Make Your Own Natural Bug Repellent Using Essential Oils

Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me!


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It is easy to make your own non-toxic bug spray by using store bought essential oils. Essential oils are steam-distilled pure concentrates of the natural oils present in plants, flowers, roots, and trees and can be purchased at your local health food store.

The high amounts of essential oils that are so often found in store bought natural bug sprays are unnecessary, and can be made at home using less.To make your own insect repellent, combine rubbing alcohol, witch hazel, vodka, or olive oil with one of the essential oils listed below.

The  Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Julia LawlessCreate your own natural bug repellent!To make an effective repellent the base-to-essential oil ratio should be 10-to-1. Store your mixture in a glass spray bottle and be sure to shake well before each use as the base and oil may separate.

If you find that you need to apply repellents several times throughout the day, and you are doing this everyday, I recommend that you make several different repellents and use them in alternation.


Essential oils are steam distilled concentrates of the natural oils present in plants, flowers, roots, and trees. They are 100% pure and must be carefully used by the drop. To follow are the most commonly used essential oils in natural bug repellants, and should only be used externally. With the exception of Lavender and Tea Tree ALL essential oils must be diluted before use:

  • CEDARWOOD (Juniperus mexicana)
  • CITRONELLA (Cymbopagon nardus)
  • LEMONGRASS (Cymbopogon citratus)
  • PENNYROYAL (Mentha puleglum)
  • TEA TREE OIL ( Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • GERANIUM (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • CATNIP (Nepeta cataria) – Preliminary studies have shown catnip oil to be 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitos!
  • EUCALYPTUS OIL (Eucalyptus globulus) – Patch test before using on your skin. Keep out of mucus membranes.


A Tree for Solving Global Problems by Noel VietmeyerNEEM OILTo generations of native people, Neem was known to provide protection from disease; therefore, protecting and planting Neem was not only considered a sacred duty but it was encouraged by religious sanction. Neem is a tropical tree grown in many Asian countries, and in the tropical regions of the western hemisphere. Through its gentle but effective means of controlling pests and plant disease, the Neem Tree is considered to be one of the most promising trees of the 21st century. with great potential in the fields of Pest Management, Environmental Protection and Medicine. It is believed to help control diseases like malaria, cancer and AIDS, and its use cancombat desertification, deforestation, and global warming. (Product link | Ingredient link)

SOYBEAN OIL – The New England Journal of Medicine found soybean oil to be an effective natural repellant. Comparing to DEETs 302 minute repelling capabilities, a soybean-oil–based repellent protected against mosquito bites for an average of 95 minutes. (Product link | Ingredient link)

YARROW -To repel ticks, mosquitoes, and black flies, try a diluted tincture of yarrow (Alchellia millefolium) flowers directly on all exposed skin. A recent US Army study showed yarrow tincture to be more effective than DEET as an insect repellent. (Product link)

GARLIC – Another effective natural bug repellent can be made by mixing one part garlic juice with 5 parts water in a small spray bottle. Shake well before using. Spray lightly on exposed body parts for an effective repellent lasting up to six hours. Strips of cotton cloth can also be dipped in this mixture and hung in areas, such as patios, as a localized deterrent.


  • Eat less sugar and more garlic!
  • Planting marigolds around your yard works as a natural bug repellent because the flowers give off a fragrance bugs and flying insects do not like.
  • The most important measure you can take is to remove standing water sources. Change birdbaths, wading pools and pet’s water bowl twice a week. Keep your eaves troughs clean and well-draining. Remove yard items that collect water.


  • FLEA REPELLENTS: Brewers Yeast, Garlic, Fennel, Pennyroyal, Pyrethrum Daisy, Garlic. Garlic combined with brewers yeast protects your pets against fleas. They usually love this sprinkled on their food each day. – Place a drop of pennyroyal on your pets collar to repel fleas. You can also add a few drops of pennyroyal oil to water and spray around areaswhere your pets sleeps.
  • FLY REPELLENTS: Basil, Bay Leaf, Cloves, Tansy
  • MOTH REPELLENTS: Basil, Bay Leaf, Cedar, Cloves, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Mints (Not Peppermint) Patchouli, Pennyroyal, Black Pepper, Pyrethrum Daisy, Rosemary, Rue, Tansy, Southernwood, Thyme, Wormwood.
  • PLANTS THAT PROTECT PEOPLE: Basil, Bay Leaf, Citronella Oil, Clove, Garlic, Neem Leaf, Pennyroyal, Rosemary, Rue, Thyme, Tea Tree, Witch Hazel
  • WEEVILS: Bay leaf – Place whole leaf in grain and flour packages.


About the AuthorTony(a) Lemos Tony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA and maintains an herbal practice in Northampton, MA. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She is the vice president of the North East Herbal Association, and has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering and the Women’s Herbal Conference.

Disclaimer: Information provided on Hilltown Families (HF) is for informational and entertainment purposes only. All health and wellness related information is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used to substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Reasonable efforts are made to provide the most accurate information, but no guarantees of any kind can be made. Opinions expressed on HF are that of the writer and not necessarily that of HF. In no event shall HF be liable (directly or indirectly) for any losses or damages causes (or allegedly caused) in connection with HF. All provided links are provided as a courtesy and not as an endorsement.

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46 Comments on “Make Your Own Natural Bug Repellent Using Essential Oils

  1. My question is in regards to our hens! The gnats seem very bad this year. I was hoping there would be an effective solution someone had previously tried spraying on the chickens..??? I plan to use the solution I read further up about giving the dogs a good bath than adding rosemary… that sound great for me and the dogs! Also, I will go ahead and try the garlic water see if spraying that around and haging up a few dipped in cloths will work ~Thankyou~
    Amy ;)

  2. Some have even said these oils work bed bugs off at night, although I have never tried them. Guess it would just be a temporary fix as you would have to ultimately get rid of the bed bugs.

    Bed bug need to be killed with heat. Pesticides just end up making your home toxic and usually need to call the exterminator back.

  3. I have a 9 month baby girl and my friend has a 3 month old, we are both looking for a natural remedy to protect our babies from mosquitoes. What oils do you recommend for a natural repelent? Oh by the way is it also safe to use if we are breast-feeding?

  4. To Cheryl of Aug 16
    Home made fly spray for horses, have used this recipe for years.
    Use a clean empty 1 gallon milk jug,
    Add 1 inch of lemon scented dish soap,
    Add 1 inch vinegar
    Fill to top with water.
    Pour into spray bottle and apply daily.

    You can experiment by increasing ratio of vinegar.

  5. I’d like to share my experience with using essential oils for natural pest control.

    We moved to the Phoenix area last November and from then through about the first of June found two scorpions in the house. Then the major heat hit us and we were finding one or two a day. Having lived with scorpions before I personally experienced the uselessness of trying to get rid of them with poisons. In fact almost nothing kills scorpions that wouldn’t kill you, your children and your pets as well.

    I pulled out my arsenal of oils and mixed about a sixteenth of a teaspoon each of cedar, rosemary, juniper, clove, lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint in a quart sprayer bottle. Filled it with water and a drop of dish detergent as an emulsifier. Yes, this may have been over-kill but my son had already been stung twice!

    I sprayed along the baseboards, around the doors and windows, under sinks around the plumbing, air conditioning returns, dryer vents and any areas that looked like it might give access to a scorpion.

    It’s been three weeks and I haven’t seen a single scorpion. I haven’t seen any the giant water bugs we get here either. I don’t think it killed them because I still get tiny spiders, some crickets and my resident gecko is still around, but no scorpions!

    The only downside was my house smelling like cloves for about a day. My dog didn’t seem to be particularly bothered by the smell but cats are more sensitive to odors, I believe.

    My next door neighbors just had their house tented and fumigated for bed bugs so I’m going to re-treat and hope none of their bugs become my unwelcome visitors.

  6. The very best mosquito repellent I have ever used is Nutri Shield. It smells surprisingly great and yet when our group of six had it on, we didn’t get a single bite while everyone else was being eaten alive. We had two bottles, one was herbal and the other was peppermint, they both worked flawlessly. We bought it at BassPro Outdoor world. My friends and family think It’s the best mosquito repellent there is.

  7. I visited a lavendar field in Santa Barbara, California, and they said that a mattress company had contacted them about purchasing lavendar to put in their pillows as a natural bed bed repellent. Any truth in this?

  8. I have to agree with Lori. I read that Pennyroyal is HIGHLY TOXIC, even in small amounts. To err on the side of caution, I personally would not use it on or around my precious animals. In my opinion, the author should not recommend it as it could be a potential lawsuit. Always best to be safe than sorry.

  9. Killing Bed Bugs On The Spot –
    Use Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner spray bottle and mix with Hydrogen Peroxide. Half bleach and half peroxide spray in areas of infestation and they die on contact. Then steam the area with a hot iron if you cant wait to buy a portable steamer. Sharks makes a good brand for $100 and can be found in the vaccuum setcion of any walmart, target bath and beyond store – Glide and steam and u go killing eggs and all and cleaning your mattress too.

    The mixure is not toxic and wont harm you

  10. I use pennyroyal mixed with citronella, lavender, lemongrass and other essential oils diluted in a spray to keep the bugs off me when I walk my dog. I also use a cold process soap with this oil blend to wash my dogs! The oils and soaps are available online at http://www.gotwick.comVery good prices, check it out if you don’t believe me. Soap goes for $2.25, with a buy 3 get 1 free, and essential oils are some of the best prices available online for 1 or 2 ounces.

  11. how can i get rid of bed bugs naturally? need ur help real bad. Thankz

  12. I agree that natural products are better for you and the environment. I live in an area that has been infestated for the past two years with mosquitoes. They come out and bite during the day time. I used to be able to cut my grass at night without problems with mosquitoes. There seems to be a new strain of them that do not buzz and are a different color than they were several years ago. I use essential oils in all of my products including mosquito repellants and for mosquito bites. Visit my website for a complete line of natural products. You can email me for your requests for special blends for your needs.

  13. I love Essential Oils and should be used everywhere instead of Chemicals.

  14. Great page! Here it is 2010 and I found it. So glad too. I have some Neem on hand aleady and plan to use it to fight the flies my dog is suddently plagued with. Thanks for the wonderful info!

  15. For a mosquito repellant for my one year old little boy…..can I use the above recipe? Is there anything in it that he should’ve have on his skin?

  16. For fleas, ticks, bedbugs use food grade diatomaceous earth (DE). You rub the DE in coats of the animal, sprinkle it in carpets, on bare mattress, around the house and this gets rid of a host of insect pests.

  17. I too am interested for you advise on the best solution for bed bugs. We are using steam and heat, but keeping them off of us is the problem until the landlord sends someone to get rid of them…your help in this matter would be so appreciated.
    Thank you….

  18. Thanks for all the useful information. I just wanted to add that at this time of year many people have problems with ants. I have used peppermint oil in a spray bottle with distilled water with great success. I put about 15 drops of the oil in a 4 oz. bottle. I just spray it around where they like to come in the house, and no more ants!

  19. Thank you for this excellent reference guide. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which oil to use for each specific pest. Now that the warm weather approaches even here in the city we need to keep the critters at bay.

  20. Re: Bedbugs

    We live with 3 wonderful cats. We want to find or concoct a spray against bedbug infestation that will do no harm to our cats. We do not intend to spray the solution onto the cats’ directly. The intended uses for the potential spray would be–following treatment with a hand steamer–to spray carpets, bedding, clothing, furniture, walls–anywhere we might find bedbugs crawling around after doing the hand steamer treatment.

    We let our cats roam the apartment freely, and feel concerned about their rolling on carpet, beds, etc. then licking themselves.

    A local herbalist has recommended 2-3 drops essential oil of eucalyptus shaken up in a pint spray jar of distilled water. Do you, also, feel that that dilution of the essential oil would be safe for the cats, used as described above? If not, would you recommend another dilution ratio?

    From reading your comments on proposed dilutions at top of this article, it sounds as if any of the oils you list could be used with equal safety ( in general)…would this also apply to cats– to the best of your knowledge–and is your opinion basd on consultation with a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about cats and essential oils, as well as your own expertise?

    I do intend to purchase the Julia Lawless book you recommend, but would still appreciate any comments you would personally care to contribute to the “war against bedbugs.”

  21. I am trying to find a fly repellent useing essential oils. My huband is a truck driver and the flys a danger as well as a pest. If anyone can help I would be very greatfull THANK YOU MARION.

  22. Dealing with fleas is not easy because the real problem is invisible. The mature adults lay thousands of eggs that are quite hardy. The internet has some great information. Google “natural flea control” or similar combinations of words. The adults are a nuisance but trying to rid yourself of these pests by killing the adults is really only addressing the symptom. Diatomaceous earth is non toxic and cheap. Boric acid is relatively non-toxic. Both of these are effective but slow acting, however they have a lasting effect so should be placed where you can leave them and where the fleas’ eggs will hatch. Two important aspects are habitat destruction and frequent vacuuming, with special attention to cracks and crevices, gaps between floorboards. Learn where the eggs tend to be laid, where the eggs and grubs can survive and break the cycle in those places. Essential oil sprays are effective repellents and part of prevention but you’ve got to stop the fleas breeding for effective control. My son raises chickens and fleas are a constant issue.

  23. I’m curious: I see all the comments but no answers. I am also curious as to what is the best oil for bed bugs; do you answer individually? Thanks – vmcg

  24. Bed Bugs are on the rise in the United Sates and I am unfortunately battling them in my two bedroom apartment. I need help with the best type of oil.


  25. Someone asked about purchasing higher quantities of oils. I have a few suggestions of how to get the most out of your oils:

    One, do dilute your essential oils, and only increase intensity if the dilution is insufficient.

    Two, I’ve heard that Daisy Organics sell in higher quantity at low prices. But you have to ask them to be sure of the plant species and distillation method for each oil. They are very responsive with this type of information. And if you buy Young Living, keep an eye out for their monthly specials.

    Three, as has been mentioned, alternate the oils for a most effective solution. For example, use peppermint one week and spearmint the next. And I highly recommend peppermint! I recently relieved a screened-in open-air meeting room of an amazing fly and mosquito infestation by spritzing the carpet with a peppermint blend a couple of hours before the next meeting. After a few treatments, the mozzies were gone.

    Four, if you want insect repellent and don’t have a good carrier oil, you could mix the essential oils with your favorite skin lotion (assuming it’s natural, of course).

  26. I’m planning on making a treehouse that doesn’t have spiders. A lot of my cousins’ old playplaces in our backyard have been infested with spiders and ants, so I was hoping you can give me a mixture on repelling spiders, so I can put it on the windowcills.

    Plus, do you know how to get oils from plants so I don’t have to buy them in bulk or extremely hight prices? I’ve got a rainbow of plants in my backyard just waiting to be harvested.

  27. More reasons to use natural bug repellants:

    Poison on Pets II: Toxic Chemicals in Flea and Tick Collars

    This April 2009 report concludes “that high levels of pesticide residue can remain on a dog’s or cat’s fur for weeks after a flea collar is put on an animal. Residue levels produced by some flea collars are so high that they pose a risk of cancer and damage to the neurological system of children.” Includes the full report and links to related content. From the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

  28. Thank you Pat! I appreciate you sharing this with me. We did this once and it worked for a while and about to do it again this weekend. It’s still about 80-90 degrees in TX and these fleas seem to love our dogs.

    Thanks again!

  29. To Jessica Nue:
    We have rescued several dogs who have shown up in our yard heavily covered with fleas. In every case you can kill almost everyone; the rest of which and simply be combed out afterward.

    1.You have to put them in the shower
    2. wet down; then put a very thick lather of dog shampoo (not flea & tick) just a mild no soap shampoo around the neck. This keeps the fleas from running to the head and ears.
    3. Soap down the rest of the dogs body
    4. Rub the dog down; you must leave the soap on for at least 15 minutes, 20 is better.
    5. Rinse the soap and dead fleas off the dog
    6. when soap is rinsed out, Put on a rinse of rosemary water, do not rinse out

    To make the rosemary water, steep 3 tablespoons of fresh rosemary for 10 minutes. Make sure it is cooled down before pouring on the dog. This is good for their skin and help keep fleas away.

    This has worked every time for the dogs we have rescued. The key is to leave the soap on for a while!

  30. I recently tried palmarosa as a tick-repellent. It seemed to work very well. (One trial, no ticks.) It also seemed to repel mosquitoes. (The mosquitos definitely avoided me. My companions, using Deet, were all bothered by the insects.)

  31. Jessica- whatever you do, do NOT use pennyroyal directly on the dogs (or yourself). It is highly toxic. Refer to some of the earlier comments above for more detailed info. As for the garlic, I have only tried the powder, does seem to help a little. Haven’t tried the brewer’s yeast though.
    Good luck to us all!

  32. Hi, our dogs have a BAD case of fleas. They are miserable! They are large dogs, lab mixes that we saved and are really sweet. We shaved and bathed them in hopes that the shorter hair would relieve them of the fleas, but no such luck. The recipe of Brewer’s Yeast and Garlic, do I just chop the garlic or do I use garlic powder? Can I spray their coats with the pennyroyal oil diluted in water? I’m desperate, we don’t like to see them suffer like this!

    Thank you

  33. I’ve used catnip tea before as a base and was happy with it.

    Thanks for the great info – will surely pass it on ;)

    Much love!

  34. Is there any other essential oil that can be substituted for pennyroyal (as an insect repellant)? That particular oil seems unavailable at my local health stores…and I’m trying to avoid buying it online if possible. I look forward to some suggestions. Thank you in advance for your help.

  35. I am just wondering about the base to essential oils you recommend, so if I wanted to make a little over 3 ounces, I would use 3 ounces of lets say witch hazel and the 10 ml or 1/3 of an ounce of essential oil?
    I would like to mix something up to repell flies, I am thinking cedar, citronella and eucalyptus, I bought a fly repellent at the feedstore that also contained rosemary. Which essential oils work best for the common fly?
    Thanks in advance for any suggestions

  36. Hi again,

    I see there are some comments here that needs answers….starting from the

    Bed Bugs, hmmmmmm, no experience here. My understanding is that you are
    looking for remedies to soothe the itching and discomfort and to orevent
    infection from occurring due to scratching. My undetstanding also is that
    bedbugs are not that common? are you sure that this is what yo are dealing

    The Julia Lawless book is a great addition to anyones library who uses or
    intends to use essential oils.

    Pennyroyal Essential Oil (Hedeoma pulegiodes) is traditionally used as a
    natural insect repellent and is especially useful for flea control on dogs
    and cats. The essential oil should NEVER be used internally (nor should
    most essential oils (though Pennyroyal is one of the most toxic) It should
    also never be used NEAT which means directly on the skin on either people
    or animals. It should also not be used by pregnant women as it is known to
    cause fetal damage.

    As a medicinal plant, pennyroyal has traditionally been used as an
    antispasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, sedative, stimulant,
    aromatic, and stomachic. It has been used to promote menstruation, induce
    abortion, cure headaches, and relieve colds . The plant has been used as
    an insect repellent against fleas and other pests.

    Fresh and oil can cause contact dermatitis

    Remember with all essential oils low dosages are the most
    effective…..less is more.

  37. I have learned that Pennyroyal was extremely dangerous, yet I see on several areas of the internet, it is recommended freely. This scares me!

  38. The Julia Lawless book above, that is….. :)

    Do you have any favorite texts on DIY herbal remedies for the Sustainability Library?

  39. So cool!
    Here I go, looking out on the big world wide web and I find the answer to my question right in my own back yard! (Bug-bitten Cummington resident here.)

    Thanks for posting the article.
    Putting your book on my wishlist for myself and the Sustainability Library. :)

  40. Thanks for this great information. We use essential oils in our home and look forward to trying some of these tips out.

    Thanks again.

  41. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils is a great book. It really gets into almost everything you need to know about aromatherapy.

  42. I enjoyed your article, thanks for writing it. I’m interested in making a horse fly recipe that would repel flies, mosquitoes, nats, etc. Can you recommend one?

    Also, in looking at flea repellants you mention pennyroyal. I’ve heard it’s a good repellant but is toxic. Can you elaborate?

    Thank you!

    Cheryl Wilson

  43. How do you protect against bed bug infestations?

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