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Why essential oils are highly effective natural insect repellents to finally get rid of all those irritating mosquitoes and bugs – and also help relieve painful bug bites…

essential oils for bug repellent and bug bites sonoma lavender

Nothing is more annoying than mosquitoes. Either it’s that incessant buzzy whine that drives you nuts - or one of the silent types that you only feel when they’ve already feasted off your leg. And what about the ants invading your pantry and those irritating house flies that insist on dive-bombing you in the kitchen? Or the moths that have set up home in your closet? And those gnats hovering around the fruit bowl?

Mosquitoes and other pests are unfortunately one of the unwelcome realities of summer. Many of us turn to DEET and other chemical insect repellents for relief. But you don’t have to...

It turns out that certain essential oils are not only effective (and natural) mosquito and bug repellents - in some instances even better than DEET - but others can also help soothe painful or itchy bug bites…


So just how does the scent of essential oils work to fend off mosquitoes, flies, ants, moths, gnats and many other bugs?

Chemical pesticides basically help repel insects by confusing their sense of smell. For instance, a mosquito is first attracted to the carbon dioxide we breath out, and then zeroes into her target (yes - the biters are all female) by sensing the lactic acid on your skin. If those smells are masked by another scent, she misses her mark and moves on.

But did you know that certain scents and compounds in essential oils can do the same thing? Citronella masks both carbon dioxide and lactic acid in humans, the two scents that are attractive to mosquitoes. Other essential oil active compounds, like linalool in lavender, give off a scent that mosquitoes hate.

Studies have actually shown that linalool has the same effect on a mosquito’s sense of smell as DEET. In fact, linalool is often used as an active ingredient in conventional insect repellents. It also turns out geraniol, the active compound in geranium oil, is in fact more effective at repelling mosquitoes than linalool - and even citronella - as found in another study.

So if you’re looking for a natural alternative to conventional bug repellents, essential oils are the perfect choice. Be aware that every oil is comprised of different actives so they can’t all be used to repel the same pests. And because there are many different compounds in essential oils that can repel mosquitoes and other bugs, it often pays to use a mix of two or three oils to do the job most effectively. Just experiment with a few different oils you like to find out which recipe works best for you.

As essential oils are volatile and so evaporate quite quickly, it’s often better to either diffuse them or mix with a carrier oil to apply directly to the skin, rather than using a DIY bug repellent spray, which requires regular reapplication. A perfect carrier to use is coconut oil as its fatty acids also effectively repel many blood-sucking pests, including mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks and bed bugs.

Use any combination of the following essential oils as a powerful and effective natural insect repellent for mosquitoes, flies, gnats and a whole bunch of other bugs you may encounter…

Citronella Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for: Mosquitoes, gnats, lice, moths, ticks and fleas

Probably the most widely recognized bug repellent oil, citronella, which is derived from lemongrass, contains well-known insect deterrents citronellal, citronellol, geraniol, and limonene. Many years ago, it was shown to be as effective dose-for-dose as DEET and has been registered as a natural plant-based insect repellent in the U.S. since 1948. Unlike many other essential oils which repel bugs by their scent, citronella works by masking those odors most attractive to insects.

A review of 11 studies found that using citronella oil together with vanillin (found in vanilla beans) repelled mosquitoes for up to three hours. Another study established that diffusing citronella was by far the most effective method against mosquitoes, bringing the repellence rate up to 68% compared to only 14% when just burning candles.

Catnip Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for: Mosquitoes, gnats, ants and roaches

A member of the mint family, catnip frequently grows as a weed in many parts of the United States, and is considered to be a highly efficient means of naturally staving off mosquitoes, roaches, and other pests.

In a study comparing catnip to DEET, it was found that catnip was significantly more effective at keeping mosquitoes away when sprayed into the air. When used as a repellent on the skin, it did not prove to be nearly as efficient as DEET, suggesting this oil would be best used in a diffuser. Another study found that catnip was highly successful in repelling mosquitoes for at least 2 hours.

Neem Oil

Insect repellent best for: Mosquitoes, gnats, mites, sand flies and ticks

Well known as natural pesticide for plants, neem oil is a highly effective natural bug repellent for people too. Neem derivatives can neutralize nearly 300 pests, including insects, mites, and ticks. It successfully repels them and affects their growth rather than killing the pests right away.

Best used topically when combined with a carrier oil, it can protect against mosquitoes and other biting insects. One study found that a mere 2% neem dilution in coconut oil provided up to 96% protection for up to 12 hours depending upon the type of mosquito. Another confirmed that it is effective for up to 10 hours against sand flies too.

Sonoma Lavender Essential Oil and Essential Oil Spray

Thyme Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for: Mosquitoes, gnats, house flies, ticks and beetles

If your summer is being ruined because your home has been overrun by flies, thyme essential oil can be your savior. A highly effective natural insecticide against house flies, thyme is also very efficient in repelling mosquitoes.

Thyme contains five powerful insect fighting substances (carvacrol, p-cymene, linalool, alpha-terpinene, and thymol), which have been found to be effective mosquito repellents. Two of these substances have even showed themselves to be more effective than DEET. Thyme has also been shown to repel beetles.

Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for: Mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, flies and sandflies

Lemon eucalyptus oil not only contains large amounts of citronellal but also eucalyptol and limonene, and so includes three well-known natural bug repellents. For instance, eucalyptol has been shown to act both as a mosquito deterrent as well as a tick repellent. In addition, a study has found that eucalyptus essential oil, which also contains eucalyptol, is effective against flies. Another study found that three species of eucalyptus can also repel blood sucking sandflies.

Lemon eucalyptus oil should not be confused with oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). They are not only processed in different ways but oil of lemon eucalyptus has far more of an ingredient called PMD that repels mosquitoes, and which has been found to be as effective as DEET. However, lemon eucalyptus, and even eucalyptus oil benefits, are still effective options to use as bug repellents.

29 Powerful Eucalyptus Oil Uses You Need To Guarantee A Healthy Home And Family – Read More

Sonoma Lavender Eucalyptus Essential oils


There are a whole bunch of essential oils that actually do double-duty on the bug front - they not only naturally repel mosquitoes and other pests but can also help relieve the soreness and irritation associated with painful or itchy bug bites.

It’s not surprising that many essential oils are multitaskers. They are made up of a wide variety of active ingredients, many of which are common across a number of different oils. For instance, linalool makes up a large part of lavender essential oil, but is also available at lower concentrations in other oils like, for example, thyme. And linalool itself also has many wide-ranging benefits, ranging from its well-known sleep-enhancement and stress reduction properties to both repelling pests and reducing pain and inflammation.

That’s why some essential oils are not only effective and natural insect repellents but can also help reduce the pain, itchiness and irritation of bug bites. And it’s also why it’s often best to use a mix of essential oils either when you’re diffusing or making a bug bite balm for your skin so you can draw on the best of the many different benefits of lavender oil.

As most essential oils are very powerful and potent, they need to be diluted in a carrier oil, like coconut, jojoba or avocado, before applying to the skin. And FYI, it’s also far better to treat an itchy bug bite immediately than to just ignore it. That’s because when a mosquito bites your skin, histamine is released which causes it to itch. Scratching just irritates the skin further - which only makes it itch more - leading to the dreaded ‘itch-scratch-itch’ cycle.

Any combination of these essential oils will do double-duty as a natural mosquito and insect repellent and an essential oil treatments for any bug bite. And if you want to mix and match them with the other primarily bug repellent oils, that’s good too. Just experiment and find a combo you like – and your bugs hate…

Clove Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for:  Mosquitoes, insects, spiders, ants, bees

For bug bites: Relieves itching, reduces pain and swelling, especially for bee or wasp stings, and ant bites. Not to be used on broken skin.

If you’ve ever heard of how efficient clove essential oil is in soothing the agony of a sore tooth, you will already know how valuable this natural anesthetic and antiseptic is to have around when you’re experiencing any form of pain or discomfort, especially something a lot less painful than a toothache like an itchy mosquito or bug bite.

A study has shown that clove oil is also an effective bug repellent for up to 1½ hours, better than both citronella and lemongrass oils. Another study noted that clove oil repelled mosquitoes for between 2-4 hours, beating 37 other oils tested.

Lavender Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for:  Mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies, lice, spiders, ants, bed bugs, ticks and moths

For bug bites: Natural analgesic to relieve pain, reduces swelling, redness and irritation especially with bee stings or spider and ant bites, promotes healing, best and safest essential oil for babies and toddlers.

Lavender most well-known to reduce and soothe painful and itchy bug bites. It can be used for fire ants and bees as well, due to its anti-inflammatory properties which reduce the redness of the bite, cool the hurt area, and calm it at the same time.

A must-have multipurpose oil for your first aid kit, lavender is the go-to kid safe essential oil - as an insect repellent and for bug bites - for your baby or toddler. Recognized as one of the gentlest oils, lavender can be applied direct to any insect bite, unlike most essential oils. Lavender can help reduce the redness, itching, and irritation, and may speed up healing and recovery. While it can soothe pretty much any itchy bug bite (mosquitoes included), it can be especially helpful for spider bites, fire ant bites, and bee stings.

Lavender essential oil is also a highly effective natural insect repellent that keeps you and your family safely protected from mosquitoes and other bugs (they hate the scent), particularly important if you have little ones. Lavender oil contains up to 25% linalool, a powerful active that has a similar effect on mosquitoes as DEET.

Try creating a permanent bug-free lavender oasis in your home. Diffuse a mix of lavender and geranium oils to chase all the mosquitos and midges away. Display a dried lavender bouquet in a pretty vase and burn decorative lavender candles. To repel moths and other pests, simply slip a few lavender sachets into your drawer or closet. A lavender spray can also effectively keep ants, bed bugs and other insects at bay.

There Are Many Uses Of Lavender Oil You Probably Want To Know About – Read More

Sonoma Lavender Hanging Sachet, Candle and Essential Oil Diffuser

Peppermint Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for:  It is an essential oil to repel mosquitoes, gnats, spiders, ants, bed bugs, fruit flies, roaches, lice, wasps and ticks

For bug bites: Tingling, cooling sensation to soothe and numb, reduces itchiness, redness and pain, speeds healing

Does peppermint oil repel bugs? With its strong scent and cooling effect, peppermint is another great multipurpose essential oil for not only repelling many different types of bugs, but also soothing itchiness, reducing selling and treating the most painful of bites, such as those from fire ants.

If you’re looking for essential oils for bug bites, peppermint oils are definitely the best choiceAn active ingredient in peppermint (p- Menthane-3, 8-diol) has been registered as a mosquito repellent since 2000. Undiluted peppermint oil was also shown to provide 100% mosquito protection for 150 min in a study where it was applied on the skin.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for:  Mosquitoes, ticks, flies, fire ants, spiders, bees, bed bugs, head lice, dust mites and fleas

For bug bites: Effectively stops itching, reduces pain and swelling, kills bacteria

Tea tree is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antibacterial. It can eliminate pain, reduce swelling, and it can be used to fight spiders, fire ants, mosquitoes, ticks, and even fleas!

Tea tree essential oil is well known as an antibacterial, anti-pain, anti-swelling, and anti-itching powerhouse, making it one of the most popular oils to use in bug bite soother recipes (often combined with lavender). Tea tree oil’s proven ability to stop itching may be one of its best qualities. A study showed that tea tree oil can be effectively used as an itchy skin treatment for dogs, too.

But its benefits don’t stop there. One test-tube study showed that along with 7 other essential oils, tea tree had a greater ability to repel mosquitoes than DEET. And another revealed that it’s also highly effective in fending off flies.

Geranium Essential Oil

Insect repellent best for: Mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches, ants, fleas, gnats, and ticks

For bug bites: Reduces pain and redness, soothes itchiness, antiseptic

Proven to be highly effective at repelling a wide variety of bugs, a study revealed that diffusing geranium essential oil was more effective at fending off mosquitoes than citronella, long believed to be the gold standard of natural bug repellents. The results of the study suggest that diffusing geranium together with lavender oil uses may be the ideal solution to keep mosquitoes and other pests at bay. Rose geranium has been shown to be effective against ticks.

As a natural anti-inflammatory, geranium oil is also wonderful for soothing itchy and irritated skin when combined with lavender and chamomile.

Sonoma Lavender Sachets, Lavender Essential Oil and Dried French Lavender Bouquet


Apart from diffusing or diluting a mix of essential oils that repel bugs in a carrier oil to apply to your skin, you can also DIY your own homemade essential oil recipe blends to make an effective bug repellent spray as well as a convenient rollerball salve, balm or spray for immediate pain or itch relief.

Homemade Bug Repellent Spray (Courtesy of Wellness Mama)

Make a homemade bug spray with essential oils by adding 30 drops citronella oil, 20 drops lemon eucalyptus oil, 20 drops lavender oil and 10 drops rosemary oil into a dark blue or amber glass spray bottle. Add I tablespoon of vodka or rubbing alcohol to the mix and shake well to combine. Pour in ½ cup of natural witch hazel and shake well.

This part is optional but if you add 1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin at this stage, it helps the ingredients bind. Finally, add ½ cup of water and shake again. Shake before each use as the oils and water will naturally separate over time.

Diffuser Blend to Repel Mosquitoes and Other Bugs

For a large open room, add a mix of 6 drops each of citronella, tea tree and lavender essential oils to one cup of water in your diffuser (or follow dosage instructions). Limit diffusing to 30-60 minutes max, then take a break for an hour.

Essential Oil Blends for Bug Bites and Itchy Skin

DIY Essential Oil Rollerball Salve: For a quick and easy DIY soothing bug bite roll-on, combine 5 drops peppermint oil, 3 drops lavender oil, 1 drop tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil (or other carrier oil) in a glass rollerball bottle. Shake well before use.

Essential Oil Bug Bite Relief Balm: Mix together 10 drops each of peppermint and lavender with 1 tablespoon of 100% aloe vera gel and 1 teaspoon of vegetable glycerin and store in a tightly sealed small container.

Essential Oil Bug Bite Relief Spray: Add 10 drops each of peppermint and tea tree to a small spray bottle and fill up with fractionated coconut oil. Shake well, spray onto the bite and gently rub into skin for your very own essential oil bug spray.

The Ultimate Guide on How to Best Use Essential Oils – Read More


If you have any medical condition, please consult with your health care professional before you use essential oils for bug repellent. Before using an essential oil on your skin, always do a patch test on the inside of your upper arm for 24 hours to check for any reactions.

Ensure that you always use top quality essential oils. There's a difference between an essential oil and simply an oil, which is basically a perfume. If a label does not clearly state that it is an 'essential oil,' then it is not a pure oil and should not be used as suggested.

If you’re looking for natural ways to repel bugs, discover pure essential oils by shopping our collection of luxury lavender products