Natural Bug Repellents (for mosquitoes and other pesky bugs!)

It can definitely put a damper on your backyard BBQ vibes when you feel like youve got two choices to make re: not getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Either you douse your body with harmful, chemical-laden sprays or you forgo the spray and hope your citronella candles do the trick (spoiler alert: they dont).

Thankfully, there are so many great natural bug repellent choices out there right now that you can make at home with just a few simple (and safe!) ingredients. Did you know lavender and mosquitoes dont mix? Its true- they hate the smell! Actually, mosquitoes dislike quite a few plants and flowers that smell amazing. So making youre own natural bug repellent not only helps keep you and your loved ones healthy- it keeps you smelling great, too!

Read on for a breakdown of what to avoid (and why!), what to plant in your yard to repel mosquitoes and other bugs and how to make your own homemade mosquito spray! 

Standing Water: The Mosquitoes Playground

First, a warning: this is going to get gross. Its common knowledge that mosquitoes + standing water = BAD; most of us got yelled at by our parents as children for making puddles in the yard with the hose or not turning the pool toys upside down when we were done playing for this very reason.

Female mosquitoes have to lay their eggs in standing water for the larvae to survive. After a blood meal(see? gross), the female can lay several hundred eggs at once. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae - or wrigglers- (ugh) feed on the water for a little over a week, after which they become adults and the cycle starts again.

Plants that attract mosquitoes

Plants that attract mosquitos

Photo Cred: Nordiskehjam

Like weve just established above, standing water is the biggest mosquito-attracting culprit imaginable. Thus, any plant that requires excess water to survive will surely attract mosquitoes. Be sure to stay away from these thirsty greens when youre plotting out your garden. 

  • papyrus
  • water lilies
  • weeping willows
  • sweet gums
  • crepe myrtles

What colors attract mosquitoes?

BLACK! Dark colors attract mosquitoes; gray, black, blues and deep greens should be avoided when youre weeding the garden or relaxing in the hammock (bonus: light colors also help keep you cool in the heat!).

LED lights vs. standard lights

LED lights have so many incredible benefits: to our environment, our bank accounts and our eye health. They're long-lasting, efficient and produce good quality light. Its a huge bummer to find out, then, that regular LED lights actually attract mosquitoes and other light-loving bugs more than standard lights do.

This is because the LED lights give off a significant amount of blue light- one type of light known to attract bugs the most. To solve this problem, try installing colored LED bulbs in your outdoor fixtures. Any warm toned bulbs (red, yellow, orange) well cut down on the blue light emitted and still give you the efficient, high-quality light you expect from an LED light.

All natural bug sprays

Traditional, store-bought bug spray is made from a variety of chemicals all which have a varying degree of effectiveness- and harmfulness. Remember, your skin is your largest organ and everything you put on your skin gets immediately absorbed into your bloodstream. While keeping yourself protected from disease by using bug spray is imperative, its also important to be aware of the dangers that it can bring as well. 

What is DEET (and why is DEET free bug spray so important?)

DEET is the most common - and most effective - ingredient in most traditional bug sprays on the market. It is a chemical compound that was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1944 (during WWII) as a protectant for the Army troops against the disease-ridden bugs in the jungles.

For all you science nerds out there, its prepared by converting m-toluic acid to acyl chloride and then having it react with diethyl diethylamine (but then, you probably already knew that). 

When it was first invented, scientists believed DEET worked by blocking mosquitoes olfactory receptors for a substance found in human sweat and breath that attracts the pests (yummy, right?). Current research suggests, however, that the bugs just simply dont like the smell.

Current research also suggests that DEET can cause serious health issues like seizures, insomnia, skin irritation, headaches, mood swings and nausea. In fact, Health Canada has banned the sale of any bug repellent that contains more than 30% DEET as an ingredient. 

Which begs the question: if the effectiveness of DEET lies in its ability to repel mosquitoes because of its odor, why wouldnt you use a natural, safe alternative with the same properties?

Homemade Essential Oil Bug Spray

One of the safest and most effective ways to protect yourself against mosquito bites is by making your own essential oil mosquito spray.

Not only will you know exactly whats being absorbed into your skin every time you spray, youll be able to control the smell too (theres nothing worse than that sticky, chemical-y smell most store-bought sprays leave on your skin and clothes). 

Homemade bug sprays are actually quite simple to make. You need only to visit your local health or beauty shop to pick up a few choice essential oils and a spray bottle or two and youre set! First, here’s a list of the common flowers and herbs known to repel mosquitoes- these are the essential oils you’ll want to buy. 

Flowers that repel mosquitoes

  • Citronella Grass
  • Garlic
  • Lavender
  • Lemongrass
  • Eucalyptus 

Herbs that repel mosquitoes

  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon Thyme

DIY Mosquito Repellent Recipes

Now for the fun part: mixing up your homemade mosquito spray!

Beth, author of the blog Tasty Yummies, put together a super-effective and easy recipe.

  • 2 ounces distilled or boiled water
  • 5 ounces witch hazel or vodka
  • 30 drops citronella essential oil
  • 25 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 15 drops tea tree essential oil

Or try this one from the ACHS Health and Wellness Blog

  • 2 ounces distilled water
  • 2 ounces vinegar
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops tea tree oil
  • 6 drops lime essential oil
  • 6 drops bergamot essential oil

For both, combine all ingredients into a dark, glass spray bottle and shake well. Makes 4 ounces.

Garlic Spray for Mosquitoes from Doug’s Green Garden 

  • Garlic
  • Water 

Crush several cloves of garlic in a pot of water; simmer to soften garlic and release the essential oils into the water. Strain the mixture well into a dark, glass spray bottle. Use as a natural bug repellent on your body or in your garden. 

Natural Fly Repellents and Homemade Mosquito Traps

Fly Repellents

Flies buzzing in your home and around your picnic tables can be just as annoying as mosquitos (though significantly less itchy). If you need natural ways to rid your space of those bothersome winged invaders, try planting some of these herbs, flowers and plants in your garden or in pots on your windowsill.

  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Tansy
  • Bay Leaves
  • Cloves
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Cedar

Natural and Homemade Mosquito Traps

If youre looking to really secure your home and gardens mosquito-repellent borders, you can double up on your natural mosquito repelling forces. In addition to your natural bug repellents, try making a few of these homemade mosquito traps to place around your backyard: hang them in trees, keep them under your stairs and place them around light sources.

The Survivalist Blog put together quick-and-easy directions using ingredients and materials you probably already have laying around your house! 

Materials + Ingredients: Homemade Mosquito Traps

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 gram yeast
  • 1 2-liter plastic bottle

Directions: Homemade Mosquito Trap

  • Cut the plastic bottle in half
  • Dissolve brown sugar in the hot water. Let cool. Pour mixture in the bottom half of the bottle.
  • Add the yeast. This creates carbon dioxide which attracts mosquitoes.
  • Place the funnel part, upside down, into the other half of the bottle, taping them together if desired.
  • Wrap the bottle with something black, leaving the top uncovered, and place it outside in an area away from your normal gathering area.

Change the solution every 2 weeks for best results.

Thats a lot of new recipes, tips and tricks to add to your warm-weather outdoor survival guide (you can put these essential oil mosquito spray recipes right next to your fool-proof margarita recipejust dont get the two confused).

Of course, as with all homemade health and beauty products, be sure to test your creations on a small patch of skin before spraying it all over your body. Likewise, be sure to monitor how youre faring, bite-wise, while outside with your new DIY mosquito repellent on. You may need to switch up some ingredients or tinker with the amounts to find the most effective recipe for your skin!

Sara Rogers
Sara Rogers


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