8 Natural Remedies to Repel Insects and Pests

We are well into summer and us humans aren’t the only ones emerging from our homes. That’s right, it’s bug and critter season. This is the magical time of year when pests seem to just appear everywhere! When the third brood of fruit flies come and the ants have chased the cat bowl around the entire kitchen, it is tempting to find the biggest most toxic can of bug killer there is. But don’t despair! And don’t run to buy poison! These 8 simple solutions will help you prevail against unwanted summer intruders the safe and natural way.


Store bought natural repellents/insecticides.

Companies are finally hearing the cry for safe insect repellents and insecticides. There are a wide variety of brands and formulations for both personal and home insect repellent. Look for all natural ingredients and essential oils that insects hate like lavender, cedar wood, lemongrass, peppermint, and tea tree oil. Always check the ingredients before you bring something into your home, and be aware that some essential oils are toxic to animals!


Bay leaves

Add a punch to your cooking and repel pests like earwigs, pantry moths, wasps, flies, and even cockroaches by adding fresh bay leaves to your pantry. By placing a fresh leaf in your dry goods containers you can keep bugs out without adding any lingering smell or taste to your food. You can also tape fresh leaves under your pantry shelves to protect your entire storage area. Plus, nothing finishes off a good beef stew like a fresh bay leaf. Fresh Bay leaves are available online or you can grow your own plant from cuttings.


Cayenne pepper

No one wants to crawl around in cayenne pepper, and lucky for us, that includes insects and rodents. Sprinkle a line of ground cayenne pepper across the area where the insects might be entering, they will be hesitant to cross it. Place a line both inside and outside of the house for added protection. If you have pets, please ask a veterinarian for tips to help your furry friends avoid a burning snout.



Home and garden pests are no match for this simple insecticide you likely already have inside your cabinet at home. Vinegar is my favorite multi-use tool to keep around. Spray undiluted vinegar on any line of ants you see to make sure they stop in their tracks. Spraying doorways and window sills with the same mixture will keep intruders at bay. If you have a garden that is plagued by rabbits, vinegar is the answer. Soak a few corn cobs in vinegar and place them around your targeted garden or bed. The rabbits will stay away! Just make sure to resoak the cobs every 2 weeks.


Essential Oils

There are a wide variety of essential oils that repel insects and smell really good to wear! Make your own bug spray by mixing 2 ounces of distilled or boiled water, 1 ounce of witch hazel (or vodka), then 50-75 drops of essential oils into a small spray bottle. Choose a mix to suit your purpose from these oils: Flies-citronella, lemon, catnip, thyme, lemongrass, lavender, eucalyptus. Fleas- juniper, rosewood, grapefruit, lemongrass. Ticks- Juniper, rose geranium, thyme, grapefruit.


Coffee grounds

By far the most fun on the list is coffee! Enjoy this season’s outdoor barbecues by burning coffee grounds to repel mosquitos. Place dry grounds in an incense bowl or aluminum foil, then burn them as you would incense. By setting these burning stations up around your outdoor gathering, you can make it clear that bugs are not welcome. To protect your plants from slugs and snails, create a coffee barrier around flower beds, gardens, or porches that the pests can’t cross. Beware that coffee contains caffeine that is poisonous if ingested by your pets.


Lemon balm/lemon juice/citrus

Lemon balm is a fantastic multi-use herb. Grow a plant in your window bed to discourage house flies. For problem areas, hang a few sprigs to repel flies from the vicinity. As a bonus, cats love lemon balm! And humans love lemon balm tea! This is a quick growing perennial and suitable for any level gardener.


Fruit fly trap.

The simple but brutal fruit fly trap is number one on the list because it has personally saved me many times. These traps are available pre-made, but it is easier to make your own. I use a glass soda bottle or anything else I can find with a fluted mouth. Fill the bottom of the bottle with vinegar and finish with a drop of dish soap. The dish soap breaks the surface tension of the vinegar so the flies are unable to land. Roll a small piece of paper to make a cone and place it in the mouth of the bottle. The goal is to funnel the fly in and minimize the area it has to escape. Eventually you will collect dead flies in your bottle, empty and start again. It isn’t elegant, but it really works!

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