15 Essential Oils That Naturally Repel Bugs
For those who don’t like to use chemical-based insect repellents, you may be happy to know that essential oils can be used to help repel bugs naturally.
There are many types of essential oils that have been proven effective at ending off and killing various types of biting bugs in many scientifically-based studies.
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From disease-carrying bugs like mosquitoes and ticks, to annoying pests like biting midges, biting flies and ants – essential oils can help repel bugs of all kinds.
In this article, we’re covering what smells bugs hate, the most effective insect-repelling oils and how to make at home an essential oil insect repellent.
What Smells Do Bugs Hate?
In general, pesky biting bugs seem to have a strong aversion to scents like peppermint, citrus and eucalyptus type scents.
Of course, we can’t ask bugs directly what scents they hate, multiple scientific studies have shown bug aversions to certain scents.
When exposed to certain scents and essential oils that they don’t like, bugs will either steer clear of the area entirely or avoid biting.
In fact, some essential oils have proven to be almost as effective as chemical bug sprays containing DEET when it comes to repelling biting bugs.
15 Essential Oils to Keep Bugs Away
Many different types of essential oils have been studied time and time again on multiple types of insects. There are dozens of effective oils for insects.
This list contains 15 of the most popular and pleasantly scented essential oils that you can use to repel insects in your home or on your body.
#1: Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is a good oil to add to any DIY essential oil bug spray. In studies, peppermint oil has shown to be an effective insecticide against mosquito larvae.
It also helps repel adult mosquitoes from biting when used on skin. However, use caution – it can burn your eyes and mucous membranes.
#2: Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a natural antifungal and antimicrobial, and it has also been shown to repel biting flies, ants, and other pesky insects.
Tea tree oil should always be diluted in a DIY insect repellent spray. It has a strong scent that not everyone loves, but it makes a good addition.
#3: Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil smells so good and refreshing, and it has been shown to repel mosquitos for up to 8 hours in scientific studies. That sounds like a win-win.
While this oil works great on its own, it’s best used in combination with other insect-repelling essential oils.
#4: Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
The oils from the Lemon Eucalyptus tree have been proven to be effective at repelling insects naturally, including ticks.
The Lemon Eucalyptus essential oil is so effective that it’s even recommended by the CDC and EPA as a natural alternative to chemical-based insect repellants.
#5: Citronella Oil
Citronella oil and citronella-scented items are incredibly popular as a mosquito repellent, but do they actually work?
Studies show that citronella is effective at repelling insects, but it works better in combination with other oils than on its own.
#6: Lemongrass Oil
Lemongrass oil has been proven to be effective in repelling mosquitoes and biting flies. It may also work against other bugs.
Lemongrass can repel insects and is a great oil to use in a DIY bug spray for repelling insects while hiking, camping and spending time outside.
#7: Lavender Oil
Lavender essential oil has shown to be effective at repelling multiple types of insects, including ticks, in different scientific studies.
Plus, this oil has a calming aromatherapy effect on humans, so it makes a great addition to your own DIY essential oil bug spray.
#8: Rosemary Oil
Essential oils from the rosemary plant contain many compounds that have been proven to be effective natural insect repellents.
Rosemary oil is effective over different types of biting pests including mosquitoes. Depending on concentration, it can be effective for up to four hours.
#9: Thyme Oil
Thyme is another great essential oil to use for insect repellent. Thyme oil has been shown to have potent repellent activity against mosquitoes, in particular.
Thyme has a high concentration of alpha-terpinene, which has been scientifically proven to be more effective than DEET.
#10: Cedarwood Oil
Cedarwood essential oil has a light and earthy, woodsy scent and it complements most citrus and minty oils well.
In addition to smelling great, cedarwood oil has been proven as an effective insect repellent for ticks, ants, and termites.
#11: Sage Oil
Sage essential oil helps to repel certain types of insects, but it’s best used in combination with other essential oils for maximum effect.
This light-smelling, slightly citrus essential oil makes a great addition for an aromatherapy insect repellent, and can help repel certain bugs.
#12: Basil Oil
In studies done in Africa, basil oils have shown to be effective at repelling mosquitoes and preventing bites in scientific studies.
Different concentrations provided different levels of protection ranging from in the 60% range to upwards of 85%.
#13: Catnip Oil
Mosquitoes seem to be one of the most commonly studied insects, and catnip has been proven to be effective at repelling them.
Depending on the concentration, catnip oil can help repel mosquitoes and prevent bites for up to eight hours on skin.
#14: Geranium Oil
Geranium oil contains geraniol, which is proven to be an effective and safe insect repellent for many types of insects, including biting ones.
This essential oil is effective against both flying and crawling insects including mosquitoes, ticks, biting midges, ants, and more.
#15: Clove Oil
Last but not least, clove essential oil is often used for it’s anti-bacterial and analgesic properties. But, it also works as a natural insect repellent too.
Depending on concentration, clove works well to repel multiple species of mosquitoes from 1.25 to 3 hours, sometimes even longer.
Make Bug Spray with Essential Oils
If you want to use essential oil as an insect repellent on your skin, you must always dilute it. Never use undiluted essential oils on your skin.
Making your own essential oil insect repellent is easy and customizable. You’ll need oils, a carrier oil, distilled water, and witch hazel or alcohol.
The carrier oil works to help dilute the essential oil, and witch hazel or alcohol helps the oil mix with the water for an efficient mixture.
Using a 4 oz spray bottle, mix 2 oz water with 1 oz witch hazel or alcohol. You can use rubbing alcohol, or even vodka.
Next, add 50-60 drops total of your preferred essential oils. The concentration you need will depend on the oils you select.
However, be careful not to go overboard on the oils. When in doubt, less is more. Then just shake it up and you’re good to go.
Essential Oil Insect Repellents
If a spray just isn’t your thing, you can also make a DIY essential oil balm, which can also quite effective in repelling mosquitoes and biting insects.
It’s important to note that not all essential oils are safe for pets and kids. Before using your mixture on either, do your research.
For kids, especially younger kids, it might be better to purchase a child-safe essential oil insect repellent to dilute yourself, like this one from Plant Therapy.
This way you don’t have to worry about safe concentrations. Even essential oils can be harmful if used improperly. Never apply undiluted oils to bare skin.
Where to Buy Essential Oil Repellents
If you don’t want to make your own DIY insect repellent spray, no worries. You can buy essential oil based insect repellent in stores and online.
Some top-rated essential oil insect repellent sprays include:
* Murphy’s Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent
* Quantum Health Buzz Away Bug Spray
* KidSafe ShieldMe Insect Repellent Roll-On
* Sallye Ander No Bite Me Natural Bug Cream
* Murphy’s Insect Repellent Wipes
* Murphy’s Insect Repellent Balm Stick
In some instances, certain essential oils have shown to be just as effective (and sometimes more so) than DEET at repelling biting insects.
Essential oils can safely be used on skin when diluted, and you can use them around your house perimeter for insect control, too.
Be careful when choosing what oils to use on your kids, and do your research before using essential oils on or around cats and dogs for toxicity purposes.
Essential oils are effective at repelling insects in your home and on your body, and they have the added benefit of aromatherapy, too.
Erin Gifford is the editor of Go Hike Virginia. She has completed more than 300 hikes in Virginia. She is also the author of three hiking guidebooks from Falcon Guides. Need help finding a hike? Check out the Trail Finder feature or send Erin a message.