While bugs and other pests certainly have their purpose in the world, they can also be extremely annoying, and even hazardous to our health, as some are major carriers of disease. Mosquitoes can spread West Nile virus, Zika fever and a number of other scary diseases, while flies are known to transfer more than 100 pathogens that can result in illness, including cholera, typhoid, tuberculosis, and dysentery.
Of course, that’s why many people turn to chemical sprays to get rid of them. Unfortunately, in addition to having a very unpleasant, strong odor that is really not meant to be anywhere close to your nose, conventional insect repellents can harm people who have serious allergies, and even cause health issues in those that don’t, not to mention the harmful effects to the planet we live on.
One chemical found in many of those repellents is DEET, a well-known ingredient that was developed by the US Army during World War II for repelling chiggers, mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and some types of flies like deer flies and black flies. While it’s been around for decades now, there are some serious concerns about its safety.
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) re-approved its use in the late 1990s, more recent data has suggested that it may negatively affect our health. A 2009 study published in the journal BMC Biology showed that DEET can interfere with vital nervous system enzymes. The researchers discovered that the chemical blocked the enzyme cholinesterase, which is necessary for transmitting messages from the brain to the muscles in insects. The researchers noted that it may affect the nervous systems of mammals as well. Chemicals that interfere with the action of cholinesterase can cause excessive salivation and watery eyes in low doses, followed by muscle spasms and ultimately even death.
There have also been reports that DEET has been linked to impaired brain cell function, tremors, seizures, hives, and hypotension.
Pesticides, in general, have been associated with all sorts of human health hazards, that range from short-term problems like headaches and nausea to chronic impacts such as endocrine disruption, cancer and reproductive issues. The acute dangers, like nerve, skin, and eye irritation, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, nausea and systemic poisoning – can sometimes be severe or, occasionally, fatal. Children are especially susceptible to the dangers of pesticides, and they may significantly impact the development of the central nervous system.
Of course, the impact on our environment is well known – chemical pesticides are toxic to living organisms as they’re meant to kill. They pollute the air, and some can accumulate in our water systems among other detrimental effects. Their use can damage agricultural land by harming beneficial insect species, soil microorganisms, and worms, which naturally limit pest populations and maintain soil health.
The list of problems that come with chemical repellents is a long one, but what do you do when you don’t want to risk your garden plants or your health in the case of bug bites?
Your first step should be to focus on prevention. According to the Entomological Society of America, there are nearly 10 quintillion insects on Earth. That’s more than a billion bugs for every person in the world. And many of them emerge from their winter hiding places when temperatures start to rise in the spring as they search out food and water. That’s why incorporating pest-proofing as part of your regular spring cleaning routine is a good idea.
How To Bug Proof Your Home
You can keep all sorts of bugs and pests from entering your home by taking the following actions:
- Keep your house as clean as possible: be sure to take out the garbage every day, wipe up spills immediately and wash dishes as they’re dirtied. Sweep and vacuum floors regularly. Avoid clutter, including things like stacked magazines and newspapers as bugs, like cockroaches, love the smell of paper and can easily congregate there.
- Keep your bathrooms and kitchen as dry as possible. Wet areas serve as both breeding grounds and drinking fountains. If you have leaky pipes, call a plumber.
- Store firewood at least 20 feet away from your home as it frequently houses insects like ants and termites.
- Watch out for standing water, which is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Tree houses, fire pits, play sets and other items that catch and hold water should be tipped regularly.
- Seal cracks and crevices like cupboards, sinks, and baseboards with silicone caulk. Windows, vents, pipes, chimneys and roof shingles are just some of the areas pests can sneak through.
Of course, no matter how clean and well-sealed your home is, some critters are bound to make their way in. And, what about your yard and garden? Those areas are totally exposed. That’s where essential oils come in. Bugs don’t like essential oils, but of course, depending on the type of critters you want to keep away, certain oils work better than others.
5 Best Essential Oils To Keep Bugs, Insects & Pests Away
These are the best essential oils for repelling those pests, as well as the creatures they’re most effective at battling.
Lemongrass offers antifungal, insecticidal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a great essential oil to have on hand as it has so many uses. It can kill bacteria externally, relieve muscle pain and body aches and ward off insects among other things. It’s especially good for repelling fleas, flies, and mosquitoes.
Insects can’t stand the smell of lemongrass, which means that it’s especially good for keeping them out of your home. One of the best ways to take advantage of it is to heat up about a half cup of water and add in about 20 to 25 drops of lemongrass oil. Put it all in a spray bottle and spray all of your doors, windows, and infested surfaces. You can also use it to get rid of those awful fruit flies that easily get into your home since they’re so tiny – making their way even through those teensy spaces in the mesh of window and door screens. The reason they seem to come in endless numbers is because they can lay as many as 500 eggs at a time on rotting food, ripened fruits, damp rags and other common kitchen items. Spritz the solution generously anywhere you see them, like counters, your refrigerator, walls, cabinets, and so on. If you use it every day it will help keep them from coming back too.
Not only does this mixture repel flies in a very effective way, but it also will make your home smell good and give it an aroma with a hint of fresh citrus.
The minty clean aroma of peppermint is so much better than that icky chemical smell, and it also serves as a natural insecticide that kills and repels mosquitoes, ants, fleas, beetles, spiders, flies and even mice. A study published in the Malaria Journal showed why it’s so effective – the researchers found that it offered repellent action when applied to exposed body parts. It also showed significant larvicidal and mosquito repellent action, with mosquito larvae killed 24 hours after exposure to a solution of peppermint oil and water.
There are a number of ways to use peppermint oil as a repellent. While we find the smell of it to be pleasant and refreshing, many insects and mice find it offensive. Simply dab some peppermint oil onto cotton balls or cotton pads, and place them strategically around your home, particularly where you might find these creatures, or places they may be hiding, like the backs of cabinets and under sinks. Another option is to make a peppermint spray by adding about five drops of the essential oil to water in a spray bottle and spray it around your house. You can also use it in your garden to get rid of aphids.
You’ll need to add new cotton balls/pads or spray once a week or so.
Try This: Homemade Peppermint Ant Repellent Spray
The eucalyptus tree is an evergreen tree native to Australia, and many associate it as the main food source of koala bears. While it does offer outstanding nutritional support for wildlife, the essential oils extracted from its leaves also offer powerful medicinal properties – you’ve probably seen it used in products like chest rubs, sore throat sprays, and cough medications. But did you know that it can also be used as an insecticide? In fact, research has shown that eucalyptus essential oil can be more effective against sand flies than all other natural products.
Eucalyptus is effective as it not only has a strong aroma, as it’s unfamiliar, it’s often perceived as being hazardous. Scale insects like mites, aphids, earwigs and whiteflies are killed on contact with eucalyptus oil. If you’re dealing with these pests, combine a teaspoon of eucalyptus oil with a half-teaspoon liquid dish detergent and two cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake it well and then apply to your plants, repeating once every three days until the infestation is gone.
To use as an indoor repellent, add one-quarter teaspoon eucalyptus oil to a cup of water in a spray bottle, shaking well before each use as the oil will separate from the water. As before, re-apply every three days until the problem is eradicated.
4. Tea Tree Oil
If you don’t have a bottle of tea tree oil in your home right now, it’s definitely one you need to get. Its wonders truly never cease. It’s antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic, expectorant and antiviral. While it’s famous as a green cleaning powerhouse and often used to inhibit viral and bacterial infections, it can also be used to kill insects as it has antiparasitic properties to which make it capable of destroying or suppressing the growth of parasites like fleas, leeches, lice, and ticks. Plus it can repel mosquitoes, ants, spiders and more.
You can use it as an alternative to peppermint oil by dousing a cotton ball and placing it in areas throughout your house to keep insects away, or mix a few drops in a spray bottle with water and spray it across your body to prevent mosquitoes from coming near you. Apply it evenly over your body, and you’ll not only drive away mosquitoes, but it can often have the same effect on other biting insects.
If you have garbage cans outside, they can be a major attraction for flies, which can get into your house and your garden. You can repel them with tea tree oil too. Simply sponge the sides of the upper portions of your garbage cans with some tea tree oil and those flies will “magically” disappear.
For a minor bed bug infestation, you may be able to use tea tree oil to fight it off before it gets out of hand. Dilute 20 drops of tea tree oil in a spray bottle with water and then thoroughly spray affected furnishings. Getting under, around and on all areas of an affected mattresses in addition to washing linen in the hottest water possible.
5. Lavender Oil
Most of us associate the floral aroma of lavender with soaps, relaxation, and calm, but surprisingly, it can also be used as an effective way to battle bugs. In fact, lavender essential oil has been used as a bug repellent for centuries, often utilized to protect clothes and linens from the infestation of moths and other insects. It helps to control an infestation of black beetles, flies, fleas and can even help one from being bitten by mosquitoes and other biting insects. If you are bitten, you can use the oil to prevent the spread of infection caused by a bite as well as to control the inflammation and itching that’s typically associated with it.
Mix a few drops with a carrier oil like sunflower oil in a spray bottle and spray it onto exposed skin to repel bugs. You can also place lavender sachets in cabinets and chests of drawers and to keep away moths and other bugs while leaving a fresh scent. Add it to a diffuser to help keep away ants and other insects while disinfecting the air.
Where To Buy Bug-Repelling Essential Oils
In order to experience the bug and insect repelling properties of essential oils, it’s vitally important to choose 100% pure essential oils with no additives or adulterants.
Our number one supplier of high quality essential oils is Plant Therapy. Plant Therapy offer 100% pure essential oils and have a huge selection.
You can find all of the essential oils mentioned in this article (lemongrass, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree and lavender) available from their Single Essential Oils page here on their official Amazon storefront.