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Natural Insect Repellent - Questions and Answers

Natural

A natural insect repellent is a substance that occurs somewhere in the wild that has been found to have insect repellent properties. Typically the insect repellent would be derived from a plant extract, and it is likely to be refined and concentrated before use to increase its effectiveness.

This varies enormously from product to product. At one end of the scale it may be as simple as picking a herb and bottling it, whilst at the other end it could be as complex as manufacturing a copy of the active ingredient in a laboratory - it's still the same product, but the active ingredient is manufactured rather than extracted from the wild. Typically this would be done to increase the availability, improve the quality and consistency, and reduce the cost of the product.

Citriodiol and Citrepel

Citrepel

Citriodiol and Citrepel are trade names for Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus - the essential oil that is found in the leaves of the Eucalyptus Citriodora tree. The chemical name for the active ingredient is p-Menthane-3,8-diol - often abbreviated to PMD. Citriodiol and Citrepel should not be confused with Citronella which is a totally different product (and is described in more detail below).

Citriodiol blocks the insect's olfactory receptors for a volatile substance that is contained in human sweat and breath. In other words, it 'blinds' the insect's sense of smell to the presence of humans and makes it difficult for them to find you.

Generally, it works well with all the insects that are trying to find you so that they can bite you and feed off you - mosquitoes, midges, sand flies, biting flies and fleas, etc. It also works reasonably well with ticks and chiggers, but it doesn't work with spiders and stinging insects - bees, wasps and hornets, etc. Fortunately though these insects don't usually come looking for you to deliberately sting you, so the best strategy with stinging insects is to try and keep out of their way.

Citriodiol is in Toxicity Category 4 (described as 'practically non-toxic' - the lowest of 4 categories) for oral, dermal and skin irritation, but in Toxicity Category 2 (described as 'moderately toxic') for eye irritation. Hence, it is generally safe to use, but care should be taken to keep it well away from the eyes - particularly with young children.

Generally, manufacturers are wary about recommending anything for use with pregnant women and children under the age of 2 and the same is true of Citriodiol and Citrepel. However, Citriodiol and Citrepel are probably better than most alternatives and it may be preferable on balance to use it - rather than run the risk of getting bitten - but if in doubt consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

The active ingredient is Citriodiol in the following products: MosiGuard, Incognito, Ben's Natural and Care Plus Natural Insect Repellent.

Pyrethrin

Pyrethin

Pyrethrin is the name given to an extract derived from the Pyrethrum plant, which is better known as the Chrysanthemum. Pyrethrin is a natural product and it is not the same as Permethrin - a synthetic, man-made form of Pyrethrin.

Pyrethrin is an insecticide that affects the nervous system of insects - it permeates the shell or skin of the insect and casues paralysis, which then leads to death.

Yes - it is lethal to all insects - although higher doses may be required to kill larger insects.

Pyrethrin is toxic to insects but with regard to mammals and birds it is one of the least toxic insecticides available with one notable exception - cats. Cats are particularly sensitive to Pyrethrin for reasons that aren't fully understood so it should never be used on cats or applied when cats are around. It is also highly toxic to fish and other aquatic life so it should never be desposed of in waterways.

Generally, manufacturers are wary about recommending anything for use with pregnant women and children under the age of 2 and the same is true of Pyrethrin. There doesn't appear to be much evidence to suggest that it might be a problem - but if in any at all doubt consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

The active ingredient is Pyrethrin in the following products: Mosquito Coils and EcoGuard Fabric Spray..

Citronella

Citronella

Citronella is one of the essential oils obtained from the leaves and stems of Cymbopogon - a type of grass originating in tropical Asia. There are two main types available - Ceylon and Java - where the difference is a variation in the proportion present of each of the constituent components.

The actual repellent mechanism is a bit unclear, but it thought to be as simple as the fact that the insects don't like the smell!

No - but it seems to work quite well with mosquitoes and midges.

Citronella is not thought to be toxic to humans, but it can cause irritation if applied to sensitive skin. Consequently, it shouldn't be applied topically to children under the age of 3.

Generally, manufacturers are wary about recommending anything for use with pregnant women and the same is true of Citronella. There doesn't appear to be much evidence to suggest that it might be a problem and it is likely to be safer than most insect repellents - but if in doubt consult your doctor or healthcare professional.

The active ingredient is Citronella in the following products: Totally Herby Midge Candles, Longlife Citronella Candles and Citronella Tealights.

To shop the range, please see Natural Insect Repellent.