Are ants, aphids and spiders uninvited guests in your home and garden? 
Do mosquitos dampen your family’s outdoor summer fun?
 Is your dog or cat hosting fleas?
 How would it feel to manage pests with easy, non­toxic plant­ based solutions?

Finding natural solutions has been important to me for a long time. When I discovered the power of essential oils a few years ago, my solutions became very simple. Essential oils, the volatile aromatic compounds from plants, protect the plant from environmental threats. The oils are naturally antibacterial, antifungal and antiseptic making them a safe, effective natural solution for pest control.

My most recent pest adventure at home was an army of ants traveling confidently across my counter. They were definitely on a mission to colonize. I sprayed peppermint mist on the counter and put peppermint oil on a cotton ball near their entry point. They have not returned. I imagine them happier outside, in their natural habitat, so it’s a win­-win, right?

Essential oils are used throughout the world as insect repellents. They can kill and repel bugs and then break down quickly in the environment. These naturally occurring oils do not have toxic or harmful effects to humans or the environment. Unfortunately, the same can not be said of many insecticides. It is important to follow simple safety precautions: use small amounts of the oil at one time and dilute for plant application and skin sensitivities.

Some of the most common essential oil pest solutions are those from the mint family (ex: peppermint, spearmint), aromatic grasses (ex: lemongrass) and pine and cedar family (ex: arborvitae, cedarwood). Essential oils from the rind of citrus fruits (wild orange and grapefruit) are also very effective. These powerhouse oils act as fumigants, insecticides, and repellents against many pests, and have the ability to soothe the skin from bug bites.

A List of Essential Oils for Pests

Here is a list of some suggested essential oils to keep pests away. This is not comprehensive, as there are many more that are effective. You can explore using these oils individually or in combination and see what works best for you. I recommend using

Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) oils for their high standard of purity and potency. They will be extremely effective, safe and reliable.

  • Ants: Peppermint, orange, cedarwood.
  • Aphids: Cedarwood, peppermint, orange.
  • Beetles: Peppermint, thyme, cedarwood, orange.
  • Caterpillars: Peppermint, cedarwood, orange.
  • Fleas: Lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, cedarwood, orange, 
  • Flies: Lavender, peppermint, sage, cedarwood, orange, lemongrass.
  • Gnats: Patchouli, orange, cedarwood, peppermint, eucalyptus.
  • Mosquitoes: Lavender, lemongrass, orange, cedarwood, peppermint.
  • Head Lice: Lavender, melaleuca, peppermint, thyme, orange, rosemary, 
  • Plant Lice: Peppermint, cedarwood, orange.
  • Moths: Cedarwood, lavender, peppermint, orange.
  • Roaches: Cedarwood, eucalyptus, cinnamon, thyme, orange.
  • Slugs: Cedarwood, orange.
  • Snails: Cedarwood, patchouli, orange.
  • Spiders: Peppermint, lemon, lime, orange, lavender, cedarwood.
  • Ticks: Lavender, lemongrass, orange, sage, thyme, melaleuca, 
geranium, cedarwood, eucalyptus.
  • Weevils: Cedarwood, patchouli, sandalwood, orange.

A Few DIY Ideas

You can create natural solution for yourself, your family, pets, home and garden. For each recipe or idea below, choose an essential oil or combination of oils from the list above based on the pests you want to repel.

Humans and Home

Safety notes: Use glass or metal bottles. Avoid plastic because essential oils can pull petrochemicals from the plastic.

  • Fill a 2 ounce spray bottle with 1.5 Tbsp water, 1 tsp witch hazel and 10-­20 drops of one or several of the recommended essential oils. Spray on household surfaces, clothing, and skin.
  • Soak cotton balls or cloth in an oil solution or put drops of oil on a cotton ball or cloth and place near the affected areas.
  • Add 10­-20 drops of essential oil to 2 Tbsp of carrier oil* for a moisturizing repellent rub. You will get the added therapeutic benefit of those oils too.
  • Diffuse oils in a diffuser when spending time outside.

*Carrier oil: base oil or vegetable oil used to dilute essential oils before they are applied to the skin. My favorite carrier oil is fractionated coconut oil. It is absorbent and light, odorless and colorless and completely soluble with essential oils.

Garden and Plants

Safety notes: Use glass or metal bottles. Avoid plastic because essential oils can pull petrochemicals from the plastic. Also, avoid spraying leaves when the weather is very hot and dry as sun­heated tea tree oil can easily burn leaves. Avoid spraying directly on beneficial insects.

  • Make a repellent spray with 8­-10 drops in a large glass spray bottle.
  • Put oil on strips of fabric and hang from branches.
  • Soak cotton balls in an oil and water solution or put drops of oil directly on cotton 
balls and put in containers along garden.
  • Soak string in water with oils and hang string to deter insects.
  • Fungus treatment: Melaleuca, or tea tree oil, is a very effective remedy for 
fungus. 1 tablespoon of melaleuca in 1 cup of water and spray on plants once or twice a week.


Safety notes: cats are small and sensitive. Heavily dilute with water or carrier oil when using essential oils. Dogs tolerate oils well, but vary greatly in size. Use small amounts for sensitive skin, puppies and toy breeds. Dilute with carrier oil, if needed.

  • Flea collar: Dilute 2-­3 drops of your chosen oil in 1-­3 tablespoons of water. Apply 5­-10 drops of the mixture to the bandana and rub the sides of the fabric together, and then tie it about your pet’s neck in a snazzy way.
  • Flea spray: Add 4­-6 drops of oil(s) of your chosen oil in a 16 oz spray bottle. Lightly spray pet, avoiding the eyes.

A Focus on Five: Peppermint, Lavender, Cedarwood, Citrus Oils and Lemongrass

Many other essential oils are effective as insect repellents. I highlighted five that are very popular and versatile.


Peppermint essential oil has insecticidal and repellent effects on many pests. Bugs do not like the menthol aroma that is dominant in peppermint. Studies have shown peppermint’s toxicity against greenhouse pests and several aphid species. In addition, it can support us by soothing the itch and irritation that bites and stings can bring.


Lavender essential oil is effective as a repellent and can soothe our skin from bug bites. Several studies found that lavender is effective in it’s ability to repel ticks. In another study, an infestation of the red bud borer pest was reduced by more than 95% by the application of lavender essential oil. It smells great to us, but the bugs don’t agree.

Lavender is my top choice for soothing and minimizing the body’s natural response to a bite. When used in combination with peppermint, it can really tame the itch.


Cedarwood essential oil protects the tree from unwanted pests and we can use it to our benefit, as well. There are many ways that cedarwood oil works against these insects. It causes dehydration, changes pH levels, breaks down body fat, interferes with respiratory function, blocks octopamine receptors (necessary for regulating heart rate, movement and behavior) and dissolves pest eggs, larvae, pupae and exoskeleton. A study has shown it to possess highly insecticidal activity against adult mosquitos and other household pests. This supports the nostalgic tradition of using cedar chests to protect clothing and blankets.

cedarwood essential oil


Citrus Oils (Wild Orange and Grapefruit)

Wild Orange essential oil contains D­-limonene, a constituent that is beneficial to humans but harmful to insects. In insects, it causes dehydration by dissolving the exoskeleton. The powerful scent of wild orange oil will eliminate the pheromone trail left behind, which insects like ants rely on to reinfest. Citrus essential oils have been found to participate in resistance of citrus fruits against infestation of Mediterranean fruit fly.

Grapefruit oil contains Nootkone, a constituent that is shown to be effective as an insect repellent against ticks and mosquitos and may repel bed bugs, head lice and other insects. It blocks the octopamine receptors sites in the insect, just as cedarwood oil does.

Safety note: Citrus oils are photosensitive and should not be applied to the skin when there will be exposure to the sun. It should be heavily diluted when used on plants.


Lemongrass essential oil has insecticidal and repellent properties. Major constituents of the lemongrass oil are citral, geraniol, myrcene, citronellal and limonene, many of which are natural repellents. The constituent that gives lemongrass its lemony fragrance is citral. Citronella oil, which repels mosquitoes, contains large amounts of citral. Lemongrass oil is an effective insecticide against ticks, termites, mosquitoes and dust mites.

Essentially, essential oils can be our first line of support against the insects we call “pests”. With these beautiful plant­ based tools, we can create safe, effective and simple solutions to manage the insects in our lives.

Next article: Essential Oils in the Great Outdoors

If you want to learn more about essential oils or you are interested in bringing Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) oils into your life at 25% off, contact me at You can explore my website at

Jodi Marcus is an essential oil educator and doTERRA Wellness Advocate. She offers essential oil education and helps people bring therapeutic oils into their lives. Jodi was a special education teacher for eight years and is embarking on a new journey as an elementary school counselor. She created a facebook group with her friend, Emotional Wellness for Children. Jodi lives in Portland, Oregon where she enjoys outdoor adventure, dancing and quiet days of reading and writing.

Jodi’s previous article: The Healing Power of Essential Oils