I know we're supposed to love all God's creatures, but whoever came up with that rule can't possibly have meant to include the mosquito. Disgusting little bloodsucking beasts. Some people hold to the notion that vampires are sexy. Like, how sexy is drinking hemoglobin?
If you believe in the samsara wheel, rebirth and karma - as good a theory as any - you really have to wonder what someone did to wind up a mosquito. And while we're talking about biting insects, don't forget blackflies and deer flies, just to name a few.
Anyone who enjoys the great outdoors has to contend with biting insects, some of which take chunks out of your skin, while others just suck your blood. In most species it's the female that does the biting. In these parts, there are concerns about West Nile and various forms of encephalitis as well as deer ticks carrying Lyme disease.
We've all heard about the possible dangers of DEET-based repellents and all the rules you have to follow to use them safely - if you really can. Here's how to stay bite-free without poisoning yourself.
What the experts say
"Horseflies and deer flies that bite in midday heat are attracted to visual cues, to colour and movement. So you want to stay absolutely still . The vast majority of biting insects are attracted to carbon dioxide. The more physically active you are, the more you increase your metabolic activity, which increases your carbon dioxide output. They are secondarily attracted to heat. People who get bitten often, like hunting guides and trappers, don't react to bites. I've put my hands into cages of mosquitoes and don't get itching because I've done it so many times. However, there are 75 different kinds of mosquitoes in Canada, so I might react if bitten by a different one. We have not found that changes in diet affect mosquito activity."
GORDON SURGEONER , veterinary entomologist, Guelph
"Plants that are not indigenous are more effective than those that are. Lemon eucalyptus is very powerful. Lemongrass oil is very good but can irritate some people's skin. Peppermint cools the body, which slows the release of carbon dioxide. Citronella oil works very well. Lavandin , a hybrid of lavender, works amazingly well in tropical countries. Frankincense and geranium are effective at repelling horseflies and deer flies. Stay away from tree oils like cedars and pines, which will make you very interesting to bugs. If you do get bitten, a tiny bit of undiluted peppermint will take away itching, as will witch hazel or tea tree hydrosol."
SUZANNE CATTY , aromatherapist, Toronto
"DEET is a neurotoxin. I strongly recommend natural alternatives. If you take a good B complex supplement daily, chances are much higher that mosquitoes will avoid you due to the odour given off by your skin. This may be anecdotal, but it's also another harmless measure you could use instead of DEET."
ZOLTAN RONA , holistic MD, Toronto
"A daily dose of the B vitamin thiamin (B1) works very well to repel insects. Also effective, is a daily dose of the homeopathic remedy Ledum . Look for insect repellent products that contain rose geranium , which is one of the most effective essential oils available to ward off insect bites. Other effective essential oils are pennyroyal , citronella, lavender and eucalyptus, to name a few. It's the fragrance of the essential oils that repels, so it needs to be reapplied frequently. At the same time, other fragrances attract insects and should be avoided. Some of these are scented creams, shampoos, perfumes and fabric softeners. If you do get bitten in spite of your efforts, the homeopathic lotion called Apisgel works wonders in relieving the itch and healing bites."
ZORANA ROSE , naturopath, Toronto