10 Essential Oils for Repelling Bugs & DIY Recipes
Summer is approaching fast, which also brings wasp, tick and mosquito season. I know you probably want to avoid these insects at all costs and protect your family from unnecessary bites and stings. But before you go buying conventional bug sprays I’d like to share some information with you as well as a few essential oil recipes for homemade mosquito and bug repellent.
I’ll explain why you should not use these products on your family and how you can instead work with essential oils to keep the bugs away. I’ll share some of my homemade mosquito repellent recipes as well as some tips from keeping them away from your yard and home. So if you’re ready for some natural solutions to your summer bug problems, keep reading.
Why Use a Non-Toxic Bug Spray?
Conventional bug spray is basically a pesticide. So let’s think about that for a moment. In order to avoid insect bites, you’re spraying pesticides all over your skin, your pets and your kids! Yes it works for the bugs, but what is it doing to your body?
Some risks of using conventional bug spray are hives, rashes or other skin irritations, low blood pressure, disorientation, insomnia, mood disruptions and even seizures. That’s because the ingredients in most bug sprays are neurotoxins, that’s how they work on the bugs and they do the same thing to people and pets too.
Some of the main chemicals in bug sprays are pyrethroids, permethrin, cyfluthrin, and the most well-known is DEET. While the National Pesticide Information Center claims that DEET is not carcinogenic, it is a well known neurotoxin. In fact, all of these chemicals are neurotoxins. They get into fatty tissues and wreak havoc on the central nervous system (1).
Not to mention all of the anti-caking agents, solvents and preservatives in these sprays, aren’t required to be listed on the ingredients! This is why homemade mosquito repellent is the way to go, especially if you have a family. Non-toxic bug sprays are a better choice for families with kids and pets because animals and little ones are far more vulnerable to these toxic chemicals than adults are.
The Best Non-Toxic Bug Repellents for the Yard
One easy way to prevent bug issues is to start in the yard right around your home. There are some easy things you can do to prevent infestations around your home and products that can help you ward off insects in the yard. You can even grow plants in your garden that can help deal with bugs without you even having to think about it. Here are some of your options.
Get Rid of Standing Water
Before you even worry about slathering on the homemade mosquito repellent start with looking for any places where you have still water hanging around in your yard. I know those bird baths look pretty, but they could be a literal breeding ground for mosquitoes. The same goes for buckets or pots that have collected rainwater, kiddie pools, or even gutters that don’t drain properly. Clear these off first and see if the mosquito population around your house goes down.
Burn Candles or Run a Diffuser
Some non-toxic products you can burn outdoors to repel bugs are candles and torches that contain essential oils. Some more common ones are citronella or eucalyptus. Smoke is already a bug deterrent but these essential oils are insecticides that take that to the next level. If you don’t want to burn things, diffusing essential oils can work too. This works especially well on a small area like your patio or porch so stay tuned for the best essential oils to ward off bugs.
Put Out a Bug Trap
There are tons of DIY mosquito traps on the internet, or if you don’t feel up to a do-it-yourself project you can always purchase ready made. Trapping the bugs before they can get to you will cut down on the work your homemade mosquito repellent has to do.
Grow Some New Plants
Try adding some new plants around your yard that are natural insecticides. Some non-toxic plants you can grow in your yard to repel mosquitoes and ticks are basil, marigolds, catnip, rosemary and lavender. Not only will these brighten up your yard or garden, but you can use some of these herbs for cooking as well.
The Best Non-Toxic Bug Repellents for Skin
Now sometimes you can’t prevent coming into contact with biting insects. This is when a homemade mosquito repellent, lotion or a quick once over with essential oils comes in handy. Whether you’re in an urban area or your back yard there are some great essential oils to keep mosquitoes away. Here are my top ten favorite insect repellent essential oils list.
The fresh clean aroma is uplifting and can even work for nausea, but peppermint essential oil was found to kill mosquito larvae on people after being exposed to it (2). Not only that but unlike us, mosquitoes hate the smell, making it a great choice to add to your homemade mosquito repellent. Just apply a few drops around your pulse points or add it to a carrier oil and cover your arms and legs.
One of the most well known and often used natural bug repellents is citronella. It has even been registered as a natural option to ward off bugs since 1948. Citronelle is kind of a cousin to lemongrass, but the scent is a little stronger and it’s not safe for consumption. Citronella works great in a diffuser, a candle or as an active ingredient in a homemade mosquito repellent spray.
The strong smell of eucalyptus scares bugs off and certain pests like aphids and mites are killed as soon as they touch it. It is cooling to the skin which makes it a good essential oil choice for homemade mosquito repellent. Always add it to a carrier oil or dilute it in a spray as it can be a little strong on the skin.
Organic farmers use neem as an insecticide for their plants, and it works on us humans too. Neem is packed full of fatty acids which are great for the skin and has an incredibly bitter flavor which puts off any bugs that bite. This one would be great in a lotion or bug repellent oil as it sticks well to the skin and is long lasting.
Tea Tree essential oil is a powerful antimicrobial, helps repair damage to the skin and can kill bugs like lice, fleas and ticks. It helps deter biting insects like mosquitoes and flies too. Add tea tree to a carrier oil and put anywhere on the body, or even put it in a diffuser to repel bugs from your porch. Be careful using tea tree around your pets, especially cats. Tea tree is such a potent oil that it can be toxic to them too!
Geranium essential oil has a compound in it called geraniol which is a natural repellent to all kinds of bugs: roaches, mosquitoes, flies, even ticks. While toxic to pests, it has anti-anxiety properties that are soothing to people, so go ahead and add it to your homemade mosquito repellent or put it in a diffuser around your home. You can apply geranium to the skin too, just add a few drops to a carrier oil and slather it on.
This one is great for protecting against ticks and other crawling bugs like fleas. Just add it to a natural insect repellent spray ideal for wooded areas and not only will you keep the ticks away, it will leave you smelling like a forest. Cedar is safe for pets as well and you can add a few drops to their bath to prevent against fleas.
The smell of lemongrass is what repels bugs, making it a great homemade mosquito repellent. But it’s also good for body aches, is an antimicrobial and smells fresh and bright to people. This one would be nice in a diffuser, added to a bug spray or for a quick remedy put a few drops in carrier oil and slather it on.
While most of us love the scent of lavender and find it incredibly relaxing, bugs do not. It has even been used on clothes to prevent them from being eaten by moths while in storage. So lavender can replace moth balls? Yes please, that’s a much better option. Diffuse lavender, put it directly on the skin or add it to a spray, this versatile oil can be used in many ways.
Another essential oil to add to a homemade mosquito repellent is rosemary. It’s strong aroma and taste will ward off insects and because it’s a natural food product it can also be used safely on pets, children or in a diffuser.
So those are my favorite essential oils to deter insects, whether they be the biting kind or just pesky flies and gnats. They can all be used in diffusers, in a topical bug spray or in a lotion so have some fun experimenting to find what works for you.
Another convenient option is to use an essential oils mosquito repellent diffuser necklace or bracelet. Diffuser jewelry allows you to switch out different oils until you find the one that is most effective, or just that you like best. And the greatest thing about diffuser jewelry is that when you go inside, you can take it off. That way you don’t end up out at a restaurant smelling like your potent homemade mosquito repellent.
So now that we’ve gone through my top ten essential oils to repel bugs, let’s get into how to use them. You know I won’t leave you hanging without sharing some recipes right?
Recipes for Homemade Non-Toxic Bug Repellent
Mosquito Repellent Diffuser Recipe
- 3 drops of citronella essential oil
- 3 drops of lavender essential oil
- 3 drops of geranium essential oi
Place these in a diffuser and place it on your deck or porch about 20 minutes before going outside. The essential oils diffusing in the area should give you some much needed protection by warding off any mosquitoes or bugs. This is especially helpful if you’re cooking out around sunset.
Easy Homemade Mosquito Repellent Spray
- 2 oz glass spray bottle
- 1 oz apple cider vinegar
- 5 drops of tea tree essential oil
- 5 drops of peppermint essential oil
- 5 drops of lemongrass essential oil
- 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
Add the essential oils to the vinegar and shake well to combine, then top this off with water and you’ve got your homemade mosquito repellent. Try different oils on occasion and see which are most effective for you. Be prepared, the scent is going to be strong, but that’s what we want!
Deep Woods DIY Insect Repellent Oil
- 2 oz glass bottle
- 2 oz of soybean oil (or another carrier oil of your choice)
- 5 drops of cedar essential oil
- 5 drops of neem essential oil
- 5 drops of rosemary essential oil
Combine all of the ingredients together and shake well. This is a good one to apply before going out into the woods to prevent against ticks and other crawling bugs. It can even be used on your pets to help repel ticks and fleas.
So even though summer may be bringing extra pests into our lives, you don’t need to cover your family, pets and yard with toxic chemicals to keep them away. Essential oils can even work inside your house to get rid of pests like fruit flies, so give them a try.
For more crucial information on essential oils check out our Ultimate Essential Oil Guide! I hope I’ve given you some great options to start with and now I’d love to hear from you. Are there any natural solutions for deterring bugs that I’ve missed? Do you have a homemade mosquito repellent recipe that has really worked for you? Leave a comment and share your experience below!
- Made Safe (2018). “Chemicals of Concern in Bug Repellent.” Retrieved from: https://www.madesafe.org/education/chemicals-bug-repellent/
- Natural Living Ideas (2017). “5 Best Essential Oils To Repel Common Bugs, Insects and Pests.” Retrieved from: https://www.naturallivingideas.com/essential-oils-to-repel-bugs-pests/