Bug off! Homegrown natural repellant takes off
“This was totally an inadvertent business,” Nina Fleming explained, sitting in the living area of her shingle-style New England home in East Blue Hill.
Fleming, a stay-at-home mother of two, was referring to her natural bug spray business, Buggleblue.
“I didn’t plan on it,” she said. “Mostly the product keeps pushing me forward. People keep wanting more.”
Fleming, who calls herself a nomad, grew up in Coventry, Conn. She wandered for a while, working on sailboats in the Caribbean and teaching oil and watercolor painting in Aix-en-Provence, France. After meeting her scientist husband, Bob, they decided to move to Maine. Nina’s family had been visiting Swan’s Island for decades, so she knew the area well.
“We loved the Blue Hill Fair and how interesting and fantastic the Blue Hill Peninsula was,” she said. “So when we had a baby we wanted the smaller [town] feel that we had had growing up.”
But with Maine came the black flies. At a young age, 10-year-old Millie Fleming was hypersensitive to bugs, especially the black flies. If she received too many bites, it often would result in a fever. So, the enterprise was born out of necessity.
“She’s the reason Buggle happened,” Fleming said.
But Fleming did not want to use an insect repellent with heaps of chemicals in it.
“We’re not a harsh chemical kind of family, and she was so sensitive that I was afraid to put it on her anyway,” Fleming said.
After searching for a natural bug spray and not finding what she wanted, Fleming took matters into her own hands.
“The world changes when you have a baby,” she said. “All the products you ate and used you see completely differently because they’re so small.
“The other natural ones were either super greasy or smelled heavily of citronella, which gives me a headache. I was desperate to just figure out something that worked for our family.”
By the time Millie was 18 months old, Fleming had finally made something that she was comfortable sharing with her family and friends. But before developing the homegrown repellant into an actual product, Fleming and her husband researched the chemical contents of all the essential oils being using. It wasn’t until 2010 that Buggleblue was ready for the market.
She started out at the Blue Hill Farmers Market, and from there it grew. Now she is at the Stonington Farmers Market on Fridays, Blue Hill on Saturdays and Bar Harbor Eden Farmers Market on Sundays. Her products are on the shelves of more than 30 businesses and she also sells online from her website.
Natural insect repellants alternatives are: geranium oil, aloe vera gel, baby soap, rosemary oil, catnip oil, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, jojoba oil, lemongrass oil, lavender oil and distilled water.
“I do use jojoba oil as the carrier oil, which is a wax ester so it’s close to your skin’s natural chemical composition,” she said. “It goes on not greasy, it never feels greasy. There is aloe in there, so it’s also before and after spray. The aloe and the eucalyptus and the peppermint all soothe the bites. It’s soothing for your skin as well as moisturizing…it’s really good for your skin.”
Fleming always tells her customers to apply the family-friendly, kid-friendly and dog-friendly spray like you would sunscreen, not a fragrance.
“The benefits [of Buggle] are for someone looking for alternatives to really heavy-duty chemicals, and I think these days more and more people are,” she said. “People are becoming much more aware of what they’re putting on their skin. Your skin is the largest organ on your body…it’s permeable, so everything you put on it goes in.”
The product, which comes in either a cobalt blue glass bottle or an aluminum sports bottle with a carabiner, contains 4 ounces.
To learn more, visit www.buggleblue.com.