Natural Insect Deterrents

Natural Insect Deterrents

As we head into the warmer season, bugs, insects and mosquitoes are emerging from their winter hibernation. My home seems to have two seasons, winter and mosquitoes (monster size ones at that) which has me reaching into my essential oils cupboard for solutions.

Generally, any strong scented essential oils will be effective at deterring insects as they dislike the smell. Surprisingly and happily, insects are averse to some rather nice smelling oils. For instance spiders hate peppermint, while ticks won’t go near geranium. Additionally, there are a couple of other natural repellents that you could use. We love herbal infusions, which are cost effective and work well. Also try selected indigenous oils - a uniquely South African solution for our insect problems.

Bases For Insect Repellent Sprays Or Pet Rinses

The following make good 'bases' for which to add essential oils to, but also have their own insect repellent properties.

Witch hazel - a good natural dilutant and insect repellent.

Peppermint leaf infusion - a strong insect repellent. The tea is also useful for headaches and indigestion, and the infusion can be added to your DIY shampoo - a handy herb to have!

Neem leaf infusion - neem is well known for its pesticide and insecticide properties. The neem tree is a natural insecticide for your garden.

Buchu leaf infusion - an indigenous herb that is useful for repelling insects

African wormwood infusion or  artemisia infusion - these wormwood varieties are great for deterring insects, ticks and fleas on pets and can be used as a base for an insect repellent spray. The living plant is also a natural insect deterrent.

To make an infusion, steep a quarter cup loosely packed leaves in 500ml boiling water (can use less if you want). Soak overnight then strain. 

Specialty Oils

Neem oil - neem oil is a potent insecticide and repellent. Beware of the very strong smell!

Tagetes (a.k.a: Khaki Bos) - for insects, ticks and fleas.

Wormwood oil - a great insect repellent and useful in pet shampoos for tick and flea prevention.

Well-known Essential Oils For Insects







Clove bud




Tea tree

You can use any combination of the above essential oils in your insect repellent.

If you have animals and want some ideas for anti-tick and flea shampoos and rinses, have a look at  The Natural Pet P2 blog.


Being a family of arachnophobes, the folks behind the scenes here at Essentially Natural share their tried and trusted non-toxic insect repellent recipes:

Vicki’s Spider Repellent

Vicki takes the approach of throwing ‘everything’ in a bottle and making sure all entrances, surfaces, nooks and crannies receive a generous spray, to prevent spiders in her home.

Enough  witch hazel  to fill a  spray bottle

8 drops  geranium

8 drops  cedarwood

15 drops  peppermint

8 drops  eucalyptus

8 drops  lemongrass

8 drops  lavender

8 drops  rosemary

1 tsp  neem

Mix all together in a spray bottle and spray generously around crevices, entrances and other likely spider hide-outs. 

Brad’s Mozzie Spray

Brad’s potent solution is sure to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

½ c water

½ c spirit vinegar 

½ c  witch hazel

1 T of Mom’s vodka

10 drops  rosemary essential oil

20 drops  lavender essential oil

20 drops  lemon eucalyptus essential oil

30 drops  citronella essential oil

30 drops  geranium essential oil

spray bottle

Mix the water, vinegar, witch hazel and vodka. Add the essential oils and mix well. Use a funnel to pour into the spray bottle and shake well before use. Spray on as required.

Insect Specific Solutions


Flies will hate a eucalyptus, lemongrass and peppermint mixture in a base such as vodka, witch hazel or a peppermint infusion. Burning or diffusing these essential oils into the air will also help keep pesky flies away.


Diatomaceous earth is your answer here. You can also make an anti-ant spray using peppermint essential oil, but I find diatomaceous earth works quickly and effectively. Simply sprinkle and pack into crevices and around ant entrances. Make sure you use food grade diatomaceous earth if you have pets or children.


A few drops of  cedarwood oil on an absorbent cloth helps repel moths in wardrobes.

Make your own moth-repellent sachets by using any of the following: bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, dried lemon peels, eucalyptus leaves, lavender and pepper corns.


Spiders hate peppermint essential oil, many of you will be glad to hear, and as an added bonus it smells fabulously refreshing and is a great air freshener on warm days and evenings as well. Make your own simple spray by mixing 1 cup water with 1 tsp peppermint essential oil. Shake and spray around doors,windows and cornices.

Enjoy your insect-free home, naturally!