Repelling Bugs with Essential Oils

Love the smell of lavender, basil and peppermint? Good news: bugs don’t! That’s why making your own essential oil-based bug repellents is easy, economical and a safe alternative to using synthetic chemicals. Here are the top bug offenders and the essential oils that work to combat them.

Mosquitoes – Basil, Mint and Lemon Eucalyptus
Studies show that basil essential oil is ideal for pest control, especially if you live in a wet region with lots of mosquito-breeding lakes and ponds. Basil works on dust mites, too, so spray it on bedding, upholstered furniture and pillows.

DIY: Mix 20-30 drops of basil essential oil with a ½ cup of distilled water and 2 tablespoons vodka or witch hazel in a spray bottle and spritz on exposed skin.

Other powerful bug fighters come from the mint family—research has shown that peppermint and catnip essential oils work as well as many DEET-based mosquito repellents. Blended with lemon eucalyptus oil, another potent mosquito repellent, they provide protection from many types of mosquitoes.

DIY: Add 10 drops each of a mint oil and lemon eucalyptus oil to 3 tablespoons of a carrier oil like Pharmaca Pure Almond Oil—then smooth on skin for hydration and protection.

Note: If you’re going to an area where Zika or West Nile Virus mosquitoes (Aedes species) are found, the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports recommend using Picaridin or DEET-based repellents, which are effective for the longest duration (7-8 hours).

No-see-ums and Sand Flies – Lemongrass
Common in mountain or beach areas, these tiny biting flies are no fan of lemongrass. Lemongrass is closely related to citronella and can keep bugs away in your yard, too. Try burning lemongrass oil in oil lamps to keep outdoor areas bug-free.

DIY: Mix ¼ cup witch hazel, ¼ cup distilled water and 20-25 drops of Aura Cacia Organic Lemongrass Essential Oil in a spray bottle and spritz on exposed skin.

Ticks and Fleas – Lavender and Geranium
Keep ticks and fleas from biting by washing with a gentle soap infused with lavender oil. If you’re going to be in tick-infested area, try rubbing the soap directly on skin and rinsing later.

DIY: Mix 15-20 drops of Pharmaca Bulgarian Lavender Essential Oil into Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Soap Mild Baby Unscented (2 oz size).

Geranium oil has also been shown to effectively repel ticks; smooth on dual-purpose Skin Owl Geranium Beauty Drops, made from pure organic rose geraniums, to balance skin and decongest pores, too!

Ants – Peppermint
Ants hate peppermint’s strong scent so they won’t cross a peppermint oil barrier. Bonus: It also disrupts their smelling capabilities so they can’t detect food sources.

DIY: Dab cotton balls soaked with Peppermint Essential Oil around the perimeter of windows, doors, baseboards and counter tops.

When you get the inevitable bug bite
Don’t fret—natural remedies can relieve the itching and swelling from bug bites, too.