Homemade Herbal Bug Spray Recipe

Now that summer is in full swing everyone is spending more time outdoors playing, gardening, and relaxing. We have already noticed the mosquitoes starting and have also found a few ticks around. Ticks are a big concern because of all the tick borne diseases. Ticks and mosquitos are the two main pests we are trying to avoid this time of year and there are a number of herbs and essential oils that can help.

Conventional bug sprays often contain harmful ingredients such as DEET. DEET is a pesticide that was developed by the US Army during World War II. Although it has been proven to be effective as a repellent it also comes with some ill health effects. It has been found that the use of DEET has been linked to seizures, insomnia, mood disturbances and impaired cognitive function. The natural alternatives to DEET are effective but may need to be re-applied more often.

Essential oils are my favorite method to natural inspect repellent. This is the easiest recipe to make, it is inexpensive, and works well.

Essential Oil Bug Spray

  • 8 ounce spray bottle
  • Distilled water
  • Witch hazel or rubbing alcohol
  • 1 tsp. vegetable glycerin
  • 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops cedar essential oil
  • 10 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 10 drops geranium essential oil
  • 10 drops citronella essential oil
  • 10 drops neem oil
  • 10 drops lavender essential oil
Fill your spray bottle 3/4 way full with distilled water. Fill the rest of the way with witch hazel or alcohol and then add the glycerin. Drop in all of the essential oils. Shake well. Spray liberally to body and hair.

This recipe works well and smells great. Another method is to make Four Thieves Vinegar. Four Thieves Vinegar was said to have been used by thieves during the time of the plague. They used this mixture of herbs to keep from catching the plague. This is very stinky to apply, although the vinegar smell does dissipate and doesn’t stay with you. I actually use this vinegar method for our dog. I have also heard it might help in the garden but I haven’t tested out that theory yet. Here is how to make it.

Four Thieves Vinegar Bug Spray

Fill a mason jar with apple cider vinegar and all the herbs. Close the jar and let sit in a sunny window for 2-4 weeks. Strain out the herbs and pour into a spray bottle,

Other Herbs and essential oils that Help

If you don’t have all of these essential oils or herbs on hand, here are some other options that you can use that are also effective in keeping the pests away:

  • Cloves
  • Marjoram
  • Lemongrass
  • Pennyroyal
  • Rose
  • Wormwood
  • Garlic
Looking for more homemade recipes for natural personal care? Check out my eBook, The Holistic Mama’s Guide to Homemade Skin Care.

Do you make your own insect repellent? What oils and herbs do you use?



  1. Tara says

    I suffer from a chronic form of lyme disease – it’s an awful debilitating illness contrary to what most believe. The best way to not suffer from lyme is to prevent being bit. I used to douse myself in DEET but have moved away from chemicals. Of course wearing long pants and tucking in your pant legs helps too. Thanks for posting these natural options :-)

    • says

      Hi Tara, I know how bad Lyme can be I have a family member who suffered for many years from it. I agree with you about taking precautions such as long pants. We are very conscious about tick bite prevention too! Glad you are looking at natural options instead of DEET :)

  2. says

    Gracias, thanks for this recipe which I will be trying. I have been using the candles and doing prevention not to have any water around after the rain and really been fortunate so far. But glad for the natural remedies.

  3. Wendy says

    Does the four thieves bug spray kill or repel fleas? We are having a terrible time with those little pests right now!

    • says

      My dog has never had fleas but from the reading I’ve done it should work. There are many variations of the four thieves vinegar recipe and I have heard that wormwood and garlic are helpful additions for fleas.

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