Some plants produce substances that can repel biting flies, such as horse flies, midges and black flies. These substances are found in the essential oils of citronella, marigold, neem, lemon eucalyptus, pennyroyal, geranium and the daisy chrysanthemum. Natural ways to repel biting flies include using consumer products, such as sprays, candles and lotions, based on plant ingredients. Also, you can wear adequate clothing, use fly-repellent plants in your garden and attract animals that feed on insects.
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Use Plant-Based Products
Oil of citronella comes from several species of grasses. The substance has been used for more than 50 years as an insect repellent in the U.S. Oil of citronella products are sold as repellent candles, skin lotions and sprays. Citronella candles are only for outdoor use. Neem oil is extracted from the evergreen Azadirachta indica, native to India. The plant's leaves and seeds contain sallanin, a compound with insect repelling properties. Pennyroyal oil is toxic if ingested, but is part of many consumers product to apply on the skin.
Grow Insect-Repellent Plants
Some plants that produce insect-repellent substances also can have a fragrance that repeals them. Marigolds and the mint pennyroyal are two examples that are easy to grow in your garden. Although citronella grasses can release fragrances that biting flies do not like, these tropical plants can grow taller than 6 feet, and are not likely to fit in many people's gardens.
Use Adequate Clothing
When camping or going outside for long periods of time, avoid insect bites by wearing long sleeves and trousers tied at ankle level. You should also tuck your shirt into your trousers. Some clothes are made with special fabrics that receive a coating of pyrethrum, a natural repellent from daisies of the genus chrysanthemum. However, before buying any clothing check the label, because many manufacturers use a laboratory-synthesised equivalent called permethrin.
Although it can sound too unconventional to some people, having bats nearby can help to repel biting flies and mosquitoes. Despite their bad press, bats are important pollinators, and many species of bats feed on insects, such as mosquitoes and biting flies. The little brown bat is common in North America, and feeds mainly on insects. Building or buying a bat house to put near your home is the best way of attracting bats.
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- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Active Ingredients Found in Insect Repellents; September 2009
- University of California Museum of Paleontology: Chiroptera: Life History & Ecology