8 natural insect repellents to try this summer

Are you sick of irritating and itchy bites from insects? This summer, it’s time we introduced you to a natural insect repellent. 

If you are travelling to an area with mosquitos that carry diseases such as malaria, then it is always best to use a DEET repellent. If you are going to be somewhere where mosquitos are a mild nuisance, a natural mosquito repellent may be an excellent alternative for you. 

If you want to keep your insect repellent natural but don’t know where to start, we have combined some of the most common natural repellents you can try this summer!

1. Lemon eucalyptus oil 

Lemon eucalyptus oil is a plant-based ingredient that helps to prevent mosquito bites. The oil also repels flies and gnats. 

A study carried out in 2014 proved that a mixture of 32% eucalyptus oil provided over 95% protection against mosquitoes for up to 3 hours. 

You can easily make your own lemon eucalyptus oil at home. To get started you need witch hazel, vanilla extract and lemon eucalyptus oil. 

Add 30 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 4 ounces of witch hazel. Gently mix together your ingredients and transfer the finished product into an empty spray bottle.

2. Cinnamon Oil 

Many species of cinnamon trees grow in warm or tropical countries where insects feed on the plants and kill them. Over time, cinnamon trees began to produce chemicals that repel many harmful bugs, including mosquitos. 

Not only does cinnamon oil have the ability to act as a repellent against adult mosquitos, but it can also kill off mosquito eggs too. This natural mosquito repellent will help keep mosquitos at bay.

When cinnamon is used in higher doses it can even destroy some insects. 

You can use cinnamon oil as a spray in any outdoor area or as a topical repellent for when you are outdoors or near standing water.

If you choose to use cinnamon oil topically, you must dilute it with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil. Using a carrier oil will prevent skin irritation. 

To make the diluted solution you should add 24 drops of cinnamon oil for every 4 ounces of water alongside a few drops of your chosen carrier oil.

3. Geraniol 

Geraniol is a naturally occurring ingredient found in plants such as geraniums and palmarosas. It is mainly used as a plant-based insect repellent against mosquitoes and ticks.

The properties of geraniol make it effective against many different types of insects. It is also an effective pesticide against various types of smaller bugs – the ones you can only see under a microscope!

It can be sprayed inside and outside and will not damage clothing, fabrics or plastic. Geraniol should be diluted and applied to your clothes. 

Geraniol acts directly on the insect’s cuticle. It dehydrates the insect and blocks its breathing, making it an effective alternative to a conventional repellent spray.

4. Catnip oil 

Catnip oil, which is a member of the mint family, has the ability to work as a natural insect repellent. The active ingredients of catnip repel the insect by triggering the sensations of pain and itching.

Catnip has only more recently been explored as a potential insect repellent. However, research has been carried out that suggests catnip will be the next generation mosquito repellent.

You don’t need a lot of catnip to repel insects. The sprig of catnip is all you need if you want to be protected for half an hour. Rub it vigorously between your hands to release the botanical compounds. Once you have done this, rub it on your exposed skin.

5. Thyme Oil 

Thyme oil is another one of the essential oils that has the ability to double up as an insect repellent. It has mosquito-repellent properties and also helps to repel harvest mites and ticks. 

Mixing 50% thyme oil with 50% clove oil can protect you for between an hour and a half to two and a half hours. It is important to know that this can be irritating to the skin. So, if you have sensitive skin, then you will want to dilute the solution further with water or opt for a different natural repellent. 

You can also throw thyme leaves into a campfire. Burning thyme leaves offers 85% protection for 60 to 90 minutes. 

6. Castor Oil

Castor oil is a vegetable oil that comes from castor bean seeds. It has been used as a natural insect repellent for many years and is a common ingredient in many natural bug sprays. It has been known to repel flies, mosquitoes and wasps.

Castor oil is one of the finest natural oils for repelling insects. It includes the highly poisonous ingredient known as ricin. 

You can make your own castor oil at home by mixing it with another essential oil and putting the mixture into a spray bottle. Your choice of carrier oil will depend on how effective the repellent is. Castor oil also works on its own due to it having carrier oil properties.

7. Citronella 

Citronella is one of the most common insect repellents that repels insects rather than killing them. It works by masking fragrances that insects find attractive. It then becomes harder for the insect to find their target to feed from. Citronella does, however, have a low toxicity to humans.

Citronella must be reapplied often for it to be as effective as a DEET-free insect repellent. If it is combined with vanillin it can provide you protection for up to 3 hours. 

You can also purchase citronella candles which are a brilliant way to repel insects, especially during the summer months.

Air quality and temperature can affect how well citronella works as an insect repellent.

8. Neem oil

Neem oil is another natural solution used to warn off insects. The active ingredient in neem oil is azadirachtin which is what helps to repel and kill bugs. 

The oil has been known to interfere with the normal life cycle of insects including feeding, mating and laying eggs. 

The smell of neem oil is often enough alone to repel the insects. Many insects won't even come near you if they can smell the oil. 

To use neem oil as a repellent against mosquitoes, you need to prepare the solution by diluting it in water, sweet almond oil or scented lotion. You can then apply the mixture directly to your exposed skin. To repel ticks and fleas you should use the product undiluted.

You must bear in mind that once it is dry, neem oil won’t harm bees or spiders. 

IR3535

IR3535 (Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate) is an insect repellent that was developed as an alternative to DEET. 

The product is effective and works to repel midges and other insects that bite in European and North American countries. However, IR3535 shouldn’t be relied on in tropical countries where there is a high risk of insect-borne diseases.

IR3535 works well for repelling the majority of biting insects that bite you to feed. It also works quite well with ticks and harvest mites. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with spiders and insects that sting such as wasps, bees and hornets.

2-undecanone 

2-undecanone (methyl nonyl ketone/IB-246) is an oily plant-based repellent. It is relatively new as an insect repellent and not much is known about the natural substance and how it repels insects. However, 2-undecanone has shown some effectiveness against ticks and mosquitos. 

It is used as an insect repellent because of its strong odour. 

Nootkatone

Nootkatone is a compound found in Alaska yellow cedar trees and grapefruit skin. It is an effective repellent that appears to work differently from current repellents. 

It can be used by humans when applied to exposed skin or clothing before going outdoors. It can also be used as an outdoor insecticide to kill insects and ticks. 

Nootkatone can be formulated so that it can be used in things such as soaps, sprays and lotions. 

Nobody enjoys being bitten by a bug or being left with a sore and itchy bite. However, by taking measures to prevent being bitten you will lessen your chances of a pesky bug interaction. 

Almost everyone is vulnerable to diseases and viruses that are carried by insects like ticks and mosquitoes. Lyme disease and anaplasmosis are the most common diseases spread by ticks, meanwhile, west nile virus, dengue and Zika are more commonly spread by mosquitoes.

If you are bitten then it is important that you identify what insect has bitten or stung you. Knowing which insect is the culprit will help you understand the treatment you need to help heal and soothe it.

It is important to note that if you have an allergic reaction or find yourself sensitive to any of these natural repellents, stop using them immediately and speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

Olivia Malone - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 21 July 2023
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