Insects like flies, mosquitoes, ants and cockroaches co-exist with us everywhere, whether we like it or not. Being part of many ecosystems and the food chain, we cannot completely eradicate insects from the face of the earth since they hold a crucial yet most underappreciated role in the environment. Without bees, flowers would not be able to pollinate; and without cockroaches, our wastes will continue decaying on earth.
As we shift to a more modernised society, it seems like insects are more seen as pests rather than nature’s helping hands. But then of course, nobody wants to see their home infested with these hair-raising creatures. Just think back about your last encounter with an insect and how was your reaction like – most of us would have shared the same experience. We would either try to run away from it, or if you are brave enough, you would have chased it off with a can of bug repellent spray.
Keeping insects away using insect repellents may seem like the most common solution in many households. But what are the repercussions of overusing insect repellents? Chemicals such as DEET (N.N-Diethyl-M-Toluamide) found in insect repellents have been linked to seizures, headaches and skin allergies. Children below the age of 12 are more susceptible to these negative effects.
Using essential oils as a natural insect repellent is a much safer way to repel insect bites without the harmful side effects. Some of these essential oils are known for the ability to mask the odour of carbon dioxide present in our bodies, which makes us undetectable to pesky insects such as mosquitos.
Citriodiol is one compound that can be found in Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil which offers almost the same level of protection as what DEET offers, at a lower concentration. In comparison, DEET provides 2 to 8 hours of protection for 20-30% concentration, whereas Citriodiol offers up to 6 hours of protection when only using 10-20% concentration.
Citriodiol is produced by converting citronellal present in the leaf of the Lemon Eucalyptus plant into p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD). PMD itself is usually only present at extremely low levels in essential oils (1% to 2%). With Citriodiol, PMD concentration is increased to intensity its insect repellent effects. In a typical Lemon Eucalyptus oil, citronellal makes up to 90% of the oil composition.
Read also: Natural Ways of Repelling Insects
A second lesser known compound that can also repel mosquitoes is Citronellol – commonly found in Citronella, Geranium, Sandalwood, Lemongrass, Rose, Neroli, Chamomile and Spike Lavender. Citronellol is a monoterpenoid that gives its host the ability to repel insects, and possess antimicrobial, antifungal and antispasmodic properties, which acts like a mosquito citronella diffuser. When combined with beta-cyclodextrin, it is able to repel mosquitoes effectively for 1.5 hours.
That being said, these compounds do not kill the insects, but rather what they do is the mask the odour of carbon dioxide that our bodies give out, thus making us almost invisible to them. The next time you find yourself in a garden of flowers, just remember – that this is all made possible thanks to insects.