This summer I am on a hunt to find natural DEET alternatives to keep us from being bitten by mosquitoes.  We have a mosquito control program in our county, but it never seems to be enough and we face skeeter bites frequently during the warmer months. Usually the solution is to use commercial bug sprays such as Deep Woods Off to keep them from landing on us.  The problem with these bug sprays is the chemical ingredient DEET. Doctors recommend using product s with DEET to protect against West Nile Virus, which is mosquito borne illness.  Others suggest DEET is bad for you and shouldn’t be used.  Most studies have been inconclusive.  I would rather not take any chances. I have rounded up a few great DEET alternatives that will keep your family, friends and pets safe.

DEET Alternatives
DEET Alternatives

Essential Oils Bug Spray

Essential oils are one of the best DEET alternatives. Mixed with witch hazel and other oils they make great natural bug sprays. Consider using cedar wood, lavender, lemon, neem, rosemary, citronella, lemon grass or eucalyptus. Each of these will all fend off the bugs.  You can use one or a mixture of a few; it is up to you.

To make bug repellent you will need distilled water, alcohol or witch hazel to act as an emulsifier, 30-50 drops of the essential oil of your choosing, a carrier oil such as coconut oil, and a glass spray bottle.  Some essential oils will erode a plastic spray bottle.

The basic ratios are as follows:

3 oz of distilled water

1 tbsp of Witch Hazel or rubbing alcohol

1 tsp of the carrier oil

30-50 drops of essential oils

File the spray bottle with the water, carrier oil and witch hazel then shake gently. Then add in the 30-50 drops of essential oils and then shakes again.  Shake before each use.  Spray your body with it every 4-6 hours to ward mosquitoes.

DEET Alternatives
DEET Alternatives

Container Gardens

Another DEET alternative is to keep the mosquitoes out of your yard altogether. A container garden or two with plants that fend off the bugs will help keep your yard free of the mosquitoes.  Consider lavender, marigold, catnip, lemon thyme, citronella or rosemary.  Each of these plants has a characteristic the mosquitoes don’t care for.

Marigolds have a fragrance that mosquitoes don’t like. The flower also has Pyrethrum which is an ingredient found in commercial bug sprays.

Studies show Catnip to be 10% more effective than DEET in warding off the mosquitoes.

Lavender is a natural bug repellent that will also fill your yard with a soothing calming fragrance.

Citronella is often found in commercial bug sprays and used for it’s strong odor that detracts the bugs.

Deet Alternatives
Deet Alternatives

Essential Oil Votives

For those occasions when you are dining outdoors, the last thing you want to encounter is a flurry of mosquitoes. You can deter them creating pretty and functional centerpieces for the table out of mason jars filled with essential oils, rosemary, water and floating tea light candles.

Simply fill 4 mason jars with water, 40 drops each of cedar wood, lavender, and lemon, a slice of lemon, a slice of lime and 2 sprigs of rosemary.  Burn a floating tea light candle on the top.

This will keep the bugs away from the table while allowing you to enjoy a very pretty and fragrant centerpiece.  This can also be set on an accent table by the pool or between two chairs.  You could create a display around the perimeter of the yard with them too.

DEET Alternatives
DEET Alternatives

Sage Smoke

I love this idea. It’s a bit like smudging, but instead of ridding a space of negativity, it rids the yard of bugs. If you have a fire pit, place a wrapped bunch of sage leaves in the fire. They will smoke and ward off the bugs while giving you an amazing smelling fire.  If you don’t have sage on hand, try using branches from a rosemary plant.

Create a trap

There are several ways to trap mosquitoes. The easiest is to fill a shallow dish with water and a few drops of dish soap.  Water attracts mosquitoes and the soap will trap them in the dish.  This is a great option when you are hosting a cookout too.