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Make Your Own Natural Bug Repellent

Whether it’s mosquitoes, fleas, or ticks, we all need protection from biting insects. Learn how to make your own natural "bug spray" without toxic chemicals!

Whether it’s mosquitoes, fleas and ticks or plant-destroying pests, we could all use some good bug repellent. For your skin, DEET insect repellents are purported to be safe and effective, but many of us would rather use an all-natural product. If you want to steer clear of potentially dangerous chemical bug sprays, we’ll show you how to make your own bug repellent.

Essential Oils That Bugs Hate

Eucalyptus oil - Essential oil

If you’d rather not use synthetic repellents, then your best all-natural defense comes from essential oils — especially lemon eucalyptus oil. Note: lemon eucalyptus oil is not a blend of lemon oil and eucalyptus oil, but an oil made from the lemon eucalyptus plant. This essential oil is proven to be every bit as effective as DEET and it even comes with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. However, because it can be toxic in extremely high doses, it isn’t recommended for children under three years old.

There are also several other bug-repelling essential oils, though none as effective as lemon eucalyptus. Here’s a list of effective essential oils if you’d like to make a blended insect repellent:
• Lavender
• Thyme
• Basil
Bergamot
• Peppermint
• Tea Tree Oil
Eucalyptus Oil

How to Make Homemade Bug Repellent

All homemade insect repellent sprays have three basic ingredients: water, the oil or blend of oils of your choice, and a carrier to dilute the oil. A common rule of thumb is to make sure that your mixture is 10% essential oil, with the rest being a half-and-half mixture of water and the carrying agent.

Here’s a basic recipe:
• 4½ ounces of water
• 4½ ounces carrier
• 1-ounce essential oil

Mix the three ingredients in a spray bottle and shake before using.

What Is A “Carrier”?

People use all kinds of things as a carrier, including vegetable oil, rubbing alcohol, vodka, vinegar, and witch hazel. The choice is up to your personal preferences. A bug spray with rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly and won’t stain clothing like almond oil, for instance, but it may dry your skin. If you want a moisturizing bug spray, then using a vegetable-based oil for the carrier might be the way to go.

The best part about homemade bug repellent is that it lasts just as long as store-bought chemical repellents. A 10% mixture of either DEET or an essential oil (like the recipe we’ve listed above) will need to be reapplied every hour or two. Stronger mixtures will last much longer, so if you’re looking for an all-day repellent, simply increase the amount of essential oil in your bug spray. Mixtures that contain 30% DEET or essential oil typically last five to six hours, which means one or two applications will let you be bug-free outside all day long!

witch hazel

Homemade Tick and Insect Repellent

Just mix and apply to exposed skin before heading outdoors:
•  9 drops citronella essential oil
• 6 drops Tea Tree essential oil
• 6 drops Peppermint essential oil
• 1 tablespoon carrier oil, such as almond oil or jojoba oil

NOTE: Do note that essential oils are very powerful and should be used with caution, especially with pregnant women and young children. Essential oils should always be diluted as noted above.

Some oils are toxic to cats and dogs, so please do your research and check with your vet.

Try out some of these oils to make your own bug repellent and you may never need to use synthetic pesticides again!

Need a repellent for deer? Try this…

Amber Kanuckel is a freelance writer from rural Ohio who loves all things outdoors. She specializes in home, garden, environmental and green living topics. Her article on woolly worm caterpillar folklore appears in the 2020 Farmers' Almanac.

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bob vallone

I have citronella plants on my deck..hope they work..

Christina

I need a good repellent to help get rid of gnats! It seems everytime I buy dirt for potting some how they eventually get gnats in the plants. HELP! What would you suggest.

Susan Higgins

Hi Christina, it sounds like you have an encounter with the “fungus gnat,” an all-inclusive name for a huge number of small flying creatures that breed in houseplant soil, and in your case, potting soil. Take a look at the suggestions offered in this article, which we think you’ll find helpful: https://www.gardensalive.com/product/fungus-gnats-tiny-flying-houseplant-pests

Della

I bought fungas knat spray. I had to use on all of my potted indoor plant soil. Not natural spray and i did not use on edible plants.

Christie

Try Diatomaceous Earth. Read up on it. Get at Agway or whatever is near you.

Betty Gregory

How can I keep bees away from my hummingbird feeder. They drive the hummers away.

LJ

Bees are terrible creatures of habit: they’d rather return to the same watering hole every day. Simply moving the feeder will help. Honestly though, depending on your climate, the bees are primarily looking for water. Maybe you can add a bee waterer as well.

Esther Volkan

Need help against Japanese Beetles. Tried Milky Spore to no avail and picking them off which requires 18 hours each day and herbs and flowers. any other ideas?

Paul Trout

I bought bags that have an attractive scent from HOME DEPOT only put one in front yard by blackberries and it seemed to get rid of the beetles, I was amazed. my property is 1.35 acre.
I had almost none in back yard.

Esther Volkan

Need help against Japanese Beetles that are destroying my grapes, roses and plum tree.

Sue

I just researched pennyroyal oil and it has been found to be highly toxic both internally and externally. I would be extremely cautious about using the oil for anything!

Laura Clayton

Wanted to share a mixture I learned on Pinterest. Take plain tap water with 3 garlic cloves. Boil for approx. 15 minutes, then let sit overnight. Next day, pour into a spray bottle. Spray directly on plants.
I’ve used this on my Basil, Mint & other plants that seems to get eaten by little critters in the night. It works Fantastic!!! Spray every other day or so… ?

Rhonda Fogle

Thank you! I will try this. Those dang beetles destroyed my grape vine last year just as it started producing good. I have tried everything but this. Thank you

Laura Clayton

Can you use these products on Dogs?? My dog is a Black Lab mix. The ticks LoVe his fluffy chest. Found 3 on him in 2 days!!!… PLEASE HELP!!!

Maureen

I’ve been adding small amounts of garlic into my dogs homemade food and its going on 6 weeks not one tick he is Maltese and I was pulling 1-3 off him a day. I give it for one week then off for 4 days you have to research some dogs garlic can be very bad for. Good luck!!

Susan Higgins

Hi Maureen, good info, thank you!

LJ

Most essential oil companies recommend using extreme caution applying oils on animals, children, and pregnant women.

Elizabeth Young

For bed bugs call the folks at Cedar oil store dot com in Texas. They have a very effective product for bed bugs, spiders, etc.

For moths, try fresh or dried bay leaves. Grow your own tree as a houseplant and have fresh leaves or buy from the store spice rack.

For chigger, mosquito and tick repellent I use Pennyroyal oil from hopewell essential oils dot com in Texas for me (often) and our cat (just a little, not too often). They have a number of oils we use a lot, depending on situation. When our cat got very sick, we used “Bacteria Top Gun” and she recovered from being very weak, not eating and just lying around. It saved her life. Just a little on my fingers, spread on her ear tips and back paw pads, night and morning and she was much better. Only did it a few days. She does not like the smell of either oil, so my husband holds her while I rub either of them on.

I have read that studies indicate that the leaves of the beauty bush, Callicarpa, are very effective against chiggers, ticks, mosquitoes, etc. I haven’t tried it yet, but when I find some time, intend to make an herbal oil using olive oil poured over some dried leaves from the bush in our yard and heating just on WARM for several hours in a crock pot. More info online about the process.

Minkka

Thanks for all these ideas! Does anyone have suggestions to get rid of moths in carpets and clothes?? They are ruining everything I treasure!!!

LJ

I use diatomaceous earth (de) in my carpets; just sprinkle and rub it into the carpet fibers letting sink as deeply as possible. Keeps away moths, mites, etc. For my closet, hang sachets made with cedar shavings that I buy at the feed or pet store.

Bobby

Is there any natural remedy for bed bugs ?

Christie

Diatomaceous Earth. Otherwise you will find all sorts of info online. I’d try DE first. Amazing stuff. Non-toxic. Available in food grade.

Dispenser

Steam cleaning will work if you hit the bugs and the eggs. The high heat will kill them. Multiple applications may be needed.

Dawn Giesman

You say that some oils are bad for cats… How about the lemon eucalyptus and witch hazel? My mom has a cat…

KitKat

Does anyone know something that will repel redbugs….aka…chiggers?

Joyce

‘@ Amanda, hang a clear bag of water to repel flies, it messes with their eyes, they might fly in but they will fly right back out. You might want to find a couple of old copper pennies to add to the bag to keep the water from turning green. Also for any kind of bees, take a brown paper bag and fill it with plastic bags, tie if at the top and hang (they think it’s a hornet nest) and will leave. Both of these work for me on my porch.

Berh

I believe that and can witness this to be the real deal. It does work! Give it a try.

Laura Clayton

I’m definitely going to try this!!! Got stung by hornets a few Summers ago. There was a nest in my Dogwood tree that was huge, but hidden well. Never want to go thru THAT ever again!!!

Bud Moore

What a great looking Ride

Mary Crane

I love making many natural products with essential oils including our own bug spray. I have a facebook page they can join where I post lots of DIY recipes especially with essential oils. The name of the facebook page is Essential Oils How and Why?

Monique Chancellor

Mary I sent you a request on Facebook. I need a good spider repellent. I live in South Texas and the spiders are everywhere it seems in our house. I have a small dog and two cats. I don’t want to use chemicals.

amanda

Do you know if there is any oil or anything really that will repel flies or bees/wasps?

RuRu

Sara, Google essential oils on the internet. Essential oils can be purchased a lot of different places, but you have to be careful to order “good” oils. They are not all the same. Fabulous Frannie & Tropical Traditions are two good choices for ordering essential oils that are not diluted or overly processed. One small bottle will last a VERY long time as you only use a couple of drops per application.

Sara

Where can the lemon eucalyptus be purchased? I’ll give that a try and in the meantime, do you have a solution to get rid of Box Elder Bugs? My exterminator told me he hasn’t a thing that will rid the outside areas of them but to try Dawn dish detergent. Put it into a spray bottle, connect it to the garden hose & spay the outside of the house with it. So far, it appears to be working but I don’t know for how long. Thank you.

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