8 Essential Oils for Bugs. List of oils bugs hate!

Welcome back one and all to another exciting foray into the world of men and essential oils. Those of you familiar with my posts may remember that due to the fact that we live near the beach and spend a lot of time outdoors, I often refer to the use of essential oils for bugs and all things insect related. However, I was looking through some articles for research today about essential oils bugs hate. Yes, my life is that interesting at times, but in my defense it was raining. I found a study on the use of essential oils to kill bed bugs and realized that I had never actually dedicated a full post to the subject.

Over the past few months, I have actually undertaken some mansperiments around the use of essential oils to keep bugs away from my herb garden but to be honest had never really been able to get them to a point where I felt comfortable publishing my findings. So I have decided here to do some research, add my own findings and see what we can come up with…

Why use essential oils for bugs?

Let’s face it, there are some fairly effective pesticides out there, one spray and boom – insect problems are gone! However, these pesticides have a lot of chemicals in them, many of which are also toxic to us humans. So in keeping with my chemical free lifestyle, I am researching and trying essential oils.

8 Essential Oils for Bugs - Spider

The advantages? Chemical free living and hopefully less bug-like issues. The disadvantages? Look, like most things that essential oils are supposedly good for, their abilities when it comes to all things insects are still in their infancy research wise. And like many other uses, essential oil substitutes can take longer to work and often need to be applied more often due their volatility – simply meaning that they do not hang around in the air as long as commercial pesticides do . But, like other uses, there does seem to be at least some evidence, albeit circumstantial, that their repellent properties may just work.

Oh, and in this case we are talking about keeping them at bay. I am yet to see, or find any evidence of these processes killing the insects outright.

Essential oils bugs hate

Let’s start with a simple list of bug repelling oils. That way we know what we are working with before we investigate ways to repel specific insects in the next section:


Peppermint may be a pleasing aroma for most of us, but insects (and Mice for that matter) hate it. It has been researched as a repellent to mosquitoes with promising results. Peppermint oil contains Linalool, which is also a proven insect repellent.

Use for: Mosquitoes, spiders, ants, aphids, cockroaches.

Read more: 18 Benefits and Uses of Peppermint Essential Oil


Eucalyptus is a well-known barrier against creepy crawlies often used in off-the-shelf natural insect repellents and exterminators. Like peppermint, it has some researched backing and contains Limonene and Eucalyptol, both proven insect repellents.

Use for: Mosquitoes, flies

Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia)

Another strong smelling oil, another very effective insect repellent and another product commonly used in off-the-shelf products. Tea Tree is especially good as an on-person insect repellent and contains, amongst others, Limonene and Linalool.

Use for: Mosquitoes, sand flies

Read more: 16 Benefits and Uses of Tea Tree Essential Oil


We have all seen, and probably used Citronella candles as an insect repellent. That is because Citronella is one of the few essential oils that has extensive proof as effective in this area. Citronella essential oil is also registered in US EPA (Environmental protection agency) as insect repellent and insecticide.

Use for: Mosquitoes, flies

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YL Tea Tree Essential Oil
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YL Citronella Essential Oil
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Cinnamon essential oil contains cinnamaldehyde which has positive results in initial studies as a good repellent and antifeedant (means insects won’t eat whatever this stuff is on). This is apparently a good one to spray directly onto plants.

Use for: Ants, aphids


So the story goes, and I cannot find any scientific proof of this, but insects allegedly HATE the smell of lemongrass making it a good natural repellent. It does however contain citronellal and limonene so I guess there must be some truth to it all.

Use for: Fruit fly, flies


Lemon is another ingredient commonly used in pre-manufactured natural insect repellents – usually mixed with Tea Tree or Eucalyptus. Its main compound is Limonene and is another that can be used quite readily without a strong aroma or to break down the potential overpowering smells of others.

Use for: Mosquitoes, ants


We use this one a lot. Both in the diffuser and directly onto our skin if we have been bitten (which I know is not what this post is about – but consider it a bonus). Purification is a blend of Citronella, Rosemary, Lemongrass, Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree), Lavandin and Myrtle – all the good inset repelling oils in the one spot!

Use for: Mosquitos, Sand flies

YL Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
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YL Lemongrass Essential Oil
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YL Lemon Essential Oil
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YL Purification Essential Oil Blend
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Other essential oils for bugs

There are a number of others that I found listed within my research that if you have in the near vicinity may be useful – even if just to add to any insect repellent blends you may develop in order to break down the strong aromas of those listed above. These include:

  • Lavender
  • Geranium
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

What can we do with them?

So, now that we know what oils our multi-legged little friends don’t like. Let’s have a look at how we can use them effectively. Some I have tried (this post is actually a re-write of a mansperiment that I couldn’t quite get right) and some not, but here goes:

Essential oils that repel ants

List of oils bugs hate! - antsWhilst research highlights the effectiveness of cinnamon to repel ants as, at best, having potential, I actually tested this one. I mixed 10 drops of cinnamon essential oil and water in a spray bottle and sprayed it along our front doorway where ants tend to get in. It certainly appeared to keep them out as they went to a different door. And they did scuttle when I sprayed directly onto them but I think that was probably just because I was spraying them.

Peppermint and lemon may also be off service here.

Essential oils that repel mosquitos

The list here is long but effective. Citronella, eucalyptus peppermint, tea tree and lemon are all effective. Place 10 drops of one, or a few into a diffuser and place it in your outdoor entertainment area. We have used eucalyptus and lemon quite effectively but if I am being honest, just throw some purification in there. I can attest to this one working.

Essential oils that repel spiders

Want to see a grown man cry? Put me in the same room as a spider. Snakes I quite like, spiders not so much. Luckily I can use peppermint to keep those little critters out of my life. Mix 10 drops of peppermint, 1 cup of vinegar into a spray bottle and top up with water. Spray in all areas where spiders like to hide. Alternatively just add 10 or so drops to a cotton ball and jam into those little spidey hidey holes. This mixture is also listed as being effective with aphids and also with mice.

Essential oils that repel fruit fly

8 Essential Oils for bugs - chilli

I had fruit fly in my chilli bushes – who knew that fruit fly even like chilli – even the Carolina Reapers – they smashed them. I read that if I did up a concoction of lemongrass oil, lemon detergent and water in a glass that it would attract and kill the fruit flies. It did not! However, I did notice a decrease in infestation. So I started spraying lemongrass and water directly onto the plants. So far so good.

Essential oils that repel flies

Eucalyptus, peppermint and lemongrass are supposedly best for flies. Add one, or all to a diffuser and keep it where the flies are. We actually run lemongrass and rosemary in our kitchen when flies are around and it appears to work. And if you want to dilute the aroma a bit you can add some lavender. Purification works here as well. Note that the flies do return the second that the diffuser is turned off.

Essential oils that repel sand flies

Sand flies are bad in this part of the world so we need to protect ourselves – If you have ever been bitten by one, you will know why. For this, use lemongrass. Much like with flies, we use it in the diffuser if there are a few about.

Essential oils that repel cockroaches

Use the same as for spiders. Apparently peppermint is good for cockroaches as well. I have not tried this as we don’t appear to have any around – yay – but I can’t see why it wouldn’t. It won’t kill them of course and I don’t think anything does does it?

Essential oils that repel other insects

Should you have any other insect type infestations (I will keep an eye out and update this post as they come to mind) you can try a mixture of some of the above or this recipe below:

All purpose bug spray

  • 30 drops geranium
  • 30 drops citronella
  • 20 drops eucalyptus
  • 20 drops lavender
  • 10 drops rosemary
  • 1 TBSP vodka or rubbing alcohol
  • ½ cup natural witch hazel
  • ½ cup water (or vinegar)

Mix in a glass spray bottle and spray at door entrances and window frames.

Adapted from wellnessmama.com

What oils didn’t work?

Snails – This one was close to my heart as I have had a few issues with snails and my herb garden. The score is currently snails 20 – Paul 0. I have tried Cinnamon, Peppermint, Lemon, Lemongrass, Clove and Cedarwood. Nothing kept them away. I don’t know if it was due to the fact that the oils disappear so quickly or that snails tend to come out in the wet but It was back to some good old pet friendly snail baits for that one.

Clove – anybody who says clove oil is good for repelling insects is, how do I put this politely, a little inaccurate. Clove oil in the diffuser or on the ground did nothing. In fact, I watched ants walk over the newly sprayed area of clove and water. And as a by-line – clove will not kill weeds either – it almost acts like a fertilizer. Why is it even allowed to be an oil?

What are the risks?

In my recent post on Essential Oils and Pet Safety, I discussed a number of oils that are not completely safe for our four legged friends. These include:

  • Tea tree
  • Cinnamon
  • Lemon
  • Ylang ylang
  • Clove
  • Thyme

Read more: 17 Benefits and Uses of Thyme Essential Oil

Please ensure that you take care when using these oils around your pets. Please read my post about Essential oils and pet safety for more information.

And while we are on this subject, I did note a lot of information in regards to essential oils repelling ticks and fleas. I have not included any of that information here as I am still not comfortable in discussing the use of oils on pets – and some of the oils discussed are in the danger list.


And there it is again. More uses for essential oils that you can try, experiment with and work out which is best for you. As usual, if you have used essential oils for insects, please let me know below what worked for you and what didn’t. I would love to update this post accordingly.

Until next time

Have fun


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My name is Paul and I live on the east coast of Australia with my wife and six year old son. I also have 19 and 23 year old daughters. I am an ex government and bank worker who took a bit of a sea change and opened my own business by the beach with my amazing wife. If you can do it, try it. You will never look back. You want to know more about me, read my About Me page

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