By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Do essential oils stop bugs? Can you deter bugs withessential oils? Both are valid questions and we have answers. Keep reading formore information on using essentialoils to deter bugs.
Insect repellents prevent pests from driving us crazy onlong hikes or lazy summer evenings, but they serve a more important function; agood bug repellant may also ward off serious insect-borne diseases like Lymedisease and West Nile virus.
The problem is that toxic chemicals in commercial insectrepellants may present certain health risks, especially when they build up inthe tissues over time. The answer may be essential oil bug repellents, most ofwhich work by releasing vapors that confuse a pest’s ability to detect theirhost.
However, not all essential oils for insect repellants arecreated equal. In other words, different essential oil bug repellents deterdifferent bugs.
Here are a few suggestions for using essential oils forinsect repellents:
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Are pests becoming a problem in your home? Ants, spiders, flies, and even lice can all become a problem if they are controlled, and can really wreak havoc on your space. So what is the best solution for pest control? If you want to control pests in your home naturally and without the use of harmful chemicals, take a look at these 7 essential oils for pest control below. It turns out that controlling pests can be easier than you thought!
Peppermint may feel more wintery at first, but this refreshing scent could actually be more useful during the warmer months. If you don’t want to use a bunch of chemical-laden bug sprays, peppermint essential oil is one of the best natural bug repellents.
It’s not exactly clear why, but bugs — such as mosquitos — find this scent super offensive. One study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine found that applying peppermint oil on just one arm of a participant, protected both of his or her arms from mosquito bites for up to 150 minutes. Another published in the journal Malaria found that peppermint oil was notably effective in repelling bugs that carry horrible diseases like yellow fever. Some folks have even claimed that peppermint oil is also helpful with repelling non-insect pests like spiders and mice. Wow, we’re ready to put peppermint oil to the test in our own homes this summer!
Some people swear by applying peppermint oil topically to repel insects. If you go this route, be sure to dilute it into a DIY spray, but it still may not be the best option for someone with sensitive skin. After all, you don’t want to risk irritation before you even come in contact with a bug! (As a rule of thumb, you should always test a new topical essential oil on a small patch of skin before spreading it too generously.) We suggest using peppermint oil around your home instead.
A study published in BioMed Research International found that peppermint essential oil is an effective repellent when applied to cotton. All you have to do is put a few drops onto a cotton ball, and then place the cotton balls wherever you spy bugs hanging out the most in your home. For starters, you might try putting a few of them around the perimeter of the kitchen, or a room close to your front door.
Alternative methods might include simply diffusing peppermint essential oil in your room of choice, or perhaps even crafting a DIY repellent with a few drops of peppermint oil and couple cups of water in a spray bottle. No matter which method you choose, just keep in mind that you may need to repeat it a few times throughout the day for maximum effectiveness.
Psst: If all this talk about peppermint is just making you hungry, check out our decadent Chocolate Peppermint Slice recipe and treat yourself!
There are a variety of essential oils that you can find for sale. However, that doesn’t mean that every single essential oil out there can be effectively used as an insecticide. And you don’t want to spend money on something that isn’t going to do what you want it to do, right?
Here are some essential oils that are commonly used as insecticides:
Citronella is very popular for repelling insects, and it can be found in a lot of natural insecticides. Some of the insects repelled by citronella include mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. (see this oil here)
Peppermint is a very pleasing smell to humans, but incredibly repulsive to a variety of insects including mosquitoes, spiders, flies, ants, fleas, and even mice if you have a rodent problem. (this oil here is really good)
Tea tree oil is perfect for repelling pests if you are infested with ants, spiders, mosquitoes, fleas, lice, and ticks. Do not use tea tree oil around your pets such as cats or dogs. (see this oil here)
Lavender is well known for its’ presence in many soaps and skin care products. But it is also an excellent way to deter pests such as fleas, flies, and black beetles. (see this oil here)
If fruit flies are your problem, you should consider trying some Lemongrass oil. Lemongrass has many uses, and it will also easily repel other varieties of flies, fleas, mosquitoes, and even some forms of bacteria. (we can recommend this one here)
Basil is delicious in a lot of recipes, but it is incredibly offensive to insects such as stink bugs and many varieties of stinging bugs. Basil oil is very effective if mixed in a spray bottle with apple cider vinegar. (take a look at this effective basil oil here)
Catnip has been made popular by the effect that it has on felines, but did you know that essential oil made from catnip can be effectively used to repel cockroaches and mosquitoes?
Thyme can be wonderful for use in cooking, and also for effectively repelling insects such as mosquitoes and whiteflies. (here is one affordable and effective thyme oil)
Mint is incredibly effective for repelling a variety of pests, including mosquitoes, flies, ants, and more. You can also try adding mint plants to your garden in order to keep bugs at bay from the outside of your home.
Geranium oil makes a good repellent if you are dealing with mosquitoes, and a variety of other insects. You can also try adding some geraniums to your garden to help repel pests outside from coming inside. (this one here is well recommended)
Cedarwood oil is a good way to repel ants, beetles, and moths. It also works well in a mixture with many other types of essential oils. (this cedarwood oil here is excellent)
While the above are certain essential oils that I have decided to highlight, they are only a few of the many that you can use in an insecticide mixture. You can also consider oils such as Eucalyptus, sage, orange, rosemary, oregano, and others. There is an unlimited amount of essential oils in the market place for you to choose from, and each of them has different practical uses.
Here is a chart with the most effective plant oils categorized by the particular bug they repel. A word of caution when using essential oils they should always be used with a carrier product because of their volatility. Carrier products are other oils such as extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, apricot kernel oil, unscented lotions, etc. (Read about carrier oils.) You will notice in the recipes that follow all of the oils are combined with a type of carrier. Some EOs should not be applied to children or to pregnant women. We also recommend seeking out brands who use sustainable harvesting practices. Mountain Rose Herbs has a good selection of essential oils, which we recommend.
Did you know that peppermint and thyme essential oils can disrupt the larvae cycle?
Depending on where you are and where you’re going, you can craft a bug repellent to match the environment.
What I usually do is look at the oils and one or two of them will usually jump out. These are the ones to use. Here’s how:
Use a 2-ounce bottle (you can spread this on anytime, it smells great)
If you’re combining oils such as lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) – Use 3 drops of lavender and 2 of geranium.
Spritz this on your clothes and hair. Not for use on skin.
Combine the following in a 2-ounce bottle:
Have fun and begin to select some oils to craft your own repellent. You may even have some of the carrier oils and solutions around the house to use. Don’t forget to label your repellent and store it safely in a cool place and out of the way of children! Read the back of the essential oil bottles for any precautions and check with your doctor before applying to pregnant women or children. Test the oil in a carrier on a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours for any reactions. To learn more about how to use essential oils, join us in our online programs!
This article was written by Donna Onacki, who has been working with herbs for most of her life and is a Clinical Herbal Apprentice and Certified in Aromatherapy. She has taught many workshops on aromatherapy and enjoys sharing what she knows and has learned with others. Donna is the treasurer for the Herbal Community of Central Massachusetts and is a Financial Recovery Counselor and Coach at Pot of Gold.
Worwood, V. A. (1991). Your Basic Travel Kit. The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy. San Rafael, CA: New World Library.