Essential oils to keep bugs away naturally

By Alison Angold CIDESCO ITEC

Bugs!  Flies, spiders, wasps, mosquitos….whether we love them or hate them, they can get in the way, and be attracted to our homes, and generally cause a nuisance!  Summer is the worse time for the bugs entering our homes, but can happen at anytime. We may not necessarily want to kill these bugs but we certainly want to keep them away. There are many shop bought bug repellents that may work but can also smell unpleasant, and be full of unsafe chemicals. Did you know that we can use essential oils to keep bugs away naturally?

A row of oils on a shelf.  Essential oils to keep bugs away naturally.

Essential oils that keep bugs away naturally

Essential oils for insect infestations

  • Eucalyptus
  • Hyssop
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Tea tree
  • Thyme

Insect repellent essential oils

  • Bergamot
  • Cajeput
  • Citronella
  • Eucalyptus
  • Cypress
  • Geranium
  • Melissa

Essential oils for headlice

Essential oils for bed bugs

  • Clove
  • Cedarwood
  • Cypress

Essential oils for spiders

  • Peppermint
Essential oils on a shelf with a burner

How do essential oils to keep bugs away naturally, work?

Essential oils are the pure oils that are extracted from the leaves and flowers of plants and herbs, the peel of fruits, and even the bark and resin of trees. Each essential oil is made up of different complex chemicals.

In some cases, such as flies, it is thought that the particular chemicals and molecules that these essential oils contain, repel the bugs.   However, in other cases, such as spiders, the actual aroma of the essential oil is repellent to them, so don’t come near the oils.  In the case of mosquitos, the aroma of the oils, mask the scents they are attracted to.

To repel flies, fleas, and other bugs and insects it is the essential oil that is needed rather then just the plant, because this is where the core chemicals are, that have the repellent effect.   For example using lemongrass essential oil, will be far more effective than simply using lemongrass stalks.

How to use essential oils to keep bugs away Naturally

So depending on which bug you are trying to keep away, depends on how you use the essential oils.  The most effective ways are sprays or diffuser blends, to fill the air with the scents that repel the bugs and insects – while giving us some wonderful aromas!

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Bug repellent essential oil recipes

Diffuser blend to repel flies

Lavender, rosemary eucalyptus, bergamot

Geranium, bergamot, cajeput

Get my recommended essential oils HERE.

Essential oil fly repellent spray 

Spray around windows and doors or directly into the air when flies are around.  Flies tend to enter during the summer, and are attracted to cooking smells.  This wonderfully fresh scent will help get rid of cooking smells too. Simply blend the ingredients together in the bottle and shake well before each use.

Spider repellent spray

Spiders allegedly hate the smell of peppermint, it is not known exactly why, but as spiders taste and smell through sensors in their legs, perhaps this is why they are repelled by essential oils, in particular the strong herby scent of peppermint.  Keep this spray handy for when spiders are around – especially during ‘house spider’ season (September/October in UK).  Spray liberally around your windows and doors, and any other cracks and crevices that spiders might come in.

  • 500ml Amber spray bottle
  • 450ml Water
  • 50ml Witch-hazel
  • up to 150 drops Peppermint oil

Ant infestations

Spray liberally around areas where ants can enter, or where you know ants nests are. This aroma is quite strong and medicinal, but the lavender adds a welcome floral note.

  • 500ml Amber spray bottle
  • 450ml water
  • 50 ml witch hazel
  • up to 40 drops Eucalyptus
  • up to 40 drops Lavender
  • up to 40 drops Thyme
  • up to 40 drops Tea tree

Mosquito diffuser blend

There’s nothing more lovely than warm, balmy summer evenings, but pesky mosquitos threaten to ruin this amazing time.  Keep them away with this wonderful diffuser blend.

 Citronella and lavender & eucalyptus

Mosquito repellent body oil

Alternatively apply this beautiful body oil, to sheen your skin and keep the mosquitos from biting.

  • 50ml Sweet Almond oil
  • 8 drops Lavender
  • 8 drops Lemongrass
  • 4 drops Bergamot

For more amazing blends and recipes to repel mosquitos read here.

Essential oils on a spotty table cloth with a diffuser.  Essential oils to keep bugs away naturally

Wasp repellent spray

Simply blend together, and spray liberally when wasps are around.

  • 500 ml Amber spray bottle
  • 450ml Water
  • 50ml Witch hazel
  • up to 50 drops Bergamot
  • up to 50 drops Cajeput
  • up to 50 drops Citronella

General insect infestations

Use these blends for any insect infestations; ants, cockroaches etc,  as these are great oils to repel and prevent large amounts of nesting bugs.  The best method of use for these is to create a spray (adding the oils to water and witch hazel) and spray liberally onto the areas where the bugs are entering or nesting. Alternatively you can create a powder by adding the essential oils to some talc free powder and sprinkling around the nest or entry point.

Thyme, tea tree & rosemary

Lavender, hyssop & eucalyptus

Bed bug spray

Bed bugs live in mattresses and other soft furnishings and can bite, which leaves itchy marks on the skin.  Keep your furniture and beds bug free  by using the spray regularly.  Remember to shake well before each use to disperse the essential oils. 

  • 500ml Amber spray bottle
  • 450ml Water
  • 50ml Witch hazel
  • 50 drops Clove
  • 50 drops Lavender
  • 50 drops Cypress

Get all my recommended essential oils HERE.

Head Lice

Still a bug, and more common in children, head lice can be the bane of every parent with young children!  One of my sons, has very thin hair, and was constantly getting head lice when he was younger, despite having very clean hair! Over the counter remedies never really worked or took several applications to get rid of the lice – and even then, I was never really sure if they had gone. Essential oils are the natural alternative to preventing and killing head lice.

Preventative shampoo

Use this on a regular basis to help keep the scalp and hair fresh and clean and repel head lice from jumping on board!  Castille soap is a natural pure soap, ideal to add essential oils to, however alternatively you can add a few drops of the oils to your regular shampoo, as long as it is not heavily fragranced or chemical.

Scalp treatment

Use this scalp treatment when you actually have head lice.  Apply to the scalp and massage in – leave on for a while.  Apply shampoo on the hair and scalp and massage before rinsing and shampooing again. 

Linen cupboard/drawer fresheners/mothballs

Not only do these keep your cloths smelling fresh but also repel tiny insects and bugs that can fester in, and around clothes.  Simply apply the oils to the cotton wool balls and insert these balls into the muslin bags.  The aromas will be released through the bag.

  • Cotton balls
  • Muslin bags
  • Cedarwood
  • Melissa
  • Bergamot

Essential oils for bites and stings

So, hopefully we have done everything we can to keep the bugs and insects away, but just in case, here are some essential oils that help if you have actually been bitten or stung. Mix a few drops of the essential oils with a small amount of either hand cream or body lotion and apply to the affected area.

Basil – reduces inflammation in wasp stings

Lime – insect stings

Cedarwood – calms the itching of bites and stings

Fennel – relieves the pain and irritation from bites and stings

Lavender – antiseptic for insect bites and stings

Melissa – soothes irritation from bites and stings

Precautions of Essential oils to keep bugs away naturally

Just a few words of caution when using these oils. Most are generally safe but please be aware of the following;

Do not use the following oils on the skin during pregnancy (and use in moderation in other ways); Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, Cypress, Cedarwood Hyssop and Citronella

Peppermint & Eucalyptus are incompatible with homeopathic medicines.

The citrus oils of bergamot, orange, lime and citronella are phototoxic, so direct sunlight should be avoided after skin application.

Avoid fennel if epileptic.

Rosemary and Hyssop should avoided with those with high blood pressure and epileptics.


About the Author
Alison Angold is a fully qualified (certified) beauty therapist, massage therapist, and aromatherapist from the UK. She has over 25 years of experience in this industry and has worked in a variety of beauty salons, spa’s as well as running her own successful beauty and massage business. Her career has allowed her to treat many, many clients, with skincare concerns, medical conditions, and a whole variety of other ailments and issues, which has enabled her to work closely with essential oils, prescribing specific blends for these clients to help with these conditions. Her qualifications in the use of essential oils and aromatherapy, allow her to share this knowledge with others, in a safe, reliable way.