A reader in Texas wrote to say that she used a product called “Buzz Away Insect Repellant” to deter mosquitoes while she was working on her patio. She had enclosed the patio in plastic for the winter and decided to spray both inside the plastic and around the door to keep the mosquitoes from coming in. Within minutes she discovered bees making their way through the door into the patio. Ultimately, she had to use smoke to get rid of them. She asked if I had ever heard of insect repellant that attracted bees.
I looked up the product on the Internet and found it is made from the pure essential oils of cedarwood, citronella, peppermint, eucalyptus and lemongrass. Whoa! Lemongrass? Peppermint?
Now, to be fair, the fine print says it’s used to deter mosquitoes, gnats, blackflies, and no-see-ums, but in big black letters it says, “Insect Repellant.” Last I checked, bees were most definitely insects.
I know for a fact that honey bees are attracted to both lemongrass and peppermint oils. I know they are attracted to eucalyptus trees for nectar and pollen, and cedar trees for pollen–although I don’t know if the oils of these trees are attractive or not. Unfortunately, I am pretty much clueless about citronella from a bee’s perspective.
I don’t have a bottle of the stuff so I don’t know if the label contains any caveats about bees, but it seems to me that the label should specifically say that while it may deter mosquitoes it appears to be quite inviting to bees. Not only is the name confusing (“Buzz Away” sounds like bees to me) but the description “insect repellant” is confusing as well.
I think it is great that many folks are finally using repellants instead of pesticides. But to encourage their use, the label should be crystal clear about what is repelled and what is attracted. The word “insect” is way too general–and mosquitoes aren’t the only bugs that buzz.