Learn How to Keep Bugs Away Naturally

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It’s finally spring! We have our plants started, gardens in, and the kids are itching to get outside. But what about the bugs? While they are a fact of life, we don’t have to let them feed on us!

Mosquitoes are only part of the problem. Wasps, hornets, chiggers and many more are in our yards and even homes. Years ago we used everything from Malathion to Dursban and Diazanon. Some of those are illegal to use today – for very good reasons. But you can fight back naturally. Here are a few things you can do.

Keep bugs off naturally

Homemade Insect Repellent

1. Don’t go outside at dusk or dawn. It may seem simple, but these are the two times that bugs are most active.

2. Wear light-colored clothing. Bugs are attracted to darker colors.

3. Limit perfumes, fabric softeners and hairspray. Bugs are attracted to scents. That’s how they find many of the flowers they pollinate. (Make your own wool dryer balls and fabric softener instead.)

4. Take B complex vitamins. The experts aren’t sure how this works, but bugs don’t seem to like the smell of our skin when we take it. (find B complex vitamins here)

5. Drink apple cider vinegar. Again, not sure why, but bugs don’t like it. How much? A couple of tablespoons a day should do it. I don’t like the taste, so I make a salad dressing out of it. (find ACV here)

6. Empty all standing water around your home. Mosquitoes breed and lay eggs in standing water.

If these tips don’t work, or you need more help, here’s a sure-fire recipe to help keep just about any bug away from you.

Simple Natural Bug Spray

You will need:

  • small spray bottle (find glass spray bottles here)
  • ½ cup distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon alcohol
  • 6-10 drops essential oil: use any of these alone or any combination – lemongrass, any mint, lavender, citronella, eucalyptus, tea tree, neem, geranium, and litsea cubeba. My favorite is a mixture of lavender and litsea cubeba. It smells like lemon and bugs hate it! (Find 100% pure essential oils here.)


Pour the alcohol into the spray bottle. Add the essential oils and shake well. Add water, leaving enough room at the top so it will mix when you shake it. If you use a large spray bottle, ingredients can be doubled or tripled.

To use: 

Shake well before each use. Spray lightly on body: hands, arms and legs especially. Avoid getting into the eyes, ears, mouth and nose. You may need to reapply it often if you sweat, if you are in the rain, or if you go swimming.

Here’s another recipe for homemade insect repellant.

Deterring bugs around the home

If bugs are bugging your home, here are a few tips for that too.

1. Use Diatomaceous Earth around your home. DE, as it’s known, is a great bug killer that won’t kill you in the process. It’s made from diatoms, tiny coral-like creatures that are crushed (don’t worry, only the shell is use after they are dead). The resulting powder is like tiny shards of glass. It won’t hurt us or our pets (keep it out of your eyes, mouth and nose), but to a bug, it’s deadly. It acts like tiny razor blades, crisscrossing the shell of any invertebrate, causing them to dehydrate. Use it on your floors, brushing it into corners. Put it on your carpet, work it in for a few days, and vacuum up the excess. One application will last for 6 months or so, even with weekly vacuuming. You can also sprinkle it in your yard and around the base of the house. (Find Diatomaceous Earth here.)

2. For ants, especially mounding ants (which include fire ants), I use and old fashioned trick – grits! Put dry grits around the mound holes and step on it a few times. The ants rush out to see what’s going on and find the grits. They know it’s food, so they carry them into the colony below. What they don’t know is that grits swell up when hydrated, killing the ants. (This is more humane than slowly killing them with poison.)

3. Soapy water. Mix up a bit of dish soap and water in a spray bottle. Spray any bug, inside or out.

4. Pheromone traps. Indian meal moths are those tiny moths that come from bird seed and other things. The pheromone traps lure them in and trap them in the sticky interior.

5. Pressurized water. To get aphids off of my plants, sometimes I use a high-powered hose. That usually works temporarily.

6. Horticultural or dormant oil. Usually made from canola or soybean oil, this is a light oil that will suffocate bugs. In my area, the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is killing the hemlocks. We use a dormant oil spray when the plants aren’t actively growing, like in the winter. I don’t like to use it in the summer, although you can, at half dose. Summer heat makes the oil sticky and the dust and dirt sticks to it. (Find horticultural/dormant oil here.)

These are just a few tips for you to try, so give them a shot and enjoy being bugged no more!


About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. Sharon says

    My 2 year old (almost 3) granddaughter is coming to visit us this summer in Hawaii. She came to visit last summer and was a feeding ground for mosquitoes. And I think she’s is allergic to them because she got huge welts that lasted for two weeks. I too am allergic to mosquitoes but I can take B1, which by the way works wonders. But I have to take it 2-3 weeks prior exposure for it to work, I guess it takes awhile to hit the blood stream. I almost never get bit and if I do they don’t swell into big welts. Anyways, back to my granddaughter, is there anything I can do to help her while she’s here. She’s too young to take pills and I don’t like the idea of using anything harmful chemicals. Is it safe to use the natural bug spray on a little one?

  2. Lori says

    How do you keep bees away from outdoor areas like a patio? We sit outside and then here come the wasps and yellow jackets!

    • charity says

      We use all natural garlic, pepper and water around our house inside and out to keep snakes, spiders, Beatles,roaches, and many other creatures away. I will say, it did run our hummingbirds off though. We still had our frogs and small lizards which we were proud of. It also keeps skunks,rabbits and deer away from our fruit trees and gardens.

  3. Alecia says

    My husband’s aunt makes soap with citronella essential oil. It works great. We keep some with our camping gear, and never have a single bite on all six of us.

  4. Moo says

    Please y’all go Check with vet or other reliable health for a pet advice before giving human foods herbs medicines vitamins etc pets have no choice and are relying on owners to do their homework
    Esp garlic to pets garlic cNotso good for cats

  5. Del says

    Dry pennyroyal leaves control spiders.I make little packets with tissue paper and place them under furniture and in my basement.You will need to replace them every couple of months.

  6. Lisa Quenon says

    Thanks. How can I pin this article? I don’t see a ‘pin’ emblem next to the bug article and I’d like to pin it. (I was able to do the one just under it on starting seeds.)

    Also, I learned a trick with my little kitten when she was injured. The homeopath told me to get her to ingest chlorophyll as well as put it on the wound. Getting it into her was not going to happen. Yet, when I was able to get some onto the wound, she naturally licked it.

    Likewise with apple cider vinegar. I’ve been told that if your pet can get just even a little into them that it gets into their bloodstream and helps to keep fleas away. But no pet I’ve ever known will willingly ingest it (nor some humans I’ve known too). But if I spray a diluted sample of apple cider vinegar onto the backs, paws, etc., then both cats and dogs will lick it off…joila!…flea control! Topical and ingested!!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hi Lisa, you can find the “Pin it” button below the last line of the article, along with the Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ share icons. Hope that helps!

  7. Kristi says

    Flies: I have a bro-in-law that lived in Brazil for years and he passed along the “water in bags” idea to me to help stop flies from going in open doors. He said he thought it worked because of how the eyes of a fly work: the reflection of the water in the bag and so on. I don’t know for sure about that but ,… yes. It works. And it makes a great conversation piece for visitors too!!! 😀

  8. Valerie says

    Okay, I got Orange Guard when I found ants coming in to eat the dogs food. I didn’t want to use chemicals around their food, of course, this is just made from oranges, it is a bit sticky, but better than ants! Be sure you read the label – I thought I had the right stuff with a similiar bottle till I read the ingredients – if it says not to use near water sources or fish, you have the wrong stuff. I got mine at Ace Hardware, they didn’t have it on the shelf, but ordered it for me – it arrived in 2 days!
    Flying critters: if they are fruit fly types, you can put fruit or fruit juice in a dish or jar, cover with wrap, poke little holes in the wrap. They fly in but can’t find their way out.
    Flies: There is a really nice Whole Foods/Exxon Station near Fort Worth that had clear plastic bags of water with a penny inside hanging above their doors & along their outside rafters. (About gallon ziploc size.) Every time we went there we asked what they were for. Finally, we found an employee who knew! They said it keeps the flies away. I looked at them like they were nuts, then realized, with all the produce & food they had there, I’d never seen a fly. It will only cost you a penny to try it! 🙂
    Cockroaches – baking soda. Make sure it’s free of clumps & sprinkle it everywhere. It doesn’t matter if it’s on your dishes, or your kids or pets eat it, it’s just baking soda. Keep everything dry. Roaches preen themselves like cats (who knew?) & ingest it & if they can’t get to water, they, well, they blow up.
    Bed bugs: I just read this – I think it was the doTerra Essential Oil Terra Shield. If I’m remembering correctly, you put a few drops in a spray or mister bottle & spray everything of cloth. Double check on that, I may be confused. I know they perish in heat. My friend was worried when her son was going on a mission in Arizona about bedbugs. When we read they died in extreme heat, she said – good, I’ll tell him to just keep the windows open! 🙂 Valerie

  9. Carrie says

    Any suggestions on bed bugs, got new furniture, sprayed with Raid Bed Bug spray and steam cleaned the carpet and laundered everything in the house, we are still finding bugs.

      • susan bingham says

        I have heard that kidney bean leaves are used to trap bedbugs. They have little hook like hairs that trap the bug then you may kill and dispose of them

        • Carrie says

          I have never heard of using kidney bean leaves before, I must say that is original. I do not believe I can those anywhere around here thought.

      • Carrie says

        Thank you for the idea, after reading up on DE I believe this is what we are going to try next. I will post after a couple of weeks to let everyone know how it is working.

  10. eileen says

    Any ideas of how to kill / repel house flies & bluebottles from coming into my house? We already have a fly screen on the door and a fly swat. I don’t like using nasty chemicals.


  11. joleigh says

    How about roaches? I’m so sick of trying to kill them w/ the swatter, it grosses me out, so I just wait for them to crawl out of sight. But they’re migrating out of the kitchen to the rest of the house, so it’s time to find a solution. I just don’t want chemicals. I’ve tried white vinegar in a spray bottle, but that’s messy too, trying to kill the bug, but not drench the other stuff on my counters. And it only solves half of the problem.

    • Lori says

      DE works great if you sprinkle it around your baseboards. If you mop you will need to reapply. DE is also great to put around your doorways to keep bugs out.

      • Debra Maslowski says

        Yep, in Florida we used DE and borax together at a pet shop I worked at. We dusted all over one night and hoped for the best. The next morning it looked like a battlefield! Dead roaches everywhere! Grossed us out, but we were able to control them after that.

  12. Dolores says

    Living in the Republic of Panama our problems are different and obtaining some of the products that might work is a bigger problem.
    My problem now is teeny, teeny flying bugs – they are so small that when you see them you think they are dead – no such luck they just fly away – have tried DE powder and it does help a bit but does not get rid of them. Have no idea where they come from but they are everywhere but this is the first time l have had them???????????

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Are they in the kitchen? I use a vinegar bottle with balsamic vinegar in it. It traps them and they drown. About once a week I throw it out in the compost and start over.

  13. Jennifer says

    Perfect timing for this info as today I woke to thousands of teany tiny ants all over my living room. We NEVER had ants untill 3 yrs ago. Worse part is I cant really get to them because they come in & out from behind the paneling. Can I sprinkle borax around? I have 2 toddlers and a dog. I sprayed white vinegar everywhere. They are still coming in. Thanks for any advice

    • Jennifer says

      Grrr so I thought I was getting somewhere with the ants yeah they are just coming out other places. Getting to where im not going to be able to put borax for fear the kids and dog will get to it. Been using vinegar everywhere they can get. If I knew where they were coming in from I would do a borax sugar trap but no clue

        • Jennifer says

          No and only because we hsve no extra $ to get anthing. Been using soapy water today it has heloed a lot.

          • Cheryl P says

            Peppermint EO is very good for repelling ants. DE isn’t as effective on ants as it is on other insects, but will eventually (as in weeks) have some effect.

      • Debra Maslowski says

        If the kids or dog get a hold of just a bit of the borax, it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a salt. If they eat a lot, it could cause problems. I sprinkle it on the floor and sweep it into corners with a broom. Then I sweep or vaccuum up what’s left.

  14. Frank says

    Ref: simple natural insect repellent spray: While the essential oils listed do a very good job and neem is actually a carrier oil and stinks to high heaven. Caution should be used when using high percentage of Lavender- it attracts bees. On the other hand essential oil of sweet orange( Citrus sinensis) is one of the few Citrus essential oils that is NOT photoreactive, means you can use this on skin and be exposed to sunlight with no adverse effect, it will repel bees and it also is the best EO for flea control.

  15. Kathy Lee says

    My husband thought I was going crazy when we had ants coming in the house but I made a trail of sugar from the house to property line then dumped some…..they left the house and had plenty to do and eat away from us…kids love watching them too!
    Boxelders a problem…….try 2tbsp of tobasco, 1 tbs of Dawn and dilute with water and spray.

    • Debbie Riley says

      If you’re into leaving trails of stuff for ants cinnamon works best as a barrier.

    • Jes O. says

      We have a HUGE box elder problem, especially now that we have had warmer temps. Can’t wait to try this!

      • Debra Maslowski says

        When I first read this I thought it said tobacco, and I thought sure, I’ve done that! Then I rea it again-tobasco. Ok. So my first thought, tobacco-i use snuff because it comes in packets and then you don’t have to strain it. Put 2-3 packets in a quart jar and fill it with water. leave it a few days in the sun. Take the packets out and pour the liquid into a spray bottle. It does not smell pleasant, but it’ll sure take care of the bugs!

    • sage_brush says

      Hi Annette, the spiders are there to catch bugs to eat. Your best approach is two-pronged. 1) deter the food source of the spiders (insects like ants and flying ones like moths) and 2) be sure to vacuum frequently, especially corners and under tables, radiators, etc. where spiders like to put their egg cases. If the eggs cases are prevented from hatching – there will be less spiders.

      The methods used to deter insects will not work on spiders, because they are not insects.

    • Cheryl P says

      Spiders hate peppermint oil! (as do ants and mice and mosquitoes) I mixed up a spray of 50/50 alcohol and water, and added about 20 drops or more (depends on how strong you want it), and keep it in a spray bottle. I’ve used this extensively in my storage units and homes, and it REALLY cuts down on the incidence of spiders.