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Essential oils to repel the world's deadliest animal.

Updated: Apr 15

It’s that time of year again!


If you enjoy the outdoors in the summer, you know what I am talking about.


The buzzing, the biting, the subsequent itching…. It’s enough to drive a person back indoors!


There are many types of insects that are a nuisance but let’s talk about the two that are of main concern. Mosquitoes and ticks.


These days with mosquito and tick-borne illness on the rise we need to be sure to take precautions.

Ticks are usually just hanging out on shrubs in the forests, leaf litter, grass, and wood piles waiting to hop on to an unsuspecting host, be that a deer, a dog, another animal, or a human.


While there are several diseases that can be transmitted by tick bites, like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, encephalitis and more, the most common is Lyme disease.


Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and we get it from infected ticks.


It is the black legged ticks that are the vectors for Lyme disease and not all black legged ticks are infected with the bacteria. These ticks are usually found around the edges of forested areas but can be found elsewhere as well. The tick that is infected must be attached to its host (you) for 24 hours or more for infection to occur. These ticks are small, the larvae are as small as a poppy seed and the adults as small as a sesame seed.


Let’s talk about the mosquito; did you know it is considered the world’s deadliest animal? The mosquito kills more people than any other creature in the world by spreading diseases like West Nile, Zika, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, chikungunya, lymphatic filariasis, encephalitis.

It is important to keep in mind that depending on where you live, the risk is not the same for some of the mosquito vector borne illnesses.

Where I am in Canada for example, we are not likely to have an outbreak of malaria. While there have been outbreaks in the United States of many mosquito borne illnesses, West Nile is the most common in both the United States and Canada.

Ever been out trying to enjoy nature and it feels like the mosquitoes are honing right in on you?


Well, they do! Meg Younger, a scientist from Boston University, who studies mosquito olfaction says that they are designed to smell us out, bite us, and use proteins in our blood to reproduce.  It’s all about the smell. Research so far points to mosquitoes having a sense of smell that draws them to humans!


What we need to do is mask our smell. For that most people are relying on synthetic repellants such as DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). Although the public has been assured of the safety of this repellant by government agencies around the globe, some concerns have been raised and many people are often looking for natural alternatives.


 There is another problem; research shows that both the Aedes genus of mosquito (Aedes aegypti is a carrier of yellow fever, dengue, and other diseases) and the Culex genus of mosquito (the one that carries West Nile Virus) develop resistance to repellants.

What are we to do?


We can use physical barriers, such as clothing (light coloured is best for spotting ticks that have decided to hitch a ride) and nets. If we are looking to keep the mossies away from our outdoor spaces such as patios and campsites we can use sprays, candles, and diffusion devices.

Daily tick checks are also something that is a good idea when you have been in areas where they hang out. Arms, legs, armpits, hairline, waistband, bellybutton should all be checked and remember sometimes the ticks are only as small as a poppy seed. Here is a link to a graphic showing where ticks can hang out on your body.


If we are doing outdoor activities, we can use repellants on our clothes and skin. The key is to use repellants that are not going to put our health at risk.


This is where essential oils come in.


Some essential oils are produced by the plant to deter insects! There is quite a bit of science supporting the use of essential oils in all natural bug spray preparations. The ones I am going to talk about repel more than ticks and mosquitoes too!


The key is the strong aroma interferes with the insects’ sensory receptors.


Let’s look at a few of the effective essential oils; this is not the complete list but it’s a good start.


I’ll mention the constituents that are effective repellants. Notice that these constituents are in several different oils which gives you some options when making blends.

1.Catnip (Nepeta cataria)


Batume et. al. 2024, showed that a concentration as low as 2% of catnip essential oil was effective at repelling > 70% of mosquitoes for between one and four hours after repellent application. The active component, nepetalactone has the potential for use as a natural, effective alternative to synthetic mosquito repellents.


2-4. Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus or C. winterianus ) , Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini)


You have probably heard of using citronella for repelling insects. In fact, there are many commercial bug repellant preparations that use it. The key components are citronellal and geraniol which works well for repelling most flying insects as well as ticks and can be found in the other oils listed above too (Muller et. al. 2009). One thing to keep in mind though, some research has shown that the citronella candles are not very effective, so don't count on them for protection.


5. Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)

Peppermint has a component called menthol which is effective as an insect deterrent. We just need to be careful with peppermint as it should not be used on young children.


6. Virginian cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana) has long been used for insect repelling properties and is effective against ants as well as mosquitoes.


7. Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) The deep earthy aroma of vetiver is an effective repellant; the fact that it has lower volatility (doesn’t evaporate as quickly) and in my experience adds some staying power to an insect repelling blend.


8. Basil (Ocimum basilicum ct Linalool) contains eugenol which is an effective repellant against mosquitoes.


9. Clove (Eugenia caryophyllata) There have been a few studies on clove that show its efficacy as a moderate repellant, this is due mainly to the presence of eugenol.

If you are looking to create an all- purpose bug spray, you have many options here.


One thing that I have found personally, is that the mosquitoes DO get used to one essential oil blend after a couple of weeks.

I suspect if you are outdoors in different areas all of the time you would be fine but in my back yard, I have two different blends that I make and change out every 2-3 weeks and cycle through them during the summer.


You can use the oils several ways.


You can first make a stock blend with several of the oils and add about 1-5% to:

·      lotion

·      carrier oil such as jojoba or coconut,

·      a blend of carrier oil with about 10% NEEM oil (which is also an effective insect repellant on its own)

·      aloe vera jelly, just make sure the jelly has thickeners added to it, pure aloe gel is like water, and remember oil and water do not mix!

·      You can also add your stock to a hydrosol such as peppermint, catnip, lavender, or thyme. You will get the added protection of the aroma from the hydrosol. But be sure to use a solubizer.


When adding your essential oils to something that is water based be sure to add something to mix the oils into the water a “solubizer” such as Solubol, or NatraGem S140 NP Ecocert Solubilizer or even Polysorbate 20 works.

One thing that I do is add a few drops of my stock solution to a bandana and keep it on me, either hanging out of my pocket or around my neck (be careful some people may be sensitive to the aroma, and this can be too close to your face) or hanging off a backpack while you are hiking. For ticks it is also good to put on your boots or pantlegs.

My family and I find that this works well and then there is no need to put the repellant on our skin. 

I generally make a blend that is good for ticks and flying pests but if you are just interested in a tick blend  The Tisserand Institute has a great formula for a tick blend with modifications that you can even use for your dog. I use it and put it on my furry friends’ harness when we are out in an area where ticks are.

What happened if you DO get bit?


Here are some oils to take out the itch!


You can add 6 drops of a combination of any of these oils to a 10 ml roller filled with carrier oil and make your own itch stick. I generally use peppermint, roman chamomile, basil and lavender.


  • Lavender

  • Peppermint

  • Tea Tree

  • Blue Tansy

  • Basil

  • Roman chamomile


I have found peppermint, lavender, and roman chamomile hydrosols to be helpful with itch relief as well.

Some safety things to consider:

  • Children under 5 are more sensitive so please just stick with hydrosols for them.

  • For children under 10 watch the dilution and keep it low, 1% is a good start.

  • Some essential oils cause skin irritation; it’s best to start with a 1% dilution (6 drops in 30 ml or 1 oz of carrier) if you are using an oil that can be skin irritating.

Any questions?

Need help coming up with a bug blend specifically for your family?

Want me to make you a custom bug blend? Send me an email


I am all about keeping things simple. There are so many things that you can do with lemon lavender and peppermint essential oils!

Click the button below for a free download on the many things you can do with lemon, lavender and peppermint essential oils.


Check out my new mini course which covers 10 common essential oils people have at home.

This mini course is meant for people who have some of the most common essential oils at home and have a lot of confusion around what to do with them.

This course is meant to EMPOWER you to be able to reach for those common essential oils and use them to support your health and wellbeing.

You will have peace of mind knowing that the information is coming from a reliable source who has your safety and wellbeing in mind.

This is NOT for aromatherapists who need CEU's

It is now live on the website at the introductory price of $39 ( Canadian)

Any questions? Send me an email



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Asadollahi A, Khoobdel M, Zahraei-Ramazani A, Azarmi S, Mosawi SH. Effectiveness of plant-based repellents against different Anopheles species: a systematic review. Malar J. 2019 Dec 21;18(1):436. doi: 10.1186/s12936-019-3064-8. PMID: 31864359; PMCID: PMC6925501.


Batume, C., Mulongo, I.M., Ludlow, R. et al. Evaluating repellence properties of catnip essential oil against the mosquito species Aedes aegypti using a Y-tube olfactometer. Sci Rep 14, 2269 .2024.


Cameroon. Sci Rep. 2021 Apr 1;11(1):7322. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-86850-7. PMID: 33795804; PMCID: PMC8017000.


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de Souza, M. A., da Silva, L., Macêdo, M. J. F., Lacerda-Neto, L. J., dos Santos, M. A. C., Coutinho, H. D. M., & Cunha, F. A. B. (2019). Adulticide and repellent activity of essential oils against Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae) – A review. South African Journal of Botany, 124, 160–165.


Donald R. Barnard, Repellency of Essential Oils to Mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae), Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 36, Issue 5, 1 September 1999, Pages 625–629,

Kumar S, Wahab N, Warikoo R. Bioefficacy of Mentha piperita essential oil against dengue fever mosquito Aedes aegypti L. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2011 Apr;1(2):85-8. doi: 10.1016/S2221-1691(11)60001-4. PMID: 23569733; PMCID: PMC3609176


Müller GC, Junnila A, Butler J, Kravchenko VD, Revay EE, Weiss RW, Schlein Y. Efficacy of the botanical repellents geraniol, linalool, and citronella against mosquitoes. J Vector Ecol. 2009 Jun;34(1):2-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1948-7134.2009.00002.x. PMID: 20836800.


Reichert, W., Ejercito, J., Guda, T., Dong, X., Wu, Q., Ray, A., Simon, J.E. (2019) Repellent Assessment of Nepeta cataria Essential Oils and Isolated Nepetalactones on Aedes Aegypti. Sci Rep 9, 1524.


Stanczyk NM, Brookfield JFY, Field LM, Logan JG Aedes aegyptiMosquitoes Exhibit Decreased Repellency by DEET following Previous Exposure. 2013 PLoS ONE 8(2): e54438.


Şengül Demirak, Meryem Ş., and Emel Canpolat. "Plant-Based Bioinsecticides for Mosquito Control: Impact on Insecticide Resistance and Disease Transmission" 2022. Insects 13, no. 2: 162.


Sutthanont N, Sudsawang M, Phanpoowong T, Sriwichai P, Ruangsittichai J, Rotejanaprasert C, Srisawat R. Effectiveness of Herbal Essential Oils as Single and Combined Repellents against Aedes aegyptiAnopheles dirus and Culex quinquefasciatus (Diptera: Culicidae). Insects. 2022 Jul 21;13(7):658. doi: 10.3390/insects13070658. PMID: 35886836; PMCID: PMC9322308.


Talipouo A, Mavridis K, Nchoutpouen E, Djiappi-Tchamen B, Fotakis EA, Kopya E, Bamou R, Kekeunou S, Awono-Ambene P, Balabanidou V, Balaska S, Wondji CS, Vontas J, Antonio-Nkondjio C. High insecticide resistance mediated by different mechanisms in Culex quinquefasciatus populations from the city of Yaoundé,


 Retrieved April 12 2024






Fawn Last is a life long learner and educator with degrees in biology and geology. She left an academic career to become a certified aromatherapist and continues to learn as she helps others find ways to support their wellbeing using aromatherapy.



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DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and is for educational and informational purposes only. When incorporating any complementary alternative therapy into your health care regimen, always seek the advice of your medical doctor or qualified healthcare provider, and watch for any possible interactions or side effects. Statements made on this site have not been evaluated by Health Canada or the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration)


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