Natural homemade remedies to keep bugs away, avoiding bites

Natural remedies to keep bugs away

I love camping, but I dread being plagued by gnats, mosquitos and wasps. It only seems to be me that gets bitten and chased by wasps, no matter what type of repellent I use.

I have spent a fortune on sprays, bracelets and creams, but they never seem to work effectively. So I decided to make homemade remedies and test them to find out how effective they are.

Not only am I am saving money, but many of the homemade remedies are everyday items from my food cupboard and garden, as well as a combination of essential oils.

Essential oil blends are ideal for repelling unwanted wasps and mosquitoes, but planting herbs and plants are cheap natural repellents. Basil, mint, lemongrass and lavender are ideal for repelling mosquitos. Food waste such as cucumber peel, lemon and cloves, chillies, garlic keep wasps and mosquitoes away.

Best homemade remedies to keep annoying bugs away: Wasps, Mosquitos and gnats

InsectRepellentHow to make natural remedies
WaspsEssential oils
Lemongrass, Clove, Geranium
Cottonwool ball with 2 drops of essential oil – place around home or tent
Spray bottle – 1 cup of water, 7.5 drops of essential oil, 5 drops of liquid soap

NOT to be placed directly on the skin
Chilli peppers3 cups of water and 2 diced chillies
Boil until chillies soft
Leave to cool and remove chillies
Place water in a spray bottle
White VinegarEqual measures of white vinegar and water
Place in a spray bottle, shaking well to mix
Dilute more with water to reduce the intense vinegar smell
CucumberFresh cucumber skin and place on an aluminium dish. The aluminium and cucumber react, which gives off an aroma undetectable by humans.
Essential oils
Lemon eucalyptus
Neem and Coconut
Tea tree and coconut
Lavender, vanilla and lemon juice
Lemongrass and rosemary
Peppermint oil
Cinnamon oil
Cottonwool ball with 2 drops of essential oil – place around home or tent
Spray bottle – 1 cup of water, 7.5 drops of essential oil, 5 drops of liquid soap

NOT to be placed directly on the skin
GarlicCrush garlic and blend with water
Lemon and clovesHalf a lemon and cover with cloves.
Not only does this deter mosquitos, but it also helps keep flies away.
Basil plantsThe natural aroma from basil, including cinnamon basil plants, is a good repellent for keeping mosquitoes away.
Basil does not need to be crushed or cooked to be effective. Cut and place in a vase.
Ideal for adding to salads or veg.
Lavender plantsHang a bunch of lavender inside of your tent or home. Lavender is also known to help with sleep.
Natural, harmless ways to keep wasps, gnats and mosquitos away

When are gnats, mosquitos and wasps are at their most active

InsectTime of year Activity timeWhere to avoid
Midges (gnats)Mid May – SeptemberEarly morning (Dawn)
Evening (Fading light)
They love warm damp conditions
WaspsApril – OctobersDaytime (Warmest part of the day)Gardens
Fruits trees
Near high protein & sweet food
MosquitoesMarch – November
(Prefer warm but damp conditions)
Anytime day and nightLove damp conditions
Standing water
High activity times of the day and seasons for gnats, wasps and mosquitos – when to avoid

How safe are essential oils?

Use caution when using essential oils on your skin – always use carrier oil.

It’s assumed that essentials oils are safe as they are natural plant extracts. Using essentials oils directly on the skin should be used with caution. They should always be diluted in line with manufacturers instructions.

Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts from plants and must not be ingested. Placing directly on your skin will irritate and need to be cleaned straight away with warm water and soap. It is also vital to keep away from the eyes and rinse swiftly.

If diluting with water, the oil will lay on top of the water. The essential oil and water must be mixed well by shaking if placed in a spray bottle.

Keep bugs away using everyday food and plants: Save money

Essential oils are expensive. Prices range from £5 to £6 for 10ml. With all good intentions not to kill bugs, it can make you think twice about making your own.

A cheaper option is using everyday food or plants that you have already have in your fridge or garden.

Lavender petals

Homemade gnat and mosquito repellent: Lavender

Lavender plants are cheap to buy, easy and fast to grow.

There are 3 different ways that you can use lavender as a deterrent against gnats.

  • Hang entire lavender stems in bunches from ceilings or place them around a room in a vase

The only problem with hanging lavender stems in your tent or placing them in a vase, the scented buds will fall and cause a mess as they dry.

  • Removing lavender petal buds and placing them in a bowl

Removing the petal buds from the stems and placing them in a bowl reduces mess, although I have knocked them over several times. Occasionally they need to be stirred to release the fragrance.

  • Lavender petals buds sealed inside of a breathable bag

I prefer placing the lavender petal buds inside mini bags. They are easier to maintain and can’t be knocked over, causing a mess. They can be tucked away in-between clothes, placed securely on sides out of the way.

Lavender bags are easier for camping, as there are no worries about them spilling and easier to transport. You can also hang them on tent hooks just inside of your tent doorways.

Cucumber skin

Sliced cucumber to keep the wasps away

Cucumber peel is ideal for when you are eating outside and wasps plague you.

You only need the peel, which is ideal as you can eat the inside, use the skin to keep wasps away, and there is no food wastage. Not only does it help deter wasps, but it also deters ants.

Placing the peel onto an aluminium tray causes a chemical reaction. The chemical reaction creates an aroma, which we as humans cannot detect. But wasps, ants do not like this aroma and will keep away.

Lemon and cloves

Half a lemon with cloves pushed into them is a great way to keep kids entertained whilst preparing food. As well as the aroma of fresh lemon, cloves have a woody spice aroma.

Place amongst the table between food, either halves or quarters. Lemon and cloves are cheap, easy ways to stop gnats and flies from landing on you and your food.

How to avoid wasps

Beware of leaving cans of drink uncovered.
  • Wear pale colours (Dark colours are viewed as a threat, bright and floral will attract)
  • Pack all food and drink away
  • Don’t leave open cans or drink bottles
  • Stay away from plants and bushes
  • Stay away from fruit bushes and trees
  • Avoid floral fragrances – perfumes, deodorants
  • Stay away from rubbish bins

How to avoid mosquitos bites when sleeping

Trying to hunt down the buzzing mosquito at night can be a nightmare. You can buy a battery-operated mosquito repellent light, but I have found these annoying when trying to sleep, as they are bright.

  • Wear long sleeve tops to cover skin
  • Mosquito netting covering your bed
  • Wear bright colours as they tend to be more attracted to darker colours
  • Movement will attract mosquitos
  • Keep tent mesh door closed at all times
  • Cover exposed skin in natural repellent. Essential oils can cause irritation to the skin. Test on skin first or place cotton wool balls with fragrances in affected areas.
  • Using a fan will deter mosquitos as they cannot fly in wind over 1MPH

Related questions

Can you spray essential oils directly on a tent

Spraying essential oils directly onto your tent is not advisable, although it is tempting to use as a deterrent against wasps and mosquitos.

Essential oils sprayed directly onto your tent will not only create a very long-lasting odour, but the natural chemical extracts can damage and stain your tent.

Instead of spraying directly onto your tent, spray clothes. Place these at the entrance and other areas of your tent. Try to put them in the regions that will not come into contact with your tent.

Sections of the fabric allow you to remove quickly and change scents if you do not feel that they are working as efficiently as you wanted.

What is the difference between gnats and mosquitos

Gnats are often mistaken for mosquitos as both buzz and bite. Gnats are smaller stubby bodies and can be found in swarms. Mosquitos are solo insects, larger with thinner long bodies.

Gnat bites are more painful than mosquitoes due to their uneven serrated biting mouth. In contrast, mosquitoes suck blood via a needle straw that carefully sucks the blood from humans or animals.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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