Smells good to humans - but bugs the insects

00:00, Dec 18 2013
Paul Blackham
BLACKHAM AND BLUE: Paul Blackham at the Nelson market with essential-oil-based insect repellent 3B.

Paul Blackham is abuzz with his latest venture which he reckons is potent enough to knock even the toughest mozzies out of orbit.

The former London-based financial market speculator who now lives in Tasman, council candidate, and member of the region's Civil Defence urban search and rescue crew thought he would try his hand at something new. And now his insect repellent 3B, short for "Blackham's Bug Blues", has hit the market.

The repellent is made of five essential ingredients, chiefly oil of lemon eucalyptus, oil of lemongrass and a splash of vanilla, and has so far it has been a hit with friends and family.

Mr Blackham was inspired to find a non-chemical repellent to suit his young family, and one that for him, actually worked. He began making it about six years ago, and recently decided to make a commercial-sized batch.

"At the time my youngest was about 2 years old. I got tired of spending good money on natural alternatives that didn't work, or that I had to continue applying.

"That's what spurred me, and I thought: ‘it can't be that hard', so I started digging around and after much doodling I came up with a formula."


The first lot he made in 2007 for his family and a few friends, including hunters who took it with them to Fiordland, where the insects are known to be voracious.

"Each year demand got a bit bigger. I could handle the amount comfortably but didn't think about it commercially, but I found it works better than anything I've tried before," Mr Blackham said.

When he first formulated the repellent he sourced all ingredients, plus bottles, from one retailer in the North Island.

A dramatic price increase led him to source everything directly from the manufacturer.

Learning to blend the oils involved a lot of experimentation, helped by the huge amount of information online.

"Fortunately it's a relatively simplistic process, as long as the ratios are correct."

Mr Blackham's first commercial batch, of which he has already sold a large chunk, filled 600 bottles of 60 millilitres in size. He is thinking about making up another batch of the same quantity, based on sales at the Nelson Market, which he has recently started attending, and from a stall at the Nelson A&P Show. A bottle sells for $17, or two bottles for $30.

"I had no idea of the traction this was going to get."

While it had proved a hit with many, no product would suit everyone, Mr Blackham said.

"There are massive variations in how attractive people are to insects. It also helps if you apply it properly - it's like sunscreen, if you miss a bit you get burnt and it's the same with repellent. You have to be thorough and systematic putting it on."

The product's fragrance, helped, by the vanilla, was also proving popular, he said.

The Nelson Mail