The visionary director Guillermo del Toro calls bugs “living metaphors”, and not without admiration. “They are so alien and so remote and so perfect, but also they are emotionless,” he says. “There's no empathy.” F.Scott Fitzgerald went one further, describing a solitary bug as a deadly and determined adversary: “One mosquito takes on a personality - a hatefulness, a sinister quality of the struggle to the death.”
Goodness. Bugs certainly inspire extreme reactions, but anyone plagued by that persistent whining mosquito at bedtime might even sympathize with Ripley’s uncompromising solution in the movie Aliens: “I say we nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.”
Fortunately, there’s no need to resort to weapons of mass destruction (or chemical-heavy commercial sprays) when bugs of different kinds invade our space. Many essential oils repel insects by either masking scents they are attracted to, or blocking receptor neurons in their olfactory organs, encouraging them to look elsewhere for their nourishment.
Rosemary, Thyme and Sage essential oils are believed to be reliable all-rounders for repelling a variety of different insects. To ward off mosquitoes, Citronella is usually considered most effective, but tests have shown that Eucalyptus actually has a greater impact on a mosquito’s CO2 receptors (mosquitoes use the CO2 we expel as their own tiny targeting radar). And as delicious as they smell to us, it seems Peppermint and Cinnamon are like garlic to a vampire for all sorts of creepy crawlies around the house. Many other essential oils also appear to confuse certain bugs’ sense receptors, so you may find that a little trial and error may help you perfect your best repellents for different invaders.
It’s convenient to prepare different spray bottles for different purposes: a few drops of essential oil diluted with distilled water and alcohol for spritzing, with distilled water and liquid soap for cleaning, and with distilled water and alcohol or white vinegar for cleaning surfaces and spraying fabrics. You can also make up batches of repellant creams with coconut oil and store the mixture in a sealed jar in a cool, dark cupboard space. Remember that these repellents should not be relied on in areas where insects are known to carry dangerous diseases such as yellow fever, malaria or lyme disease.
Bugs, be gone - it’s time for our 10 essential oil mosquito and bug repellent recipes! Scram!
This citrusy double-team of Eucalyptus and Citronella essential oils, with an additional ‘bite’ of Peppermint, will have mosquitoes buzzing for the hills.
For 24-hour mosquito protection, this zingy, floral blend will help you rest undisturbed, day and night.
Do your ankles become all-you-can-drink blood buffets on those balmy summer evenings on the porch? Try applying this appetite-crushing cream to those hard-to-protect areas that mosquitoes seem to adore.
Bugs like your groceries, but they don’t really like essential oils or white vinegar. Combine the two in a kitchen spray to keep them out of your goodies (a 3:1 water to vinegar solution works well).
Ants are more determined than your average bug, bless them, so you may need this additional kitchen spray recipe to deter them from marching away with your cupcake ingredients.
Ah, roaches! Assuming you already have drain traps in all your sinks, you can also prepare a kitchen spray with a teaspoon of liquid soap dissolved in water, with the addition of some of the citrusy and herby aromas that roaches avoid. Spray in roach-friendly hiding places like your garbage pail.
Bed bugs are hard to detect, and even harder (and expensive) to get rid of once they’ve set up base camp in your sofa or mattress. Deter them with a water and alcohol spray solution containing the essential oils of their mortal enemies Thyme, Clove and Lemongrass.
Shudder. Silverfish are the creepiest of unwelcome guests, but luckily these shiny villains have an aversion to Cinnamon and Lavender. Dilute these essential oils in water in a spray bottle, and spray around skirting boards and inside cupboards.
Spiders do more good than harm in our homes, and are natural bug repellents by themselves. But for those paralyzed with fear at the very thought of our eight-legged friends, the news that spiders dislike citrus and mint will be welcome indeed. Again, a simple water spray in their favorite web spots will send them spinning.
Need to protect that complicated summer buffet you’re putting together in your kitchen from pesky house flies? Use these essential oils in a weak water and alcohol solution, and spray as required.
Interested in learning more about the incredible world of essential oils, plants and herbs? Our LabAroma podcast page has some essential listening ideas here.