Natural Bug Repellents for Critter Season

Jun 21, 2023 16:38:38PM

Spending more time outdoors in the summer means exposing yourself to more critters. While they can be annoying, some bugs cause itchy bumps or could even carry diseases that could make you sick. So, preventing bug bites is essential.

Some people steer clear of store-bought bug sprays because they are concerned about chemicals they can't pronounce. So, you must find something natural that doesn’t contain strange ingredients and have the potential to repel bugs.

Here are some natural ways to keep yourself as unappealing as possible to bugs.

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Oils That Insects and Other Critters Don't Like

Plant essential oils are the oils that plants naturally produce, and usually they have a strong aroma. There are many essential oils that insects don’t like. That means they could possibly discourage bugs from coming close. 

It's important to note that the FDA generally does not recommend or evaluate essential oils for bug-repellent use, but anecdotally some people believe that they are effective. There is limited research around the use of essential oils to keep bugs away, but results show potential. 

You should always follow the manufacturer's instructions before using any essential oils. Always be sure to dilute the essential oil, using a carrier oil, and never ingest the oils; only use them for topical uses.


Lavender isn’t only an oil to help you sleep or relax; it also might help keep bugs away. As a bonus, it smells great, so you don’t have to worry about the unpleasant smell bug spray creates. You can use lavender alone or combine it with any of the following oils. 

Thyme or Clove Essential Oils

Thyme and clove essential oils are “hot oils,” so they should only be used when diluted, or they could burn the skin. However, in studies, it’s shown to provide 1 ½ to 3 hours of protection depending on the concentration of the oils. These are stronger-smelling oils, too, so be sure you can handle the smell before applying.

Cinnamon Oil

Cinnamon essential oil is another hot oil, so be sure to dilute it for insect repellent. Cinnamon leaf oil has been shown in studies to kill mosquito larvae, which could be helpful if you’ve identified a spot where they like to lay eggs. 

Dill Essential Oil

Dill essential oil is another good oil to repel insects, especially cockroaches. It works well inside homes, on plants, and on the skin, but with a carrier oil, such as coconut or olive oil. 

Citronella Oil

Citrus oils, especially citronella oil, repels some bugs rather than killing them. This makes it a more appealing oil for most people who want to keep bugs away but do not want to harm them. Citronella oil is regulated as a bug-repelling oil and, like all oils, should be combined with a carrier oil when used.

Simple Bug Spray Recipes

Always use a glass bottle to make any homemade insect repellent recipes with essential oils. Some essential oils' chemical compounds could cause the plastic to break down.

DIY Bug Spray Recipe for the Skin

  • Essential oil of choice, such as lavender, citronella, thyme, or cinnamon 
  • 1 tbsp. neutral carrier oil
  • Witch hazel

Combine one cup of witch hazel, 1 tbsp. of carrier oil, and 10 – 20 drops of your chosen oil in a glass spray bottle. Patch test to make sure you do not react to the mixture. Shake to mix and spray liberally on your skin every few hours.

Bug Repellent for your Home

If you want to create a bug repellent for your yard or home, you can make a large batch in a spray bottle using the following:

  • Witch hazel
  • Essential oil of choice, including cinnamon, clove, thyme, or citronella
  • Apple cider vinegar

Combine 2 cups of witch hazel with 20 – 40 drops of your chosen oils (can mix) with one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a glass spray bottle. Shake well before use.

Apple cider vinegar can attract some types of bugs, so be sure to test your mixture on a small area before applying everywhere. 

Other Ways to Keep Bugs Away

Essential oils are a great way to keep bugs away, but nothing is 100% foolproof. To prevent bug bites, consider the following methods to protect yourself:

  • Wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible
  • Don't wear other 'smelling' sprays, such as perfume, body spray, or even scented deodorant, as they can attract bugs
  • Avoid standing water around your house
  • Wipe down your countertops frequently to avoid crumbs
  • Use citronella candles

Final Thoughts

Store-bought bug repellants work well, but some people are concerned about chemicals. Fortunately, there are more natural options. Essential oils offer a great way to keep bugs away from you, your house, or plants while not exposing you to unnecessary chemicals. Always be sure you follow the manufacturer’s directions and use only true essential oils to protect your safety.

"People that are hypersensitive to any fragrances can have an adverse reaction and should seek other options."

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Many thanks for providing insights into effective natural bug repellents. This article is a must-read for those seeking eco-conscious solutions.


Thanks for these great ideas!

Debie Frohloff

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