The summer of 2012 will be remembered for a long and destructive drought. For the sisters though there is also the memory of a new product launch. Read as Mary reflects on the sisters’  decision to incur substantial expense and big-time stress to expand their wellness message to include mosquito-born-disease. A recent article in the home town paper made it all seem worth the while. 

By Mary Duggan

Folks are always suggesting new products for the Sisters to make. How about detergent or shampoo? Can’t you do something for my cuticles? My answer is always the same. We try to take on the products that no one else is doing, or no one else is doing well. The more complete answer – they also have to really matter. Deodorant does and so does bug repellent.


In 1958 I hoola-hooped with abandon while my parents feared Polio Virus. Daily naps were mandatory.


I have had a life long problem with mosquitoes. As a child I went to bed every summer night caked in Calamine Lotion. New research indicates that an unaddressed intolerance for wheat creates the sort of messed up GI tract that makes you irresistible to mosquitoes. They were a nuisance and uncomfortable and inherently unfair; I was very aware that my siblings did not get eaten alive the way I did. But none of that made me willing to wear detestable bug repellent. To this day, I hate wearing any kind of lotion. Bug repellents and sun blocks make me crazy and I resent that they have become necessities.


In my experience, both botanically based and chemically derived repellents are just awful: sticky, stinky and sometimes ineffective to boot. Repeated requests from local health food storeowners confirmed my experience. Please, they extolled, make us a great bug repellent. We have nothing to wear and nothing to sell.


I have been very moved by the flood of testimonials we’ve received from parents using lifestings to protect themselves and their children. I am happy to know that summer joys continue. I have delighted in customer surprise that our little repellent successfully stood up to black flies, ticks and no-see-ums. I hope I have made a contribution to the discussion and the solution with our lifestings®, though anyone who knows me knows I am always seeking to improve on our products and so it is with our lifestings® bug repellent: it’s the best I can do to date.


Australians Discouraged Organic

My sisters implored me to “release” my formulation this summer: five years were long enough, in their opinion, for perfecting. Press reports on the impending drought concerned me. I knew this would fool folks into thinking the summer was relatively bug free. I knew they would want to forgo the icky and the sticky of bug goo. I was still deep in debate with trusted Australian oil purveyors who encouraged using their non-organic, but very responsibly harvested oil of catnip as they were able to produce high concentrations of nepatalactone, the critical component within catnip oil that drives mosquitoes wild.


Money Is No Object  🙂 

Both my sisters and our Australian colleagues were aghast that I would consider using Canadian organic catnip oil despite the staggering expense; but I had already fallen in love with not only its efficacy but also its minty freshness. Catnip oil can be really hard on the nose. I knew I had to create a pleasant formula, in addition to an effective formula. I knew we would pay the premium for Canadian organics. The day our first shipment of Catnip Oil arrived at the cottage, my nephew accepted the package from UPS. He placed it on his desk and opened it, but he was unwilling to carry the relatively small bottle the length of the office to the shelf where our oils are stored. “Aunt Mary, I can’t. It’s so expensive. If I drop it, you won’t be able to pay the mortgage.” He was right, we wouldn’t.


It’s not perfect, so bite me.

The base lotion was another story altogether; but I felt that I had done a good job picking my battles (yep, it has FDA approved PEG 100 and I will go into my full defense of that at another time.) I had partnered with this lotion purveyor for years. I knew this particular organic lotion was constructed to sit on top of the skin. That is why it had proven so valuable to me when I was still doing Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD). I knew it would hold my bug repelling actives on top of the skin surface where they would do the most good. MLD clients had been enthusiastic with how their skin felt covered in this organic lotion. I trusted that bug repellent customers would appreciate “the feel” as well. With minty fresh organic catnip oil, and a balance of other bug bothering botanicals, including a marvelous deterrent to ticks, I was confident that I had conquered the “icky” of bug repellents. With my organic lotion, I had taken on the “sticky.” I was good to go. Now I had only to face the usual Duggan Sister necessity of educating folks that fewer bugs does not mean less West Nile virus. And West Nile virus is nothing to mess with.

 “A week after being bit by that mosquito…I had a temperature of 104, was losing the ability to walk and suddenly realized that I could not move my left arm… Within two hours, I had been X-rayed, CT-scanned, MRI’d, and spinal-tapped. The tests showed extremely high white blood cell counts. There were lesions on my spinal cord, and the virus had caused my brain to swell: I had encephalitis…I remembered that vicious bite of 10 days earlier and placed my bet on West Nile. Sure enough there were West Nile antibodies in my spinal fluid.”  – Excerpted from “What I have learned from West Nile virus” by Jeff Shane, Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2012


We want to remain indoors.

So there’s the no one else is doing it really well part. For the it really matters part, I implore you to read the attached article from last week’s Tribune. I don’t mean to keep harping on the clear and present danger of West Nile virus; but it has to be said. Not all mosquitoes are just a nuisance; some of them are deadly. With the planet warming and me aging my summers have changed.  I have become way too attached to central air conditioning. I justify the incessant running of our AC with the fact that we run a business from our home. I can’t ask folks to work without the comforts of AC.


We have to remain outdoors. 

I no longer spend my evenings running the block with other kids, playing Kick the Can and Red Rover Red Rover Let Johnny Come Over. I am of an age when a glass of wine on a neighbor’s deck on a summer evening sounds wonderful. However, with the first inkling of nighttime mosquitoes I am the first one to go indoors. I want to heal these conflicting desires. I am now officially afraid of rogue elements within the mosquito community and the consequences of stings that Calamine Lotion can’t address. But the work of my soul is to maintain as intimate a relationship with the natural world as I can; and I can’t do that from my climate controlled living room.


Anybody got a friend at the EPA? 

Afraid or not, concerned or merely inconvenienced, I encourage you to read a brilliantly well-written account of one man’s journey into the hell of West Nile virus (see below.) Fear mongering is not my style; well-informed and forearmed customers is. I know we have a long and likely quite expensive journey ahead with our lifestings® bug repellent. An industry advisor brought me the alarming news that the EPA has categorized our essential ingredient, nepata cataria (catnip oil) in the same group as DEET: healing botanicals grouped with chemical neuro-toxic pesticides can’t be good. I can only imagine the expense that will be involved for our little family.


It’s a small (and scary) world after all.



What I do know is that I have to make the struggle. In the everything’s connected world in which we live a Ugandan disease has taken up residence for the last 13 years in my own backyard and I’ve become afraid of the nights of summer. I hope you will give Jeff Shane’s stunning piece of work the attention it deserves. For me, I’m just waiting for the first hard frost and looking forward to a winter spent learning the ins and outs of EPA approval. Keeping my healthy and wildly effective little bug repellent on the market means the world to me. I hope Jeff Shane would concur. Click here to read Chicago Tribune article by Jeff Shane entitled “What I have learned from West Nile virus,” in the print edition of October 17, 2012.



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