If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.EDWARD O. WILSON
This time of year is perfect gardening weather! But being out and about in the garden means adventuring into the insect’s domain and occasionally, bites and stings happen.
Ahhh, Australia. Full of bitey things, big and small.
The most comprehensive information I have found regarding the various bites and stings Australia has to offer can be found at healthdirect.gov.au
When out and about, the best protection against bug bites is to cover up, especially in the garden. Wear shoes, long sleeve shirt, gloves, hat and long pants.
Insect repellants have their place, as do pest deterrents, but the best prevention is being observant and vigilant.
Stay away from beehives, wild or domestic. Before picnicking, check for ant’s nests. Avoid swampy or marshy areas and at dusk and early morning if you are concerned about mosquitos.
Insect bites can go from irritating to life-threatening within a very short amount of time.
Occasionally, an insect bite can cause a life-threatening, severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. You may have no known allergy or even been bitten by the same creature with no previous incident, but anaphylaxis can happen to any individual.
Anaphylaxis occurs when an over-release of chemicals puts the person into shock. It can occur within 20 minutes to 2 hours of the bite or sting and quickly become life-threatening. Call 000 and seek medical attention immediately if you observe the following
Symptoms of Anaphylaxis
- Skin rashes and itching and hives.
- Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat.
- Shortness of breath, trouble breathing, wheezing (whistling sound during breathing)
- Dizziness and/or fainting.
- Paleness and floppiness, especially in small children
- Stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea.
Similarly, if you are noticing swelling from a bite that is getting worse, and crossing a bone joint, for example, moving from your forearm across your elbow and up toward your shoulder, seek medical attention immediately.
Any bruising, skin peeling and other alarming symptoms from a bite must be attended to by a medical professional ASAP.
Bees, on the most part, will ignore you and happily go about their own busy bee business.
But if you accidentally disturb their hive, or get too close, they will use their stings as a last defence in protection of their hive.
A bee dies when they sting you, but they also leave a chemical mark, that alerts other bees to your “threat”. So if you have been stung near a lot of bees, move slowly away from the bees until they no longer follow you, and this may be some distance.
Bees will panic if you panic, so stay calm! It’s a big ask I know, but avoid flailing your arms about or yelling. It will freak them out, and not in a good way.
Once a safe distance away, remove the sting by scraping it off the surface of your skin with your fingernail or a flat object like a credit card. Be careful not to disturb the venom sac and inevitably inject more venom into your skin.
Raw honey is the best relief I have found to soothe bee stings almost instantly. A cold pack applied to the sting will offer some relief and assist with any swelling. It may itch like crazy over the next few days which is the result of the bee toxin being broken down by your bodies immune system.
Applying Soothing Bug Bite Gel (see recipe below) cool from the fridge may offer relief.
Mosquitos are more than just annoying, they can carry serious diseases and so it is so important to ensure you don’t get stung in the first instance.
Around the garden, empty out any bodies of water, to prevent mosquitoes from breeding their larvae.
If you have a pond, consider installing a fountain, as the moving water agitates the larvae. Or speak to your local aquaponics nursery for advice on populating your pond with native, larvae-eating fish.
The worst of the mosquitoes are usually experienced at early morning and dusk, so be sure to cover up, or use environmental deterrents like mosquito coils, citronella lamps or candles to repel them from your entertaining areas.
If you do get stung, the back of a teaspoon warmed in a mug of drinkable temperature tea (around 60 degrees
Sometimes, the only evidence you have of an ant nest nearby is getting bitten. Bull ant bites are especially nasty, as they inject venom as they bite.
If you have ever been bitten by one of Australia’s 89 different species of
Bull ants are especially aggressive when they feel threatened, so if you are getting bitten, your best bet is to move. Fast.
But if you have been bitten, apply a cold pack as soon as you can to soothe the pain and assist with swelling.
Over the next few days, the bite will itch, so apply Soothing Bug Bite Gel for relief.
Tropical Strength Personal Insect Repellant
I must admit, I was surprised to discover some natural insect repellants with essential oils like lavender and lemongrass on their ingredient list.
As a beekeeper, I have used those herbs to successfully attract bees as swarm lures. I believe the sweeter and more floral a natural insect repellant smells, the less effective it will be. Insects love flowers just as much as we do!
So I must warn you, my recipe for this personal insect repellant smells awful.
I will also caution against using it on your face, on broken skin or skin exposed to sunlight.
I personally find citronella essential oil quite pungent and irritating. Citronella needs to be in a high concentration for it’s repelling properties to work. I have used 10ml which is just less than 5% of the overall formulation.
Note, this recipe uses citronella essential oil, not the fragrance oil, or the oil used in outdoor flares.
Neem is a traditional Ayurvedic herb native to India. Neem oil has both pesticide and germicidal properties and is an effective insect repellent. It smells pretty terrible, I think it is reminiscent of squahed bugs or mustard oil.
The coconut oil ensures the blend remains on your skin, which will discourage bugs for longer. You may need to reapply this repellant every few hours. It is not waterproof, so reapply if you have been swimming.
If you can’t avoid insects by any other way, give this repellant a try.
You will need
- 250 ml (1 cup) Coconut oil, melted.
- 2ml (40 drops) Neem oil.
- 10ml Citronella essential oil.
Blend your essential oils with the coconut oil and pour into a sterilised jar to cool. Apply to your body immeadiately before exposure. Do not use on your face, on broken skin or areas exposed to sunlight.
Soothing Bug Bite Gel
Should you have the misfortune of getting bitten, this gel can offer some relief. The aloe vera soothes the skin, as witch hazel acts as an astringent to soothe itching. Peppermint oil is cooling, while the anti-inflammatory properties of lavender and tea tree oil will assist with healing the skin.
Keep this gel in the refrigerator. Do not apply to broken skin or infected bites. Instead, seek medical attention.
You will need
- 100ml aloe vera gel.
- 10ml distilled witchazel.
- 10 drops peppermint essential oil.
- 5 drops lavender essential oil.
- 5 drops of tea tree oil.
Blend all ingredients together and bottle. Keep in the fridge and apply as often as required.
Do you have a favoured insect repellant recipe or remedy you would like to share? I would love to hear from you, Please leave a message below!