Prehistoric humans sat around the fire to repel mosquitoes. This could have very well been the first natural insect repellent.
Fast forward to this century, people have again started looking for natural ways to repel bugs, especially mosquitoes. Malaria is an epidemic in over 104 countries and needless to say, we all want to protect ourselves from this and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Commercial bug repellents are often inadequate in repelling mosquitoes; they also contain numerous chemicals that are harmful to humans and pets. Thankfully, Mother Nature has a solution in the form of essential oils. Some readers might be sceptical: “how can essential oils repel mosquitoes and bugs”?
The fact is: research has now shown significant bug repellent activity of many essential oils against insects and mosquitoes.
This guide is all about DIY homemade mosquito and bug spray recipes, easy bug repellents and blends to soothe bug bites.
You can use pure essential oils from any top companies for making these recipe blends, but I particularly recommend Plant Therapy essential oils. Check it out on Amazon if it's still available but most likely you will be able to get FREE shipping on orders over $25.
These oils are tested by expert aromatherapists and are pure, effective and affordable. I have already written about top reasons that make Plant Therapy essential oils the best in the market.
Without further delay let's look at some natural remedies to repel mosquitoes and bugs using affordable and pure essential oils.
The Threat of Mosquitoes
Summer is here, and that means you are going to be troubled by gnats, chiggers, houseflies, ants, roaches and the peskiest of all bugs- mosquitoes. Mosquitoes transmit many diseases including malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, filariasis etc.
Many top nations have been taking up scientific research to combat the threat of these diseases. With this viewpoint, DDT and DEET were discovered in the early 1900s. However, the impact of these chemicals on non-targeted populations as well as the development of resistance by bugs to these chemicals prompted the search of alternative, simple and sustainable methods of repelling bugs and mosquitoes.
This led to the emergence of natural pesticides and insecticides using bioceuticals for insect control.
What Are Essential Oils? How do They Repel Bugs and Mosquitoes?
Certain essential oils have been identified and studied exclusively for their insect repellent properties. The strong smell of oils like Neem, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Peppermint, Catnip, Citronella, Lemongrass and Rose Geranium deter different species of bugs.
In nature, essential oils play an important role in protecting the plants as antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic agents. They also protect the plants from herbivores thanks to their strong smells. The reason why essential oils have strong insect repellent properties is owing to certain compounds such as:
- 1.8 Cineole
Today, these compounds have been tested orally and subcutaneously on rats and researchers have concluded that they significantly repel mosquitoes and also help soothe itchy bug bites. Later in this guide, I have covered many bug repellent recipes as well as blends to soothe itching caused by bugs like ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, bed bugs and other creepy crawlies.
Advantages of Making Your Own Bug Repellents
There are many benefits of making DIY homemade essential oil mosquito repellents and bug sprays.
Commercial sprays and lotions for repelling bugs are quite expensive. Since essential oils are highly concentrated, you need them in very small amounts to make your DIY homemade bug spray recipes. Thus, you can easily create a large batch of these recipes and use them all year round to repel roaches, ticks, fleas, ants, gnats, moths and mosquitoes
Also, many of these essential oils for mosquitoes also repel other household pests. So you can use a single homemade bug repellent recipe to repel all kinds of bugs which bother you.
Commercial sprays, on the other hand, require you to spray different products to repel various species of household insects. This way, you end up buying different products and causing a huge dent in your pocket.
Better for Your Health
Traditional chemicals in commercial bug repellents have acute toxicity and long-lasting residues.
Take a look at some of the common chemicals used in mosquito repellents: dimethyl phthalate (DMP), 2-ethyl-1,3-hexanediol (Rutgers 612), dimethyl carbate, benzyl benzoate, butyl 3,4-dihydro-2,2- dimethyl-4-0x0-2H-pyran-6-carboxylate (Indalone), and N,N-diethyl-mtoluarnide (DEET). DEET is currently the most widely used mosquito repellent.
Several reports on its toxicity are now available. Children have suffered from encephalopathy, hypotension, anaphylaxis, urticaria syndrome etc. These reports have prompted consumers to look for botanical insect repellents.
Essential oils like cinnamon, neem, citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, cedar, eucalyptus, mint, geranium, catnip and osage orange etc. have significant bug repellent activity and the best part of using them is that they normally do not have any adverse effects on human health.
We have sprayed millions of pesticides and harmful chemicals in our environment which is affecting the health of animals with whom we share this planet. Chemicals are now being found in the urine and blood samples of our pets, marine animals and wildlife.
When we spray chemicals to repel bugs, their residues last for a long time where it may be licked by pets and even our kids.
By using essential oils for bug bites and repelling household bugs, we can take responsibility to remove as many poisons and toxins from our homes and food chains. Green pesticides and bug repellents are safer for the planet. They do not impact human or animal immunity nor do they harm our beautiful planet permanently. In fact, the recipes will leave your home smelling fresh and clean!
Great for Gifting
When you make your homemade bug repellent sprays, lotions and balms, you will have fun creating these recipes. They are simple to make, and you can even gift them to your friends and family.
Simply store these blends and balms in roll-on bottles or attractive glass containers and your friends will surely appreciate your taking the time to create something with them in mind.
Let us now discuss top essential oils to repel mosquitoes and other bugs.
Best Essential Oils to Repel Mosquitoes: DIY Mosquito Repellent Recipes
Neem Essential Oil
Neem or margosa is a medicinal plant having numerous applications. The oil of neem is beneficial in preventing head lice. It has a strong bitter smell and taste that is particularly repulsive to bugs, mosquitoes, flies and other household pests.
Placing neem leaves in food grains can prevent them from getting spoilt by bugs. How to prepare it? A simple home remedy to get stop bug bites from itching is to use neem oil with petroleum jelly in 1:5 ratio and apply it all over the skin.
This formulation can also cure cuts, wounds and prevent secondary infections from scratching heat rashes, eczema, psoriasis etc. Applying neem oil to the skin can prevent blisters and pustules that arise on the skin due to bed bug, tick, flea or mosquito bites. Neem based bug repellent sprays or lotions can remain effective for up to 3 hours after which you need to reapply them.
Citronella Essential Oil
This is a classic mosquito repellent found in many commercial herbal insecticides and pesticides. It is available in the form of candles, incense sticks, sprays etc. Citronella works by interfering with the bugs’ life cycle and mating process. Check out more details about Plant Therapy citronella oil on Amazon. This oil comes in various sizes and even in a big 100 mL bottle so you can make mosquito repellent very inexpensively.
While citronella candles may do the trick, the area they cover is limited. The best way to use citronella is to wear it. I don’t recommend putting too much citronella essential oil directly onto your skin because it can cause irritation. It’s best to dilute it before applying.
One way to do this is to mix the essential oil with an unscented lotion like this one. Mix one teaspoon of citronella essential oil into eight ounces of unscented lotion for a quick and easy repellent.
You can also make your own citronella mosquito repellent spray. How to prepare it? Start with a clean bottle with a spray mister top. It’s good to know exactly how many fluid ounces your bottle holds, because I recommend adding citronella at a rate of 2%.
For every 2 ounces of alcohol-free witch hazel add 25 drops (about ¼ teaspoon) of citronella essential oil. Spray it on your clothes, arms and legs.
Depending on the formulation, you can get a mosquito repellent action of 30 minutes to 3 hours. Caution! some people are known to be allergic to citronella; so diffuse with caution.
Essential Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
OLE or oil of lemon eucalyptus masks the carbon dioxide as well as lactic acid exhalations by humans which draws mosquitoes to them. The active ingredient in OLE is p-Menthane—3,8 diol which is comparable to DEET in protecting against mosquitoes. Estimated time of effectiveness of OLE in mosquito areas is 3-5 hours depending on the concentration.
How to prepare it? Add around 30 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil to your mixing container and add 4 ounces of witch hazel (you can also use rubbing alcohol or vodka). Mix it all up and pour it into a spray bottle, and your homemade mosquito spray is ready.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil
In Africa, dried eucalyptus leaves are used to decrease arthropod biting activity and also prevent crop damage. The active component in eucalyptus is 1,8 cineol which is known for its bug repellent properties. This oil has also strong antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Use of the oil is known to cure tinea or ringworm infections. Apply diluted eucalyptus oil to insect bites to prevent blistering, pus and other secondary infections. Reapply the formulation after every 4 hours.
To repel bugs, place cotton balls soaked in eucalyptus essential oil all around the kitchen, near the trash etc. You can also spray the oil mixed with some witch hazel to repel mosquitoes.
How to prepare it? Add around 30 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil to your mixing container and add 4 ounces of witch hazel (you can also use rubbing alcohol or vodka).
Mix it all up (you can also add 5-10 drops of citronella oil) and pour it into a spray bottle, and your homemade mosquito spray is ready.
Lavender Essential Oil
No other essential oil is as versatile as lavender oil is. Its strongly aromatic oil is known to deter bugs. Lavender flowers and leaves are often placed in clothes cabinets to repel moths. Insects repelled by the essential oil of lavender are ticks, fleas, houseflies and mosquitoes.
How to prepare it? Infuse some dried lavender flowers and leaves with lavender oil and leave them in small baskets around the house to repel mosquitoes..
Lemongrass Essential Oil
The fresh earthy and lemony fragrance of lemongrass is welcome to humans but it repels bugs and creepy crawlies. Today, many commercial formulations like bath soaps, insect repellent sprays, tick/flea powders, bug repellent lotions and creams are known to contain lemongrass.
The fresh scent of lemongrass oil has special use in aromatherapy to alleviate pain. Applying the diluted oil to your skin before gardening, hiking or camping will ensure that no biting bugs come near you.
How to prepare it? You can rub its diluted form on your skin. Spray its more concentrated form around your home. For every 2 ounces of alcohol-free witch hazel or rubbing alcohol add 20-25 drops (about ¼ teaspoon) of lemongrass essential oil. Spray it on your clothes, arms and legs.
Other Top Essential Oils That Repel Bugs
- Cajeput oil - This is native to Australia and its oil is similar to eucalyptus essential oil. Cajeput blends well with other essential oils and natural bug repellents.
- Cedarwood oil - Cedarwood shavings are often filled inside dog beds to prevent ticks and fleas. Additionally, this natural repellent also deters mosquitoes.
- Peppermint - Peppermint essential oil repels fleas and mosquitoes.
- Geranium oil - Is an excellent tick repellent and also deters mosquitoes.
- Tea tree oil - This oil is a strong antiseptic and apart from repelling bugs, it also soothes the skin and prevents itch and irritation.
Best Essential Oils for Bug Bites: Soothe Bitten Skin Naturally
Here is a list of top essential oils to soothe bug bites:
Chamomile Essential Oil
Chamomile oil is very effective in relieving pain caused by bug bites thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Its soothing effect relieves itchy, inflamed and irritated skin.
Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood is a sweet smelling oil that is perfect for relieving inflamed, dry, irritated or itchy skin. It also has antiseptic properties that prevent secondary skin infections after being bitten by mosquitoes, fleas, ticks etc.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender oil benefits every skin type. Its antimicrobial action prevents infections and soothes irritation, bites, stings and rashes. Lavender oil, as stated above, also repels bugs. If you are after an organic version of lavender oil you can find it here.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil is as versatile as Lavender oil in treating skin problems. It also has antiseptic, antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. Apply the oil diluted to prevent blisters, rashes and sores after being bitten or stung by bugs. Here is the organic tea tree oil from Plant Therapy.
Let us now discuss some easy recipes for essential oils for mosquito bites and sprays to deter them.
Homemade Bug Bites Spray with Essential Oil: Easy Recipes
Easy Blend with Essential Oils to Stop Bug Bites from Itching
- 20 drops of lavender oil
- 10 drops of tea tree oil
- ½ cup of this amazing aloe vera gel or alcohol-free witch hazel
How to prepare it? Mix the ingredients well. Apply/spray/dab on all over the bitten skin for fast relief from itchiness. Reapply every 2 hours.
Homemade Bug Repellent to Spray Boots and Clothes
While going hiking or gardening, apply this bug repellent on the shoes to prevent bringing ticks and fleas home. You can even spray this recipe on your luggage when staying in motels to prevent bed bugs.
- Dishwashing soap - ½ cup - I like Dr Bronner's Pure Castile Liquid Soap - Baby Unscented because it will not irritate your skin.
- 1 cup white vinegar (natural and safe type is the best)
- Essential oils of geranium, eucalyptus, citronella and lemongrass (10 drops each)
How to prepare it? Mix all the ingredients and add them to a KAMOTA spray bottle. Shake well. Spray the boots, cuffs of your jeans, collars and sleeves to deter ticks on hiking trails. This remedy also repels mosquitoes and prevents bites.
Insect Deterrent Synergistic Spray
- 4 drops each peppermint, thyme and lavender oils
- 8 drops of lemongrass oil
How to prepare it? Mix the oils and store in a dark coloured glass bottle like the KAMOTA bottle. You can use this insect deterrent remedy in numerous ways. During your afternoon siesta or at night, place cotton balls soaked in the blend all around your bed. You can also mix a few drops of the blend with some skin lotion or massage oil. Rub it all over your body to repel mosquitoes on picnics or hikes.
Skin Soothing Bug Repelling Moisturising Green Tea Lotion
This skin soothing lotion is all that you need to keep your skin smelling great and moisturized. The best part: it is an all-in-one recipe that also repels bugs and soothes itches, blisters and skin irritation caused by bugs.
How to prepare it? In a double boiler, melt the beeswax and add almond oil. Stir well to combine. Allow the mixture to cool until lukewarm. Blend the green tea in a food processor and slowly add wax and oil mixture. Slowly whip until creamy.
Add the essential oils. Mix well. Store the lotion in the refrigerator. Apply it to the skin to repel mosquitoes and bugs. You can also use this salve on bitten areas to soothe bug bites.
Skin Soothing Compress
- 1 tsp almond oil
- 1 drop German Chamomile essential oil
- 3 drops each lavender and sandalwood essential oils
How to prepare it? Fill a bowl with cold water. Add the essential oils to the almond oil and then add the blend to the cold water. Soak a flannel cloth in the water. Wring out excess water and apply the cool, soothing compress to itchy, swollen and inflamed parts of the skin. Repeat as often as needed.
Skin Soothing Kid Safe Blends from Plant Therapy: Ready Made - Just Apply
If you are too busy to make their DIY homemade bug bite remedies or sprays, here are some ready-made blends from Plant Therapy.
KidSafe blends from Plant Therapy are unique offerings that are made with children’s delicate skin in mind. You can use the following blends diluted or neat to repel bugs or soothe bug bites. These blends can also be used by adults and many love the convenience of Plant Therapy essential oil roll ons.
This children-friendly essential oil blend contains palmarosa, cedarwood, lavender, coriander, patchouli, rose absolute and sandalwood oils. It is a safe, natural remedy to soothe, red, itchy, inflamed and eczema-prone skin.
It is also available as a roll-on so kids can carry it easily in their backpack on hiking trips. This is one of the best ready to use essential oils for bug bites.
Itch Away contains turmeric, copaiba, lavender, spearmint, palmarosa, patchouli and rose absolute. It soothes skin irritations and bug bites by relieving swelling, redness, pain, itchiness and inflammation.
Enjoy your summer excursions and when bug bites occur, use Itch Away or Itch Away as a roll on.
As far as insect bites are concerned, prevention is almost always better than cure. Always keep essential oils like lemongrass, lavender or citronella in your travel kit. The KidSafe synergies from Plant Therapy are especially recommended for soothing kids’ bitten skin. The repelling essential oil blends discussed above may be diffused, sprayed or massaged topically to keep bugs away.
Before going out for the evening, especially in the warmer months, apply one of the recipes above to prevent bugs from dining on you. You can do the same before going to bed at night. If you are in a rush, toss the convenient roll-on bottles in your purse or child’s backpack.
You can also add a few drops of the oil in your shoes/socks/trousers or spray the blend on your clothes to deter ticks, fleas, chiggers and mosquitoes.