Essential oils are one of the ideal repelling products with no adverse health effects on humans or pets. Some of the strongest smelling ones such as citronella, clove, lemongrass, rosemary, tea tree, eucalyptus, cedar, catnip, lavender and mint are perfect solutions to pests such as ants and flies. You can either use them as an ambient spray mixed with a little alcohol or dab them directly onto your skin to repel the annoying creatures.
Fresh or dried herbs work great and have the added benefit of scenting the home and garden. Try making a homemade bug spray with distilled water, witch hazel and a selection of pungent herbs with at least one from the mint family. Boil 1 cup of water and 4 tablespoons of herbs. Cover and let the mixture cool and strain out the herbs. Then simply load a spray bottle and use where needed.
A similarly useful spray relies upon 1/2 teaspoon vegetable glycerin, 4 ounces distilled water 4 ounces of witch hazel and essential oils.
One way to keep pests out of your vegetable garden is to use a garlic spray. You have to be able to take the smell, though, as it is strong stuff. All you need is fresh garlic, mineral oil, dish soap and water. Crush 4 cloves of garlic and let it sit in 1 tablespoon of mineral oil overnight. Strain the garlic out and add 1 quart water and 1 teaspoon dish soap. Mix in a bottled sprayer. Use it on plants to prevent aphids and around the patio as a deterrent to crawling bugs.
You can also go with a preventative program. Wear light colored clothing which is less attractive and easier to see any bugs. Keep a light weight hat on when outdoors to prevent tics, fleas and mosquitoes. Take a couple of tablespoons of cider vinegar daily to change your pH and hopefully make you less tasty. Hang sticky fly traps around the perimeter of the picnic table. Strew citrus peels around any outdoor seating area. Burn citronella candles or set an old fashioned smug pot just outside the patio and downwind. Use decoy lighting at night to attract moths and other insects and keep them away from your social spaces. Use netting for picnic foods to keep the flies out.
A quick easy bait station is easy to make. Set up a bottle trap for hornets and yellow jackets. Use a 2 liter soda bottle and cut off the top 2inches at the lid. Insert the lid upside down back into the main body of the bottle. Add a little sugar water or honey to attract the insects or even a very ripe piece of meat. Hornets can go in but can't get out.
Insects are a fact of life but you don't have to be a willing victim. Try to stay outdoors during the periods that insects are at their worst. Watch children and pets carefully in summer for stings and bites and be creative with insect proofing methods. There is no reason you can't enjoy the season without sacrificing your comfort and health.