Essential Oils To Prevent Bug Bites, Plus A DIY Natural Bug Spray


Kids are afraid of bugs. And sometimes Mamas and Daddys are too! Avoid bug bites and creepy crawly critters this summer with DIY all-natural bug spray remedies.

Why you should avoid DEET

As a Mama, you don’t want to subject your children to harmful chemicals or detrimental substances, such as N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (commonly called DEET).

Many popular bug sprays include DEET to varying degrees. It’s been approved by the EPA as unconcerning to the general population since 1998, but the EPA still has not conducted studies concerning it’s disruption to the endocrine system. Commercial bug sprays contain wide amounts of controversial ingredients in addition to DEET.

According to a research study at Duke University, rats were doused with DEET in proportion to humans spraying bug spray on their body. After this, they performed poorly on tasks requiring coordination, strength, or muscle control compared to rats who were not sprayed. Plus, the exposure to DEET actually killed the rat’s brain cells related to memory, concentration, learning, and movement.

You don’t want your children to suffer because of a silly bug spray, especially since a child’s skin tends to absorb chemicals more rapidly than an adult’s skin.

Opt for essential oils instead of DEET

Clearly DEET should be avoided! But is there an equivalent replacement? Yes – essential oils!

    • Peppermint essential oil has a strong scent that most creepy crawlers don’t enjoy.
    • Cedar essential oil, like cedar wood, has an earthy smell that is strong!  
    • Citronella essential oil is probably the most commonly known bug repellent, which is why most people use citronella candles on the patio or plant citronella bushes near their porch. Why does it work? The citronella scent masks the other scents that attract bugs.
    • Geranium essential oil fights mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, flies, ants, fleas, and cockroaches. It’s basically a superhero at fighting bugs!
    • Lavender essential oil smells peaceful to our noses, but the bugs find it quite distasteful.
    • Tea tree essential oil has so many uses, especially as a disinfectant or antibacterial agent, but it can also suppress ticks, lice, fleas, or leeches. Some even comment how well it averts ants!

How to use essential oils to keep the bugs away

You have three options for using essential oils to avert bugs: a bug ball, a bug-repelling room spray, or a traditional bug spray for your body and gear.

How to make a bug ball


Cotton ball
Essential oils of your choice (based on the bugs you’re fighting)


  1. Drop a few drops (3-5) of any oil onto a cotton ball. You can use a combination of oils.
  2. Place the cotton ball in the area you desire. (like on your screen porch, in your garage, or near your door).

How to make a bug-repelling outdoor room spray


Essential oils of your choice (based on the bugs you’re fighting)
2 oz of witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or vodka
Small spray bottle


  1. Combine 5-10 drops of essential oils with the witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or vodka in your clean spray bottle. Mix, then allow to sit for one minute.
  2. Add in water and shake to combine.
  3. Spray thoroughly in the *outdoor area to keep bugs away. Re-spray as needed. (*Not recommended for indoor use.)

How to make a homemade bug spray with essential oils


2 oz of witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or vodka
2 oz water
25-40 drops of essential oils (depending on the bugs you’re fighting. Suggestions below.)
Small spray bottle
Optional: ¼ tsp Castile soap


  1. Combine the essential oils with the witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or vodka in the spray bottle. Swirl and allow to sit for one minute.
  2. Then add in the water. If using the castile soap, add now. Shake to combine.
  3. Shake well before use. Spray on body or gear to repel bugs. Dilute with additional water if your children have sensitive skin.

Suggested blends:

Include these as the core ingredients in your blends, but feel free to add other bug-repelling essential oils too! The key is to have between 25 and 40 total drops of essential oils in your blend. Not sure how your skin will react? Start with 25 drops; you can always make it stronger next time.

  • For mosquitoes or gnats: citronella, geranium, peppermint
  • For flies: geranium, citronella
  • For ticks: geranium, tea tree
  • For kids: citronella, cedar, lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint, geranium

Don’t have essential oils? No problem!

You can still create effective bug repellents using fresh or dried herbs.


Fresh or dried herbs (rosemary, basil, peppermint, citronella, etc.)
½ cup witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or vodka


  1. Boil 4 tablespoons of your desired herb in 1 cup of water. You can boil multiple herbs at the same time. Keep the mixture covered while boiling. After a 15 minutes of boiling, keep the pot covered and allow to completely cool.
  2. Strain out the herbs and mix with the witch hazel, apple cider vinegar, or vodka in a spray bottle.
  3. Shake well before use, and spray in area or on body to repel bugs.

Enjoy a bug-free summer!

After a few minutes of concocting these recipes, you’ll be set for a bug-free summer! Most recipes last 2-3 months, perfect for the season.