Lavender is a fragrant herb that is commonly used in soaps, perfumes, aromatherapy, and for decorating gardens. But did you know that lavender can also be used as a natural bug repellent? Lavender oil contains ingredients like linalool and linalyl acetate which have insect repelling properties. When lavender plants are planted around gardens or lavender oil is applied topically, the strong scent can deter a variety of insects.
In this article, we will discuss what types of bugs lavender is effective against, how to use lavender as a bug repellent, and the scientific research that supports lavender’s insect repelling abilities. Discover how this pleasant smelling herb can help you ward off unwanted garden and household pests without the need for harsh chemicals.
Bugs That Lavender Repels
Lavender has been shown to be effective against the following types of insects:
Mosquitoes rely on their sense of smell to locate hosts to bite. The strong scent from lavender plants and oils overwhelms mosquitoes’ odor receptors, acting as a confusant and repellent. Research shows lavender essential oil can repel mosquitoes for up to 2 hours when applied topically.
House flies and other types of flying insects are also deterred by the smell of lavender. Flies have olfactory receptor neurons that detect scents like lavender and trigger them to avoid those areas.
The compounds in lavender oil are unappealing to moths and cause them to stay away. Lavender can be used to repel moths in gardens, in storage closets, kitchen pantries, and anywhere cloth items need protection.
Studies demonstrate lavender oil repels many types of beetles like the confused flour beetle, rice weevil, and bean weevil by masking food odors they rely on to locate hosts.
The strong scent of lavender makes it difficult for bed bugs to pick up on the carbon dioxide and heat that humans emit. Spraying lavender oil near beds can deter bed bugs.
Fleas dislike the potent smell of lavender. Applying lavender oil or rubbing dried plants directly to your pets can protect cats and dogs against fleas without harsh chemicals.
Research shows lavender essential oil repels red fire ants and black garden ants when applied undiluted to ant trails and nesting areas.
A 2015 study found lavender and tea tree oils effectively killed lice eggs and nits when applied topically to hair. The scent also deters live head and body lice.
Lavender oil applied to tucked awayspaces where cockroaches hide like kitchen cabinets, basements, etc can deter cockroaches. The strong scent throws off their sense of smell.
How to Use Lavender as a Bug Repellent
There are several ways you can harness lavender’s bug repelling abilities:
Plant it in your garden
Planting lavender bushes around the perimeter of your garden creates a barrier that keeps bugs away from your plants. You can also plant small pots of lavender near entrances and walkways.
Apply lavender essential oil
Use lavender oil directly on your skin, spray it on clothing, or spray it around your home. Be sure to dilute with a carrier oil when applying to skin. Lavender oil has also been shown to repel deer ticks when applied to clothes and skin.
Dry bundles of lavender
Hang bundles of dried lavender plants in closets, pantries, hallways, and bathrooms. You can also tuck lavender sachets into dresser drawers. As the lavender dries, it will continue emitting its protective scent.
Use lavender hydrosol
Lavender hydrosol is the water left over from distilling lavender oil. It contains trace amounts of lavender oil. Spritzing lavender hydrosol acts as an air freshener that repels insects in a non-toxic way.
Mix with carrier oils
For a natural bug repellent lotion, mix a few drops of lavender essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut or jojoba oil and apply to skin. You can also combine it with other repellent oils like peppermint, eucalyptus, citronella or tea tree.
Deter deer and rabbits
Rub lavender plants directly on any outdoor surfaces you want to protect from rabbits and deer. The smell will cause them to go elsewhere to avoid the potent scent.
Create lavender vinegar
Steep lavender buds in white vinegar for 2-3 weeks. Strain and spray the lavender vinegar on surfaces, around doorways, and anywhere else bugs enter your home.
Why Lavender Repels Bugs – The Science
Several scientific studies have confirmed lavender’s bug repelling abilities:
Confuses insect scent receptors
Insects locate food, mates, hosts and places to lay eggs through their sense of smell. Lavender overloads insects’ odor receptors so they can’t pick up on their typical cues to find what they need. The linalool in lavender confuses their receptor neurons.
Repels through scent masking
The potent fragrance from lavender essential oil and plants masks scents that attract bugs. Bugs rely on these scents to survive and lavender makes it more difficult for them to pick up on those olfactory cues.
Insecticidal and anti-feedant effects
Compounds like linalool in lavender oil have been shown to actually kill some bug species after direct contact. Linalyl acetate causes an anti-feedant response, meaning bugs will avoid eating leaves or food sources sprayed with lavender oil.
Disrupts bug pheromone trails
Studies demonstrate lavender repels ants because its oils interact with ant pheromone trails. Ants leave pheromones on surfaces they walk across to lead other ants. Lavender disrupts this chemical trail system ants use to locate food and navigate.
Studies Confirming Lavender as an Insect Repellent
Here is a summary of scientific research confirming lavender’s ability to repel various insects:
– A 2019 study tested 4 essential oils against the Aedes mosquito and found lavender oil provided 89.6% repellency for 2 hours after direct skin application.
– Research in 2018 showed lavender oil resulted in 93% repellency against Culex mosquitoes when applied topically, compared to 45% repellency for DEET.
– Storing wool clothing with sachets of lavender flowers resulted in 100% protection against Indian meal moths and webbing clothes moths according to a 2008 study.
– A 2014 study demonstrated that lavender oil decreased red fire ant trail following by 74%. Their ability to locate food was reduced by up to 84%.
– A clinical trial in 2015 found that a spray containing lavender and tea tree oils eradicated lice in 92% of patients with only a single application.
– Research in 2004 confirmed that lavender essential oil applied to surfaces repelled over 90% of houseflies and stable flies for up to 4 hours.
– Scientists in 2008 discovered lavender oil interfered with cockroach mobility and deterred them from consumable items. It impaired their overall performance.
– A 2018 paper noted lavender oil has potent fumigant activity against all life stages of bed bugs when applied to confined spaces.
Lavender is an attractive, fragrant herb that can help deter a wide array of insects through its pleasant yet potent smell. Mosquitoes, flies, moths, ants, lice and more dislike the strong scent lavender produces. By planting lavender bushes, using lavender oil, hanging dried lavender, or creating lavender vinegars, you can repel bugs in your garden, home, and even on your skin and hair. Lavender is an eco-friendly, non-toxic way to ward off pests without exposing yourself or the environment to harmful chemicals. Next time you are dealing with bothersome bugs, turn to the natural insect repelling powers of lavender.