I once read that Calgary has two seasons: winter and mosquitoes. I’m betting we’re not the only place that feels that way. With all the rain and flooding we’ve had this year, there is enough standing water to birth a few thousand platoons of the bothersome creatures, and I find myself swatting at various appendages like a crazy person whenever I’m outside. Ugh.

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While deet is very effective against bugs, it can also melt plastic bags and do other dodgy things, so when I can avoid (a.k.a. when I am not in Manitoba… haha), I like to. This bug spray gets its power from mint infused water (thanks for the tip, Sarah!) and a healthy dose of a wide variety of essential oils that the little vampires are supposed to hate. This recipe is about 10% essential oils by volume, which (according to my research) strikes a good balance between being effective but not irritating to the skin.

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I first tested it out on one of many walks surveying the flood damage back in June. We were walking along a ridge, looking out at the river, and losing blood by the pint. We hadn’t bothered applying the spray at home, but we were both spritzing on some fresh mint bug spray within 200m of my door. And it worked! Brilliant! While the hordes of skeeters still swarmed us, they didn’t land on our sprayed skin. Phew.

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As we were walking we spotted a fellow about 25m out who was doing the mosquito inspired Charleston—flailing about, slapping and wiping and generally just reeking of the agony and frustration only a hoard of mosquitoes can cause. We struck up a conversation with him and learned he had just moved here from Egypt, and had been in Canada for 6 months. And oh boy, did our mosquitoes love his fresh blood. I shared some bug spray with him—well, I spritzed it on him after he said he wanted some, because he couldn’t stop slapping himself long enough to take the bottle from me and do it himself—and we advised the calamine lotion was good for the itching. We ran into him again on our way back and he said it was working, so awesome!

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If you’re worried about the cost of the essential oils, don’t be! If you drop the geranium (the most expensive of the oils), you can get a 15mL bottle of each for a total of $25—and you won’t use anywhere close to all of the oils, so you’ll have plenty left over for all your other projects!

Fresh Mint Bug Spray

250mL | 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
Boiling water, as needed

3g | 0.1oz lemon eucalyptus essential oil
2g | 0.07oz peppermint essential oil
2g | 0.07oz citronella essential oil
2g | 0.07oz lemongrass essential oil
2g | 0.07oz lavender essential oil
10 drops clove bud essential oil
10 drops cinnamon bark essential oil
10 drops geranium essential oil (optional)

Broad spectrum preservative of choice (why?)

Equal volume of Polysorbate 20 (solubilizer) or Turkey Red Oil to essential oils; approximately 35g/1.2oz (optional, though it won’t emulsify without it, so you’ll have to shake vigorously before each spritz)

Tear up the mint leaves a bit and place them in a Pyrex measuring cup. Fill with boiling water to the 1 cup line and let steep overnight.

The next morning, strain the mint leaves out of the water. Discard the leaves, reserve the water.

In a 250mL (8 fl oz) mason jar, weigh out the essential oils. Top off with an equal volume (not weight!) of solubilizer/Turkey red oil, and stir to dissolve.

Slowly add 100mL (100g/3.3 fl oz) of the mint water and your preservative to the jar of essential oils, stirring to blend.

Decant what you can into a small spray bottle and store the rest in the sealed mason jar in the fridge.

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