Homemade Bug Spray recipes

We are about to head up to Maine. The place where you buy t-shirts that say “Maine State Bird” with a picture of a mosquito on the front, about six inches high…and little words below that say “shown actual size.”

My dad and husband would prefer to put DEET all over themselves, figuring I guess better to get cancer than bug bites. A perspective which I don’t really get. Fortunately for those of us who like essential oils, there are lots of ways to make your own anti-bug formulations…I have my own favorites of course, but I did a bit of an internet hunt to see what other people are making.

Stir Crazy has a recipe that makes me go, “doh!” and smack my head–because it never occurred to me for some reason to use witch hazel as a base.  (Dissolves the eo’s much better than distilled water, which is what I have always used!) She uses cedarwood, lavender, tea tree, citronella, and eucalyptus. Mountain Rose Herbs, now that I look, has a similar one. WellnessMama has a few good-looking ones too, including some homemade herbal ones that take a longer time to steep but don’t involve essential oils.

This was a really intriguing article–using catnip of all things, infusing it with rosemary to make a really effective bug spray.

You can also check out this article on The Daily Green–it lists a bunch of commercial natural bug sprays, with their ingredients, which makes it pretty easy to create your own if you’re not too picky about proportions and are willing to try a little trial and error.

Basically, it comes down to this: you need a medium, which can be either oil, water, alcohol, or witch hazel. Witch hazel seems to be a smart choice, and the essential oils will eventually dissolve in it, which they won’t in the water. (They’ll dissolve in the alcohol or oil too, but I’m not as inclined to put those on my skin.) You want, as an adult, maybe 15 drops essential oil per ounce of carrier medium, in a squirt bottle (but not if you’re using oil, you’ll clog your squirter!), and then shake it up good and spray.

Votes for essential oils vary a lot, but favorites are: citronella, lemongrass, geranium (smells girly! Your husband won’t like it!), peppermint, rosemary, cedarwood, and eucalyptus. My own sense is that their effectiveness will vary from person to person and bug to bug…but that’s not very scientific.

But please. Don’t use the DEET.


Posted on July 1, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Love this! We are using up some natural bug spray at home but love to know I could just make my own next time!

  2. It’s amazingly easy, really! And I’ve also heard that planting some of these plants, like catnip and lemon balm and such, all around your garden will keep the skeeters away from your home in general–not helpful when you travel, but pretty cool for backyard barbecues!

  3. re planting catnip – be prepared to see the neighborhood cats rolling around in your garden, first flattening the catnip plants, then everything else, stoned on the catnip!
    Which brings me to the next logical (I think) question: Will wearing one of those catnip ingredient bug sprays repel the bugs but draw cats to you like the pied piper with the rats?

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