a bottle of basil oil surrounded by fresh herbs

Natural Tricks for Bug Bites and Repellent

Jane Eklund
This content originally appeared on 

Ah, summertime. The days grow warm and long, kids are on break, adults schedule vacations, and we all pour into the great outdoors—where we’re met by mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, flies, and other insect pests.

It may feel like Mother Nature is pulling a fast one on us, but she has provided tools for keeping things in balance.

Given the severity of the diseases carried by some biting insects, people will want to make careful choices about the insect repellents they choose for themselves and their families.

For those who want to stay natural, there are plenty of options, and one ingredient—lemon eucalyptus oil—matches up to DEET in repelling mosquitoes and may have some effectiveness against ticks as well.

Natural Ways to Repel Bugs

  • Environmental Deterrents

    Those of us who spend a lot of time in our backyards can start by making them less friendly to insect pests.

    • Get Rid of Standing Water

      Dump any standing water that’s accumulated in buckets, old tires, tarps, and the like. Mosquitoes love to breed in such spots.

    • Plant Things Bugs Don't Like

      Next, try growing herbs that help deter pests.

      • Basil

        House flies and mosquitoes will avoid basil. Plant it in the garden and in pots where people congregate—it will provide some insect relief and an ingredient for pesto!

      • Lemongrass

        Lemongrass, an ornamental that contains citronella oil, is a mosquito repellent and a nice addition to chicken and pork dishes. Grow it in a pot so it can winter indoors.

      • Mint

        Try planting mint in pots too, then pluck the leaves and crumple them into iced tea while the plants help keep bugs off nearby plants.

      • Other Herbs

        Both mosquitoes and ticks will avoid rosemary and catnip plants. Other herbs to try planting include lemon thyme, lemon balm, and oregano.

  • Natural Insect Repellent

    For a natural insect repellent that’s applied to the skin or sprayed on clothes, look for one key ingredient: oil of lemon eucalyptus.

    • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

      The only plant-based mosquito-repelling ingredient that’s recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s found in bug sprays and lotions made by natural products companies as well as companies that also make repellents containing DEET.

    • Child-Safe Bug Repellent

      Oil of lemon eucalyptus isn’t safe for children younger than 3, so consider a soy-based repellent for preschoolers.

      One commercial repellent containing 2 percent soybean oil along with glycerin, lecithin, vanillin, and oils of coconut and geranium was as effective as DEET in one study.

      Using Repellent on Children
      • Check the Product Label

        When (and before) using repellent on children, always follow the instructions on the product’s label.

      • Apply Indirectly

        Parents should spray the repellent on their own hands, then apply to a child’s face.

      • Don't Use On Newborns

        Use mosquito netting rather than repellent for babies under two months old.

  • More Ways to Keep Bugs Off You

    Repellent is a must for anyone who’ll be exposed to potentially disease-carrying insects. But to get the most protection, follow these recommendations.

    • Keep Covered

      Wear long sleeves and pants, and tuck your shirt in your pants and your pants in your socks.

    • Keep Air Moving

      Turn on a fan to deter mosquitoes on patios and porches.

    • Stay in Sunlight

      Mosquitoes love dawn and dusk, so if you don’t love mosquitoes, avoid being outdoors during those hours.

    • Beware of Ticks

      People who may have been exposed to ticks should shower after spending time outdoors, in addition to doing regular tick checks on clothing and bodies.

Homeopathic Remedies for Stings & Bug Bites

A wasp, a yellow jacket, or a bee got the best of you? Homeopathy may help.

Always check the product’s label for the proper dose.

  • Ledumm Palustre (Wild Rosemary)

    If the pain lessens after ice or cold applications, try this out. This is typically the first homeopathic remedy given after a bug bite.

  • Apis Mellifica (Crushed Bee)

    This may be useful for swelling and burning.For swelling and burning pain, try .

  • Carbolicum acidum (Carbolic Acid)

    This can be useful if you’ve been stung more than once.

Click to See Our Sources

“16 plants that repel unwanted insects” by Tom Oder, Mother Nature Network, www.mnn.com, 4/22/19

“How to keep mosquitoes out of your yard” by Jessica Walliser, www.RodalesOrganicLife.com, 5/27/16

“Keep pests off pets! Plants to grow that repel ticks and fleas” by Emily Cardiff, www.OneGreenPlanet.org

“Natural mosquito repellents”; “Safer bug spray: Natural bug repellents” by R. Morgan Griffin, WebMD.com

“Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing” by M.F. Maia and S.J. Moore, Malar J, 4/15/11

“Prevent mosquito bites,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.CDC.gov 

Essential Homeopathy by Dana Ullman, MPH ($10.95, New World Library)