13 Plants That Are Natural Bug Repellents
Summertime, sweet summertime… a time to get together with friends, swim at the lake, go camping, or simply hang out in the backyard.
Warmer weather brings sunshine, vacation… and bugs! Yes, those unwanted guests that crash the party. Flies, gnats, and mosquitoes tend to buzz around at the worst times.
Commercial products promise to rid you of these pests, but at what cost? Many of the ingredients in bug sprays can cause irritations like skin redness and hives (1). Breathing it in or swallowing it can be dangerous as well.
Are there natural alternatives?
In this article, we’re going to cover 13 plants that act as natural bug repellents. These plants contain compounds that insects don’t like, so they’re great to have around the house, porch, or wherever you want to spend a lot of time.
Note: While the plants themselves are great, it’s the essential oils that repel the bugs (2). You can help extract the oils by heating them up (putting them on the grill), ripping them up and scattering them on the ground, or trodding them underfoot.
Let’s take a look at the different plants you can use.
An herb often used to enhance lamb or chicken dishes, rosemary is a potent plant with many benefits. Not only can it help memory and hair growth, studies show a concentration of 12.7% can knock down flies (3). This same study showed it can also help keep mosquitoes away for about 4 hours.
These small grass clusters have been known to serve two purposes: cooking and repelling insects. A delicate plant that grows well in containers, lemongrass gives off a pleasant citrus smell that is lovely for guests, but repulsive for insects away (4).
In order to see how well it worked at repelling insects, scientists tested a variety of basil leaf oil concentrations against mosquito larvae. Research shows the most effective concentration to kill mosquito larvae is 1.5% (5).
These cheerful flowers come in hues of yellow, orange, and red. They’re great in the garden, and a must-have for keeping bugs away.
Research has found that burning dried leaves shows promising results in keeping mosquitos away (6). It also had no adverse side effects, when compared to commercial products.
This slender, purple flower is known for its calming properties, but it can also keep unwanted bugs at bay. One study showed that diffusing lavender oil kept 58% of outdoor mosquitos away, compared to 22% mosquitos repelled by citronella (7).
When made into a tea, fennel often tastes like licorice. When compared to citronella oil, fennel seems to be about 7% more effective at keeping mosquitos from landing on you (8).
A beautiful flower cluster native to Galapagos Islands, Lantana is another powerful bug-fighting plant. When combined with coconut oil, lantana oil can keep you protected from pesky bugs for between 1-4 hours (9).
Onions and garlic belong to this category of plants. Not only are they good to eat, they can help keep ticks away. One study showed applying a garlic solution to your clothes or skin can help deter ticks from climbing onto them (10).
This Australian plant is famous for its pain-relieving properties, but did you know it can also relieve you of pecky bugs? Research shows that applying a eucalyptus oil solution to your environment is a safe and effective way of repelling annoying insects (11).
Peppermint is a wonderful herb with many medicinal uses. One way to use it is to keep bugs away. Studies show diffusing peppermint oil can provide up to 85.4% protection against mosquitos (12).
Another great herb to have on hand in the kitchen, thyme holds many surprises. Scientists compared various oils and found that thyme provided an impressive protection rate of 91% against outdoor insects (13).
Cats love it, bugs hate it. Research has found that using catnip can help protect against bugs nearly 10x better than DEET, a commercial product known for repelling insects (14).
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could opt for carnivorous pitcher plants like the venus fly trap, butterworts, sundews, or bladderwort.
These plants have mechanisms that trap insects and secrete chemicals that ingest them (15).
Summertime can be full of fun, activities, and relaxation. And with more daylight often comes more time outside.
The outdoors can be a great time to connect with nature. Unfortunately, nature also hosts menacing insects that bother and “bug” us.
Today’s shelves are flooded with commercial bug repellents, but negative side effects like allergic reactions and poisonings may cause you to look elsewhere for relief.
There are several plants that are natural bug repellents, many of which are also great culinary additions to your meal!
The important thing to remember when it comes to these plants is that it’s the oils that repel insects. Crushing, grinding, or heating up the leaves and flowers will release the oils from the plants.
Are you dreading the outdoors because of all the bugs? Consider having some of these varieties in your yard or in pots on the back porch.
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✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author