Eaten Alive…By Biting Bugs


Summer has brought out the biting bugs. Not just mosquitoes; everything out here seems to want a blood meal, even things so small you don’t see them on you. These bugs are shameless, too – they will crawl up a shorts leg or down a shirt. They’ll bite you on your eyelid and it will swell up like you were punched in the eye. Not pretty.

Short of covering yourself from head to toe in clothing (too hot) or repellent (smelly, sticky, and even chemical-laden), you will be bitten tending to animals on the farm. Despite smacking the living daylights out of flies and other biters (and occasionally, ourselves, when the slap comes too slowly and the bug flies away), we are pretty chewed up. And these bites are accompanied by that itch.

The intense itch that just doesn’t go away…it may wane and then flare up again, days later. The kind of itch that makes you scratch in your sleep. Try as you might not to, you’ll end up scratching those welts until they scab up. At least they don’t itch then (but we know we shouldn’t do that because it could introduce bacteria…well, the rational part of us does).

So what helps alleviate the itch of bug bites? Some people use over the counter hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or even meat tenderizer (but who has meat tenderizer on hand?). We put kombucha tea vinegar on bites. We have plenty on hand, too, since we also put it in our animals’ drinking water for the probiotics. To apply, just soak a cotton pad or ball with KT vinegar and wipe on the bite. For really itchy bites, leave the soaked pad on for several minutes so the vinegar can soak into the area.

Plantain, a leafy plant that grows rampant around here, is reportedly good for alleviating bug bites and stings. You can mash it up and apply as a poultice to a bite or sting. We have a couple of varieties on our property, so we harvested some of both and steeped the leaves for 15 minutes. The “tea” was then bottled and applied with a cotton pad. While weaker than a poultice, it actually seemed to make the bites less itchy, especially if applied soon after the bites occur. The tea seemed most effective the day it was made. Verdict: worth trying, however, something thicker, like a salve, would probably work even better, so that’s on the “to do” list.

Do you have a natural method for alleviating bug bite itch? If so, please share!