Insects play important roles in the ecosystem, but they also kind of have a way of ruining everything. Pesticide chemicals, though, can pose serious health hazards, both to people and animals. To get the benefits of pest control without the dangers, use natural, homemade bug sprays to keep insects from intruding on your outdoor fun.
Controlling Bugs With Natural Scent
Insects work on a whole different level than human beings. The same way you use your skin and your senses to tell when it's hot outside or when something is loud, when the milk is rotten or when someone nearby is wearing too much perfume, insects are also doing that…but to the extreme. They're sensing heat, vibrations, colors, and scents. Insects very strongly rely on scent to guide them.
Natural at-home bug sprays you can make in your kitchen use scents insects don't like to keep them away without harsh chemicals or toxins. Insects are extremely sensitive to scent—you can use that to your advantage.
Aphids, Mites, and Thrips
Tiny little aphids, mites, and thrips are highly difficult to see. You may not even see these insects but you will see the damage they leave behind on your plants. Small holes in leaves and other signs of damage may appear even when the bugs do not.
Though tiny, these little buggers can do a ton of damage to your plants and destroy an entire garden if they’re left unchecked.
All of these little pests are repelled by the scent of garlic, tomato, and basil. Any bug spray featuring one of these ingredients should naturally keep aphids, mites, and thrips away from your garden and landscaping areas.
Ants and Flies
Though they may not do a ton of damage to your plants, ants and flies are certainly a huge annoyance. Ants will famously ruin any picnic and no one can possibly concentrate with a fly buzzing around their head. It’s difficult to enjoy any outdoor activity if ants or flies are hanging around.
Keep them away with aromatic herbal scents like mint, basil, and bay. These herbal smells may be nice for humans but they will make the area where their sprays are applied unbearable for ants and flies.
Tiny gnats are a huge annoyance, even though they’re pretty much no bigger than specks of sand. They may be small but they can make any outdoor area a lot less pleasant. They are attracted to sweat and human skin and they will fly around your eyes, your mouth, your ears, and pretty much every other part of you that you’d rather keep gnat-free.
They naturally hate the scent of citronella, geranium, and lemongrass. Any bug sprays featuring these scents will keep the gnats away.
Many different smells can drive mosquitoes away, which is a good thing. Mosquitoes make life unpleasant not just while you’re outside trying to enjoy yourself but actually, for many days after. No matter how much fun you might have at an outdoor activity, you don’t want the reminder of red, itching bumps all over your body as proof that you had fun.
Lemon, eucalyptus, basil, garlic, and citronella are especially hated smells when it comes to these bloodsuckers. Incorporate at least one of these scents into your homemade bug spray if you want to repel mosquitoes, too.
Known for borrowing into your skin, ticks are parasites that will attach to humans as well as to pets. You definitely don't want them around your property. Ticks are famously hard to get rid of once they are on your body, and they can even spread dangerous diseases.
It’s better to keep them away from you and your outdoor areas with repellent. Keep ticks away with the scent of eucalyptus or geranium, scents that will automatically send them searching for prey in another direction.
Bug Repelling Smells
Some smells are unacceptable to multiple types of insects and some are particularly effective against specific insects. Create your DIY bug sprays using these repellent scents. Use one scent or combine multiple scents to repel many types of insects at once.
All citrus oils and strong citrus scents can repel mosquitoes, aphids, mites, flies, and fleas. That gets rid of several unwanted pests that can wreak havoc on any outdoor event or outdoor area.
The smell of citrus is considered to be pleasant to most people. It has a fresh, bright sort of smell that is found in cleaning products because it’s good at masking more unpleasant odors.
Ticks don't like the smell of garlic. The CDC recommends using garlic as a natural way to keep ticks away. Whether you plant it and let it grow in areas where you don’t want ticks or use it to add to your bug spray.
Garlic is a strong smell that certainly stands out on its own, so this works best as an ingredient in bug spray, along with other strong scents that are a bit more pleasant.
Cinnamon is a scent that mosquitoes just do not like. This is a very effective way to repel them, as well as other insects. However, putting cinnamon oil right on your skin can cause allergic reactions and irritation so don't put a spray made from this oil directly on your skin. You can still use cinnamon oil on plants and fabrics to repel mosquitoes.
Cinnamon is a spicy, sweet scent that many people enjoy. It’s often incorporated with other smells to make air fresheners and similar products for the home.
DIY Bug Spray
It might sound like a lot, but making your own DIY bug spray is really rather easy. Once you know how to make the base formula for the spray, you can add other ingredients to repel specific insets or use a combination of ingredients to create a spray that will keep many different types of bugs away.
Mix one tablespoon of liquid soap into one cup of vegetable oil. Your soap should not have bleach or degreaser in it, as this can damage plants. This concentrate of soap and oil can be added to a spray bottle and then mixed with water and other ingredients that are specific to the bugs you want to keep away.
To add insect-repelling scents to the mix, you can always use essential oil. This is a simple way to add the right scents to your DIY bug spray and essential oils are available in a huge variety of smells. About 10 drops of essential oil in the spray bottle will be enough to add the scent to your DIY spray.
You can also use fresh herbs if you have them and if you'd rather really DIY your own bug spray on every level. To do this, boil some water. Remove the water from the heat and steep your herbs, whole, in a cup of the water immediately after it's removed from the heat. Let the herbs steep here for a few hours. Strain the mixture and add the water to your bug spray.
To add the scent of garlic to your spray, chop up two bulbs of garlic and let them sit in a tablespoon of vegetable oil overnight. Strain it and add this garlic-infused oil directly to your bug spray.
Add an insect-repelling tomato scent to your bug spray. Tomato repels a lot of insects that you don’t want in your garden. Chop up about a cup of tomato leaves and let them soak in water overnight. After you strain the mixture, the remaining water can be added to your bug spray.
Recipes for At-home Homemade Bug Sprays
You can play around with different oils and ingredients to make your own bug spray based on the pests you find in your garden and your needs for insect repelling. But if you’d rather follow specific instructions, there are plenty of recipes you can make at home. You’ll probably have lots of the ingredients already in your kitchen.
Strong Bug Spray
Add essential oils based on the insects you want to repel by starting out with a basic recipe. Create some strong spray and repel many different types of insects at once.
30 drops of essential oil of your choice
30 drops of lavender essential oil
20 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil
1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol
1 cup water
1 tablespoon liquid soap
For Plants Only
Make a strong spray to protect your plants from bugs using essential oils and vinegar.
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
10-20 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil
10-20 drops of lavender essential oil
10-20 drops of citronella essential oil
1 cup isopropyl alcohol
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon catnip oil
1 cup alcohol
1 cup water
10-20 drops of lemongrass or lemon eucalyptus essential oil
Rather than making your own DIY bug spray, you can always plant naturally repellent plants that will keep bugs and insects away. These plants still release the scents that insects don’t like but they also add more to your garden and landscape areas.
Plant these repellents in areas where you will be gathering, in areas with plants you want to protect, and anywhere else you don’t want to see any insects.
Many types of fragrant herbs are repellent to bugs but not so much to people. In fact, many of these herbs are desirable garden additions for their looks and nice scent alone. Some of these herbs can even be harvested for use in food.
Lavender, thyme, citronella, and mint all naturally release an odor that repels insects of all kinds. These plants have an extremely strong smell to insects but to humans, they're actually pretty pleasant scents. Plant one or more of these plants everywhere you'd like to keep pests away.
Rosemary and basil, both popular food herbs that are known for being aromatic, naturally repel mosquitoes. Basil actually kills mosquito larvae and attracts pollinating insects you actually want in your garden.
Flowers That Repel Insects
Herbs aren't the only plants that release a smell to repel insects. Flowers also have a natural scent and they make for a great natural repellent as well.
Marigolds are a natural and beautiful way to keep the mosquitos away, along with several other types of insets. Marigold flowers are vibrant and lovely in any of your garden and landscaping areas.
Known for their vining growth pattern and circular flowers, nasturtiums work a little differently than every other plant on this list. These flowers don't repel pests, they attract them!
Place these near the plants you want to protect and the bugs will come to these attractive flowers and not to your tomatoes, cucumbers, and other food plants. Aphids, flies, and beetles will be drawn in by nasturtiums and end up ignoring everything nearby as a result!
Using DIY Bug Spray
Once you know how to make your own at-home insect spray, you need to know how to use it, when to use it and how often to use it.
Some essential oils are very strong and can actually irritate the skin, particularly children's skin. You can spray bug spray on clothing, rather than right on the skin, and still keep the bugs away.
Bug spray can be sprayed on you to keep the insects away but you can also spray it right on the plants you don't want the insects to attack. Spray the repellent on both sides of plant leaves and all around the plants, as well.
These homemade sprays use natural ingredients, rather than chemicals. Even the strong aroma of garlic isn't going to last for very long. After you, your clothing, or your plants get wet, you will need to re-apply your homemade bug spray.
If there's no rain or moisture, the scent will fade naturally anyway in about a week. And remember that even if you can't smell it, the insects can.