5 Natural Bug Repellents That Actually Work

The mosquito, tick, and flea season is upon us. Common commercial bug sprays contain toxins that cause skin and stomach irritation or worse, but healthier options are available, and they’re provided to us by nature. Planting lemon balm or basil around your yard or dabbing some rose geranium or peppermint oil on before you leave the house are all great ways to repel bugs. Here are 5 safe and effective bug deterrents — minus the harsh chemicals.

lemon balm

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1. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm, surprisingly, is a member of the mint family. Its incense-like lemon scent handily repels mosquitoes and other pests. “Some northern European forms of lemon balm are high in citronellal, a compound which mimics the well-known herbal repellent citronella oil,” Arthur Tucker, an ethnobotanist at Delaware State University, told Mother Earth News.

Plant lemon balm throughout your garden or in pots around your door or porch to keep bugs away from your home. An added bonus, you can crush and rub some on your skin for a natural repellent as you head out the door.

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2. Basil

A favorite herb to grow for cooking purposes, you might already have a small pot of basil growing at your windowsill. A real two-for-one, growing basil indoors or out means you’ll have a constant supply for cooking and you’ll be scaring off bugs. During a 2009 study published in the Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology, researchers found that the essential oil from this delicious herb is toxic to mosquito larvae.

Basil comes in several types and colors, and it’s easy to grow. Unlike some other plants, basil has a strong aroma without having to crush the leaves — although that certainly makes it more potent. Peruvian, lemon, and cinnamon basil work the best to repel mosquitoes because they have the strongest scent.

peppermint plant

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3. Peppermint

We may love the smell of peppermint, but bugs really, really don’t. Mosquitoes, flies, spiders, fleas, and ticks all try to steer clear of this pungent plant. In its concentrated form, peppermint is often used as an insect repellent, and its essential oil has been shown to keep away the adults and kill the larvae of several species.

As well as your own personal bug guard, peppermint comes in handy in the garden. By incorporating peppermint into your garden, you’ll naturally manage aphids, cabbage loopers, flea beetles, cabbage worms, and squash bugs.

If you prefer a fresh, clean scent, peppermint is the natural insecticide for you. It kills and repels bugs without a chemical smell, and it won’t leave guests questioning the odd odor of your home.

Rose Geranium

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4. Rose Geranium

Rose geranium repels many bugs, and is also known to be an extremely potent tick repellent, according to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Rose geranium is a perennial shrub with small pink flowers and pointy leaves that is native to South Africa. Although the plant may not be a common find in your area, consider adding the essential oil to your bug arsenal — especially if you live in a rural, tick heavy area or have pets.

The essential oil of rose geranium is very potent, so it’s best if you apply it in small dots or drops. If you plan to use it on your pet, avoid the face area — the smell can be overwhelming for their tuned-up sniffers.

lavender

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5. Lavender

Lavender is well-known for its calming abilities, but did you know it also works well for repelling mosquitoes, moths, and flies? Although rubbing lavender oil on your skin is your best bet for repelling bugs, planting the herb around your house has several benefits.

SFGate notes that lavender can act as a protector for other plants that lack natural abilities to ward off unwanted insects. While birds and bees feed freely from lavender, nearly all other bugs avoid its essential oil. Whether you have a flower garden or food plot, try adding a border of lavender to keep bugs out. As a bonus, cut some lavender flowers and bring them indoors for some bug-free color.

As with most natural bug repellents, lavender works best as a concentrated essential oil.

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