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15 Best Essential Oils For Bug Repellent

Beautiful weather is often accompanied by pesky bugs. There are ways to naturally help this problem. Essential oils make a great bug repellent. They are not only natural repellents, they are also safe and smell good.
best essential oils for bug repellent

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We live surrounded by trees, so we know what a problem insects can be when you are outside. Insects certainly do have their place, but bothering us while we are enjoying the outdoors is not one of them.

When my youngest daughter was little, she could spot a daddy long legs for miles away. It became a serious problem since she was terrified of them. I have never seen eyes so sharp. Although daddy long legs are not insects or technically even spiders, I am sure you can still get where i am going with this.

To avoid the biting and annoyance of bugs, we use natural bug sprays and burning aromas with the best essential oils.

These natural essential oils are good for more than just outdoor bugs. They work inside the home as well.

However, different essential oils work for different creepy crawlies. Learning which oils are the best for repelling which insects and the most effective ways to use them is important for enjoying a bug free time.

15 Best Essential Oils For repelling bugs

Clove is a natural bug repellent for many different insects. It is highly effective at repelling mosquitoes, flies, ants, mites, cockroaches, and hornets, just to name some.

It can be used to repel using garden sticks that scent the area around you or in a spray. Also, it is also used as a natural pesticide. This is great because toxic chemicals should be avoided. Additionally, this essential oil has been shown to be effective against ants. 

Eugenol and eugenol acetate and beta-caryophyllene are found in clove and these compounds show efficacy as an ant repellant. Clove oil not only repels bugs, but it kills bugs as well.

Cedarwood is another useful, natural insect repellent. According to the USDA, cedarwood is known for both insect control and fungal prevention and intervention.

This essential oil has a smell that mingles well with other oils. Many people find it pleasant. 

Another added benefit of this oil is that ticks do not like cedarwood either. Although ticks are not classified as an insect, this sure is a convenience factor, especially for us living in the Northeast of the United States.

One of my favorite ways to use this oil for a bug repellent is in the incense sticks below. 

Peppermint essential oil is good for repelling fleas and flies to ants, cockroaches and more. It even has been shown to be effective against spiders and mice. This article shows how peppermint oil is useful in killing mosquito larvae as well.

Peppermint oil has a strong smell. Many natural sprays on the market include peppermint oil as one ingredient of several making for a more pleasant smell spray. Pregnant women and children under the age of 6 should not use this oil, however. Also, it can be toxic to pets.

How To Use Peppermint Oil

  • Use a ratio of 1 part peppermint oil to 10 parts witch hazel. 
  • Combine the ingredients into a spray bottle and lightly spray infested area. 
  • Also, spray down seating and table areas outside to prevent insects from invading your outdoor space.

Lavender essential is a good essential oil for so many things. Repelling bugs is another one of those things. It is actually beneficial to plant lavender around entry ways of the home because the plant itself can keep mosquitos and flies from entering the home.

Additionally, lavender oil is a member of the mint family. Many people like the calming scent of lavender, but some insects hate it. This makes it helpful for keeping insects such as mosquitoes, moths, and flies at bay.

Related Post:  Use Essential Oils to Clean the Air

Basil oil is another useful bug repelling oil. This oil contains several compounds which are toxic to certain insects. However, the concentrations of basil oil should be specific to decrease the toxicity rate of its component methyl eugenol.

Planting this herb around your house or in specific garden area is highly beneficial in deterring insects from being a problem as well.

Lemongrass is another pleasant smelling oil. This oil is great to use because it does not have to be reapplied as often as some oils. You just need to make sure you use it in a ready made spray or in a DIY using a carrier oil.

Also, lemongrass oil is an effective repellent that has been proven safe to use around plants. This is helpful when it comes to gardening. It is useful against flies, including fruit flies, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and more.

However, keep in mind lemongrass is not safe for pets, pregnant women, or toddlers under the age of 2.

Here is a great already-made natural insect repellent containing lemongrass.

essential oils for bug repellent

I am sure you have at one point or another been around a citronella repellant. The popular form are the burning candles. This is because it has been found to keep bugs effectively away.

Although citronella is an effective repellant, it should be used cautiously. Babies should not be exposed to this oil. Also, only using citronella it in a candle or device without additional toxins is most beneficial.

These are a great bug repellant stick to use that contains citronella as well as some other essential oil ingredients. We love them!

Rosemary essential oil releases the compounds camphor, limonene, and cineole which ward off mosquitoes when released into the air. Studies have shown rosemary oil's effectiveness, but the studies have varied on the concentration used and the amount of time it actually stays effective. 

How to Use Rosemary Oil:

Add 2-3 drops to an oil such as jojoba oil and apply it to a few parts of the skin such as the wrists and ankle areas. Alternatively, put a few drops into a beeswax or other non-toxic candle.  

Another oil that repel is Cinnamon essential oil. This oil repels various different insects. Studies such as this one have shown its effectiveness on insects, the mosquito being one of them. Using this oil at higher doses has the potential to inhibit the development of mosquito larvae as well.

Additionally, the same study showed cinnamon oil to be a great method for protecting bean and onions against insects. This potent oil shows itself to even be a possible herbicide limiting the growth of certain unwanted plants from an area.

Cinnamon oil should be avoided for children 10 and under. We also have found this oil to bother us when histamine issues were problematic.

Another effective essential oil that repels is geranium essential oi. This oil is useful for mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects. This journal article from the USDA shows geranium oil (due to its component eudesmol) to be as effective as DEET at certain concentrations.

Tea Tree Oil is an oil useful for so many things from cleaning to odor control to pest control. Bed bugs are among the insects impacted from a run in with this oil. The bugs are killed through suffocation once the tea tree oil penetrates its body.

Tea tree has been used for years as an insecticide. The oil is great to use to fight off lice, cockroaches, ants, lice, mosquitoes, and more.

How to Use Tea Tree Oil?

Put a few drops of tea tree on a cotton pad and place around problematic areas. 

This oil is shown to be toxic to cats and dogs according to veterinarian clinicians.

Here is a candle for repelling insects that gets great reviews on Etsy.

natural bug repellent

Neem Oil

Neem oil is another popular essential oil to use against insects. It is shown that the component azadirachtin in this oil gives it its strong repelling ability. This oil is often used in gardens to keep aphids and spiders from harming vegetation.

Another helpful repelling oil is sage. Mosquitoes, ticks, and flies are ward off with this oil. However, it is also really useful for deterring some veggie loving insects such as cabbage moths. 

Thyme essential oil also is a great oil to use against mosquitoes. This study shows 20% concentrate of thyme oil showed 100% protection from  mosquitoes. It did not state the length of time of its effectiveness, however.

Lastly, catnip essential oil is great to use as an insect repellent. It is great for keeping mosquitoes away in particularly. Nepeta cataria is the component in catnip that creates a sensation of pain in the insect. Fruit flies were shown to be less likely to come in contact with the oil as well.

frequently asked questions:

Do essential oils really work to repel insects?

Yes. Essential oils have the potential for working to repel against insects. Oil concentration, combination of oils used together, application frequency, and types of insects that are targeted are all factors that come in to play when it comes to the repellent efficacy of the essential oils.

However, even if one has to apply the natural mosquito repellent more often, it is better than applying toxic chemical repellents that have the potential to cause future harm. The natural products are better for both the person as well as the environment.

How often to reapply the essential oil bug repellent?

The reapplication of the essential oil insect repellents will be dependent on the oils being used. Using a repellent with pure essential oils is the first factor. The creation process of the essential oil also matters. This process determines the potency of the plant oil.

Additionally, a combination of oils may work better and create a stronger repellent. The type of insect that is repelled will may a difference as well. Therefore, reading the requirements on the repellent spray will be necessary. 

How to use essential oils as a natural insect repellent

  • Add several drops of oil to a natural candle
  • Place drops of essential oil on cotton pads and leave around designated spots.
  • Use essential oil incense sticks - Place the incense sticks into terra cotta bowls filled with stand to create a steady base. Place the sticks firmly in and light.
  • Create an essential oil DIY spray
  • Use natural insect repellents according to directions.

What are Ways to Reduce mosquito bites?

  • Spray seating environment with repellent.
  • Keep incense repellent sticks around the house, patio, deck, or seating area to ward off mosquitoes and other insects.
  • Screen in a designated area.
  • Wear longer sleeved clothing - jeans are harder to bite through than yoga-type pants.
  • Tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ankle bites.
  • Use natural insect repellent as necessary.
  • Cover baby strollers with mosquito netting.

effective insect repellent products


  1. Maia, M.F., Moore, S.J. Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing. Malar J 10 (Suppl 1), S11 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2875-10-S1-S11

  2. Cortés-Rojas, D. F., de Souza, C. R., & Oliveira, W. P. (2014). Clove (Syzygium aromaticum): a precious spice. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine4(2), 90–96. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2221-1691(14)60215-X

  3. https://metode.org/metodes-whys-and-wherefores/why-does-basil-repel-mosquitoes.html

  4. Kowalska, J., Tyburski, J., Matysiak, K., Jakubowska, M., Łukaszyk, J., & Krzymińska, J. (2021). Cinnamon as a Useful Preventive Substance for the Care of Human and Plant Health. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)26(17), 5299. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules26175299

  5. https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2021JPhCS1788a2016A/abstract

  6. https://www.homesandgardens.com/solved/does-rosemary-repel-mosquitoes

  7. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/3122/TabancaEtAl2013.pdf

  8. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/injured-skin/bites/prevent-treat-bug-bites

  9. https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2875-10-S1-S11


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