Beauty & Wellness
The RuraList: 3 Natural Ways To Keep The Bugs At Bay
By Lisa Green
Now that we’re deep into summer, the accessory de rigueur is, of course, some sort of tick and mosquito repellent. Many of the major commercial brands contain the chemical DEET, and while the EPA says that “the normal use of DEET does not present a health concern to the general population, including children,” there are some of us who’d prefer a more natural approach to keeping the creepy crawlies away.
In the past several years, a handful of women in the RI region have developed their own formulations of tick and insect repellent. What they all have in common — aside from some of the same ingredients in their formulae — is their reason for coming up with their own product. Mainly, they wanted a product for themselves or family members (including pets) that didn’t include DEET. And to do so, they all engaged in thorough research to find a naturally based combination of essential oils and herbs that would work as well as the commercial products claim. (Note: Some of these products also work for dogs and horses, but not for cats, who are too sensitive for essential oils.)
We’re not Consumer Reports, so we can’t say definitively that any of these products work as well as touted. So we’ll echo the EPA’s disclaimer: “Any products listed are for informational purposes only. Inclusion of a product listed/referenced is not an endorsement.”
But we hear good things about these products. They don’t make you feel as if you’re inhaling carcinogens when you apply them. They smell pretty nice. And, wouldn’t you rather use a repellent that’s good both for humans and our local entrepreneurs?
Terri See had been making her own bug spray for over a decade, and noticed that when she used DEET she had trouble breathing.
Mighty No Bitey ingredients list.
“I did lots of research and read studies on natural oils and came up with this formula,” she says. “It’s plant-based and non-GMO. I never imagined I’d be making it for the public. But friends and friends of friends asked for it. Within three months I had a contract with HomeDepot.com.”
There’s a secret to how things are combined, and what their bases are, but See says that one of her secrets is the freshness of the ingredients. There are varying grades of essential oils, and See insists she uses only the best. Created in Great Barrington, Mass., Mighty No Bitey is available at markets and shops including Guido’s, Big Y stores, Valley Variety, Red Lion Inn and Monterey General Store. See’s newest account is Sierra Trading Post; Mighty No Bitey will be going into the catalog and all of its stores.
Fun fact: Mighty No Bitey was included in last year’s Golden Globes gift bag. You can see some celebrities posing with their bottles here.
DEET-Free Insect Repellent comes out of Things That Work, a Pittsfield, Mass. based home business created by Lisa Billotta.
“I started making things just for family, to go cleaner and greener,” Lisa says. “It worked so well, we started sharing our products around. I ended up making this a business, and offering it to the community.”
Things That Work offers products for the home (laundry detergent and surface cleaner) and body (room sprays, fluoride-free tooth powder, deodorant sticks and sprays, non-aerosol hairspray).
The DEET-Free Insect Repellent is made with herbs and oils with repellent properties. Billotta uses the Vinegar of the Four Thieves as a base. A concoction used in medieval days, it’s said to have been used to prevent the spread of the black death. (A Google search brings up some pretty fascinating facts and tales.)
“I feel it’s the most powerful way to start,” Billotta says. “I steep it for months before adding the essential oils.”
Billotta sells the DEET-Free Insect Repellent at the Lenox and Pittsfield farmers markets, the Berkshire Botanical Gardens, Charles H. Baldwin & Sons, Egremont Country Club, Jacob’s Pillow and Tanglewood, and some general stores, as well as on the website.
DeFriest and her older daughter, Olivia.
For Tonya DeFriest, selling her product is really an extension of her passion to educate the public about the dangers of ticks and the diseases they carry. That passion was borne of a battle in the past year to get her very ill 11-year-old daughter Natalie correctly diagnosed. After months of testing, it was determined she had Lyme disease, and she is still struggling to recover.
A licensed esthetician who worked at Canyon Ranch for 10 years, DeFriest pulled out her books about essential oils and just this past spring created I’m Not Gonna Get Ticked in her Lenox home. The product also repels mosquitoes.
Considering that there are several other all-natural, DEET-free products on the market, and her ingredients (distilled water, witch hazel, rose geranium oil, lemongrass essential oil) are similar to the others, what really makes this DEET-free repellent different?
“Love,” says DeFriest without a beat.
“It wasn’t my plan to spend my summer at farmers markets,” she says. “But my goal is to get as much awareness brought to the tick-borne disease epidemic as I possibly can. A tick can change your life.”
The business is so new that there aren’t any distribution outlets yet, other than the farmers markets where DeFriest is exhibiting, and the website. But she invites people to contact her directly, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 834-0011. One dollar of every purchase of the 16-ounce bottle is donated to the LymeLight Foundation, which provides grants to enable eligible children and young adults with Lyme disease to receive proper treatment and medication.