Essential Oil Wisdom: How to Live Peacefully with Pesky Bugs

dad and son playing on back deck during dinner

Summer is here and it is bringing a lot of things we love: warm sunny days, fun outside activities, and backyard barbecues. But there is something that threatens to ruin all the summer joy - BUGS! I used to struggle so much fighting against the little fliers, crawlers and biters. I never wanted to use anything toxic in or around my home or on my beloved humans and pets so we suffered through and often were chased inside. Thankfully, I found the non-toxic solution I yearned for a few years ago and it’s made summer pests much less bothersome. Essential oils! 

Which Ones?

Your choice of oils will depend on several factors. 

  1. What type of bugs are you fighting? 
  2. Do you have pets that can be sensitive to some oils? 
  3. What smells good to you?

I like to experiment, because the scents of the oils are quite strong and you want to use ones that you enjoy. Both Lavender and Citronella are near-universally appealing to humans and bothersome to pesky critters, especially mosquitoes. I also find peppermint, lemongrass, geranium and cinnamon are useful in and around the house for managing our different uninvited crawling guests.

You should keep in mind that some oils are irritating for animals. Remember that cats and dogs have a sense of smell much stronger than humans, and make sure they always have a getaway if the scent is bothering them. Never diffuse essential oils in the same indoor space as your pet, and watch out for some specific oils such as tea tree, peppermint, and eucalyptus which are unsafe for some pets. If you are diffusing outside it’s much safer, but make sure the animals can’t get to the diffuser and drink the oil or douse themselves with it and then lick it off their fur.

little girl itching legs with mosquito bites

Repelling Mosquitoes

The easiest way to use oils for repelling mosquitoes is to wear them on the skin or diffuse them into the air. For instance, a few diffusers spread around your patio with 5 drops each of lavender, tea tree, and citronella would create a beautifully aromatic and bug-unfriendly environment. We recently went boating at the lake and in the evening we put several drops of lavender on our wrists and behind our ears. Then we rubbed several drops of tea tree on our ankles. We didn’t notice any bugs bothering us that whole evening and we smelled so good. 

Both oils were used straight out of the bottle, but we recommend you make sure your skin isn't sensitive to the oils by trying on a small spot before indulging. If you find the oils too harsh you can add them to a carrier oil such as coconut oil, hemp seed oil or jojoba oil to dilute them. I also like adding them to my favorite skin lotions. 

Keeping Ants Away

I used essential oils as an insect repellant again when an army of sugar ants invaded our house. I put drops of cinnamon oil on several cotton balls and left in the locations where the ants seemed to be originating. Within several days there were no more signs of the miniature army and we had a light cinnamon scent in the air. If you try this make sure the cotton balls aren’t left where pets or children can get them and eat them.

dog in tall grass with ticks

Dog-Friendly Tick Repellent

We use lavender or geranium essential oils to discourage ticks from bothering our dog who spends lots of time out in our wooded yard. We just add 1-2 drops to his collar or dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil (almond oil or olive oil) and rub through his fur along his back. Dilution for a small dog would be 1 drop of essential oil for every 50 drops of carrier oil. For a large dog you can use 2-3 drops for every 50 drops of carrier oil. We don’t use any other tick repellents because of my fear of the toxicity, but he remains pretty much tick-free with this simple method.

Kicking Out Spiders

My final triumphant story about essential oils is about our homemade spider spray. I have several people in my home who are incredibly scared of spiders and an older house that the eight-legged creepers seem to truly enjoy. So after so many surprise attacks on screaming victims we decided to put together an essential oil spider spray and see if we could encourage the spiders to move on. Here is the recipe we used:

  • 5-10 drops lavender essential oil (depending on the size of your bottle)
  • 2-3 drops dish soap
  • Water to fill a small spray bottle (2-4oz)

We shake the bottle and spray around doors and windows and in the corners of rooms to discourage the little web-spinners from moving in. It seems to help and the light lavender aroma is delicious and relaxing. Peppermint oil would also work well in this recipe, but we used lavender because peppermint can irritate dogs.

It’s best to experiment with the oils and see what you like and what beneficial effects you get. Remember to always use high quality oils that you know are free from impurities. Start with less oil and work up to higher dilutions if necessary to get your desired results.


We have an excellent all-natural non-toxic insect repellent and easy to use insect repellent wipes available in our Be Vivid You Shop. Both are Deet free. We also have a full assortment of high quality essential oils available.

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