Herbs That Repel Bugs


Herbs That Repel Bugs


Also known as Flossflowers, Ageratum emits a smell that mosquitos find particularly offensive. Ageratum secretes coumarin, which is used in commercial mosquito repellents.


Crush fresh leaves on a new bite to release the essential oil, and stop it from itching. Keep a bottle of basil essential oil in the first aid kit to treat wasp stings and other bug bites. Basil also acts as a good insect repellent for flies and mosquitoes. Very useful using fresh leaves rubbed on the skin.

Bay Leaves

Have a strong odor and a bitter taste. Bay leaves contain essential oils and a compound called 

Eucalyptol. According to research conducted by Kansas State University, this compound is effective in eliminating bugs from the kitchen and repelling cockroaches and weevils. A fresh leaf bay leaf in each storage container of beans or grains will deter weevils and moths. Sprinkle dried leaves with other deterrent herbs in the garden as natural insecticide dust.


Studies suggest that catnip maybe even more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (the ingredient used in most commercial bug repellents, which is highly toxic). It also repels cockroaches, flea beetles, and rats. Crush the fresh leaves and rub onto the skin. A word of caution to cat owners: Your cat may want to roll around on it and play with it. Plant catnip apart from the rest of your garden so your cat doesn’t accidentally damage any other plants nearby.


Slugs are attracted to chervil, and many people use it to bait them.


Chives deter aphids, mites, and Japanese beetles, as well as rabbits — a more significant garden pest.

Citronella Grass

Sort of “the original” for bug repelling, with an overpowering lemony scent. It’s used in many commercial bug repellents and candles. It’s a grass-like plant that grows up to 6 feet tall! The best varieties are Cymbopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus, as some other citronella varieties won’t have the same effect—some aren’t even true citronellas, they’re just citronella-scented.


Cloves placed on the ground can deter slugs from entering under the back door or attacking plants.


Hyssop deters cabbage moths and flea beetles. Do not plant near radishes. It may be the number one preference among bees, and some beekeepers rub the hive with it to encourage the bees to keep to their home.


Grow it around the house and garden to keep bugs away. It’ll grow inside too if you keep it next to a sunny window. It has a lovely scent, pretty purple flowers, and calming properties as well. Lavender repels mosquitoes, moths, and flies.

Lemon Balm
Tansy Fern Leaf

Herbs That Repel Bugs

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm contains high levels of a compound called citronellal, which gives it its lemony aroma and flavor that bugs find so unpleasant. Crush the fresh leaves and rub them directly on the skin, especially around ankles, arms, and other areas most exposed and vulnerable to bug bites. The lemon scent, which repels the bugs, is powerful. It rubs off very well onto the skin. Lemon balm repels mosquitoes and gnats.


Commonly grown as ornamental border plants, marigolds are hardy annual plants which have a distinctive smell which mosquitoes, and some other insects, find particularly offensive. Marigolds contain Pyrethrum, a compound used in many insect repellents.


Mint deters white cabbage moths, ants, rodents, flea beetles, fleas, and aphids. It improves the health of cabbage and tomatoes. Mint flowers attract hoverflies and predatory wasps. Earthworms are quite attracted to mint plantings. Be careful where you plant it as mint is an incredibly invasive perennial. Placing peppermint cuttings (fresh or dried) where mice are a problem is very useful in driving them off! Mint and parsley are enemies. Keep them well away from one another.


Excellent insect repellent for ants, fleas, and ticks. The leaves, when crushed and rubbed onto the skin, will repel chiggers, flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and ticks. Warning: Pennyroyal is highly toxic to cats. It should not be planted where cats might ingest it and should never be rubbed onto their skin.


Biting bugs don’t like the scent of peppermint, so you can crush up the leaves and rub it on your skin to ward them off. As a bonus, peppermint also can do double-duty as itch relief if you do get bitten!


Rue deters aphids, fish moths, flea beetle, onion maggot, slugs, snails, flies, and Japanese beetles in roses and raspberries. Companions for rue are roses, fruits (in particular figs), raspberries and lavender. To make it even more useful with Japanese beetles: crush a few leaves to release the smell. Also, it has been known to repel cats. You should not plant rue near cucumbers, cabbage, basil, or sage. A pretty perennial with bluish-gray leaves, rue may cause skin irritation in some individuals.


Sage repels the same insects as rosemary, especially snails, cabbage moths, beetles, black flea beetles, and carrot flies, as well as flea beetles, which prey on potatoes and sweet potatoes. Do not plant near cucumbers, onions, or rue.


Plant with fruit trees, roses, and raspberries, keeping in mind that it can be invasive and is not the most attractive of plants. Place Tansy clippings by the door as an ant repellant. Deters flying insects, Japanese beetles, striped cucumber beetles, squash bugs, ants, and mice! Tie up and hang a bunch of tansy leaves indoors as a fly repellent. Tansy Warning: You do not want to plant tansy anywhere that livestock can feed on it as it is toxic to many animals. Do not let it go to seed either as it may germinate in livestock fields.


Deters insect pests and also helps with preventing musty odors; use in sachets, both flowers, and leaves.