Homemade Natural Bug Spray
Summer is upon us and with it outdoor bbq and picnic season.
The dark side of all the summer fun is the mosquitoes and ticks that also come out.
Natural bug spray took me a long time to master because the tropical mosquitos are tiny and super resistant.
I’ve tried a lot of different things before settling on my recipe.
For that reason, I don’t recommend you skip anything in my recipe, but there are other recipes out there if it’s hard to find one of my ingredients.
Perhaps the most important smell in your bug spray.
Making a homemade extract is an optional step for those who grow any of the materials.
Of course, you can buy citronella oil in concentrate and just mix into the spray.
I luckily grow the grass in my garden and it’s easy to extract, if you have some time on your hands.
Recipe for Citronella Concentrate
1 medium/large jar
Fresh citronella grass cuttings to fill the jar
Alcohol (cheap tequila or vodka works the best)
Fill the jar with 1 inch cuttings of fresh citronella grass, you can pack these down but leave a bit of air space for the alcohol to enter. When the jar is 80% full cover until the top with alcohol and close the top firmly. You want a god seal or your alcohol will evaporate. Let sit out of direct sunlight for 2 weeks, gently shaking the jar every few days.
When the alcohol has changed to a dark color filter out the plant material and store in a small, airtight jar until ready to use.
Citrus Peels in Vinegar
This extraction is the same recipe I use for my household cleaner.
It is optional in the bug spray (especially for city folk) but helps if you are going to be in areas with ticks.
If you are in the forest using natural bug spray you 100% need vinegar and citrus oil as part of your mix.
If in a tick area, make sure you also check your body, hair and ears each night for ticks.
Don’t miss between your toes.
You can also dab on the citrus vinegar using a cotton to your neck, wrists and ankles if you will be back packing. You may also consider reading about other tick deterrents.
These can also be made at home if you are able to grow enough of the plant material.
I usually rely on purchased oils, research a company well before purchasing.
Ask around in your community and you may even find a local recommendation.
If not, DoTerra is one of many well known brands you could consider.
Lavender and Tea Tree
These are the most common oils and you should be able to get at any health food store and sometimes even a basic walgreens and walmart. Don’t skip either of these two smells in your bug spray as they are both very effective bug deterrents and work well on the widest range of people.
Notes on Marigold vs Calendula vs Geranium
In my opinion, the best option for this bug spray is first marigold, calendula then geranium.
Marigolds and Calendulas are often interchangeable and are both medicinal flowers to treat skin conditions this is why they are often mixed up. However marigold has a stronger scent making it more powerful at repelling mosquitoes. However it is also harder to find pure marigold oil and usually more expensive thus calendula and germanium are good bug deterrents as well.
You may also find you prefer the smell of geranium more than that of marigold. This oil will add a lot of the smell to your bug spray, find the one you like the best. It is not recommended to make this without a strong smelling flower, but if you add clove it could be possible.
I use a pure neem oil mixed into soapy water on my outdoor plants to prevent mold and insect plagues.
I trust the quality of my oil to be pure and thus use the same brand in my personal bug spray.
You should invest some time finding a good quality of neem to trust.
Recipe for Homemade Bug Spray
20 drops lavender oil
20 drops tea tree oil
15 drops marigold/calendula or geranium oil
1 T citronella concentrate (recipe above or 20 drops purchased oil)
2 t neem oil (most garden supply stores have pure neem oil)
100 ml water
2-3 whole cloves (optional)
1 t orange peel vinegar concentration (optional, recipe here, for tick repelling properties)
Mix all the ingredients into a small spray bottle and shake well before each use.
You can double or triple the recipe and keep in a large glass jar or bigger spray bottle.