. Also, more excuses to buy dresses with pockets. Beige only, of course.

• B vitamins. I’m starting to take a B-complex supplement, since thiamine (B1) supposedly infuses you with an odor that wards off pregnant skeeters. And hey, it also helps metabolize carbohydrates! Wins all around, now pass dat bear claw.

Burt’s Bees All Natural Herbal Insect Repellent. Yeesh, I really did not intend for this article to have so many b-words. Anyway, this formula combines all sorts of fancy oils that taste like poo to mosquitoes, if mosquitoes found poo distasteful, which they don’t, because they are the worst. Rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, citronella, and more. It makes me smell like outside. All herbaceous and, well, as fragrant as Mr. Burt Bee himself probs. Definitely not as overpowering as other natural repellents.

I spray it into my hands (spritzing freely might discolor your clothes, but you’re only allowed to wear khaki rags now, so who cares?). Then I slather it on all exposed skin, including my hairline. Given that it’s a pretty greasy formula, I’ve been leaving a sluggy slime trail wherever I roam. But it works! And no DEET-coated eyeballs!

OK, so you simply HAD to guzzle that Yuengling and breathe a whole bunch and make sudden movements on some sweltering Bushwick patio. How could you be so foolish? Now you need some relief from the redness/itch/swelling.

The Flops:

Rub a banana peel on them thangs for 90 mins. Ay dios crappo, I just had to try this one for the novelty factor. Great story to tell at parties, right? I spent my 90 minutes watching The Bachelorette, which I do not recommend. Pick another thing.

• Cucumber slices. This was a dud, as I knew it would be, because cucumbers are frankly stupid vegetables. Phew, I’ve been dying to get that off my chest for years!

The Pretty Goods:

• Baking soda, added to a bath or mixed with water to form a paste.

• Preparation H, jack-of-all-trades when it comes to curing weird stuff on your body. Puffy eyes, saggy skin, ouchy bums. And now bug bites! A real Renaissance ointment.

Other tried and true remedies? Before bed, I usually pop two Benadryls to help with swelling and take a bath with some soothing lavender Epsom salts or Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap, always refreshing in the schvitzy summer months. A frozen bag of peas can be quite versatile, whether you’re soothing your achey bites, or your boyfriend needs to ice his particulars after you threw your phone at his crotch. ACCIDENTALLY! That bag of peas has seen much suffering.

I sent out the Bug Signal on Facebook to see if friends had any other interesting remedies and/or thoughts on Mark Ruffalo, just to keep the proceedings extra dorkish.

Suggestions for prevention included eating a lot of fruit but NEVER bananas. Healing methods were hand sanitizer, crushed aspirin, toothpaste, tea tree oil, rubbing alcohol, and my personal favorite, ripping the bites open and covering them in nail polish. I did just buy that OPI liquid sand stuff - but I am not yet so desperate.

Oh, and the results re: Ruffalo were sadly inconclusive.

So, do you dread the stings and nibbles that summer brings, or do insects steer clear of you like human citronella? What remedies do you bust out when those buggers come a-sucking? Doesn’t anyone care that Mark Ruffalo has a kid named Bella Noche Ruffalo!? Inquiring, Bendaryl-zonked minds need to know!