DIY Gear: The Bug-Off Jar

There are a lot of great products out there to make any outdoors experience even better, but there are also a lot of things you can make yourself that will enhance the trip. This one, though, is a great item to have anytime you are doing something outside, whether it’s camping, picnicking, or even sitting at a ball park watching your child play any given sport.

Now, with my family’s history of skin cancer, I’m a sunscreen addict. We keep it in the car, we keep a face stick in my purse for emergencies or touch-ups, both of my daughters already wear a daily moisturizer with sunscreen, and I even subscribe to sunscreen on (yes, once a month a new bottle of sunscreen shows up at our house!). I realize that’s a lot of sunscreen, but a) we live in the South where summer lasts from April through November and b) we’re outside a lot!

What does sunscreen have to do with bugs? Not much.

But as much as I slather commercial chemicals on myself and on my kids’ skin, I can’t stand to spray them with bug spray. It’s a chemical with toxic properties (at least if you’re a bug), and I’ve already coated them from scalp to pinkie toe with a different cocktail of chemicals to protect them from the sun. I certainly don’t want them to get a bug-borne disease or just have their trip ruined by itchy bug bites, so we do what we have to do. I spray their shoes, their shorts, and the back of their shirts with as little bug spray as I can get by with, and I choose my brands very carefully.

In order to add an extra layer of protection–and quite frankly, just to make being outside more pleasant–I carry these with us.


I call them Bug Off Jars. All you need is a good-sized container with an attachable lid. This one happens to be recycled from an organic rice container (more on why you must buy organic rice some other time!), and the lid screws on well.

Many of the annoying insects that we don’t like, including mosquitoes and regular old flies, have certain plants they don’t like. You probably know this, since that’s why bug products contain citronella. Other plants they don’t like include basil, mint, lavender, lemon grass, lemon balm, bee balm, and other great, easy to grow plants. So what do we do? Plant them! (Another hint: plant these around your property to keep down on bugs…they’re natural and pretty, they smell great, and they’re great to cook with!)

Of course, our backyard garden already includes many of those plants because we cook with them. So whenever we’re going on an outdoors trip, I grab this jar out of my stuff and pack it full of basil, mint, and lavender. I mean, I really stuff it down in there. I just fill it as I high as I can and put the lid on, then throw it in our kit.

When we’re out there (camping, picnicking, hiking, whatever) I grab some of the leaves out of the jar and we rub them on our arms and necks. They don’t leave a green tinge or anything, but they leave the smell on our skin through the oil. The rest of the jar sits on our table wherever we’re going to be eating; whenever we sit down to eat, I just take the lid off to keep flies away from our food. It actually works, and it makes even a simple picnic much more pleasant since you won’t be swatting at flies the whole time. Just be sure to put the lid back on whenever your not using it so the scent doesn’t dissipate.

It’s easy, environmentally friendly, skin friendly, and good smelling. When you get home, discard or compost the old leaves and just grab some fresh ones the next time you head out!

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