The Best Insect Repellent Essential Oils To Keep Bugs Away

Experts opinion on the best essential oils to repel insectsIf you are confused by all the conflicting information regarding the most effective essential oils to use as insect repellants, you may find the opinions of two respected entomologists (scientists who study insects) highly enlightening.

In a revealing article, the entomologists separated fact from fiction and identified the most effective ways to keep those pesky biting bugs at bay.

Dr. Richard Pollack, an entomologist at Harvard University, and Joseph M. Conlon, a retired Navy entomologist who is now an advisor to the American Mosquito Control Association were both interviewed by Their comments make very interesting reading for both home enthusiast and qualified aromatherapist.

As well as debunking some of the common myths that are found all over the internet, these experts unequivocally confirm what aromatherapists have been preaching for years; certain essential oils are effective at keeping mosquitoes and other biting bugs at bay.

You only have to spend a few seconds on the internet searching for ‘the best insect repellent essential oils’ and you will return about half a million search results. Drill down into these and you will find just about as many opinions as to the most effective essential oils to repel the bugs! The problem is that virtually none of the information on these sites comes from experts in their field. That’s what makes the opinions of these entomologists so important.

Essential oils are natures very own ‘insect repellents’, produced by flowers and plants as a self defence mechanism against would-be predators. Millions of years ago plants evolved tiny oil producing glands within the leaves to avoid being eaten alive by insects, and their survival shows it’s been a highly effective strategy. The challenge today has been identifying which are the most effective insect repellent essential oils.

So here are the essential oils that the bug-loving experts agree have demonstrated insect repellent activity:-

  • Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)
  • Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus)
  • Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora)
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

I found this information particularly interesting because, during the past 35 years at Quinessence, I have searched endlessly for a formulation of essential oils that would work effectively to repel the flying insects that love to bite. We have used at least 9 different formulations of about 20 essential oils throughout these years, and closely monitored feedback from customers to see if the latest version provided better protection than the previous one.

The formulation that we currently use has been by far the best performing to date. We currently include essential oils of cedarwood atlas, citronella, and lemon eucalyptus in our Moisturising Insect Repellant Lotion, since they have out-performed all the other combinations we have ever tried. Imagine my surprise (and delight) to find the expert entomologists have included precisely those essential oils in the article as the only natural remedies that they agree work best!

Interestingly, in trials I found that lemongrass and citronella oils performed equally well and could be used interchangeably in formulations. In fact, for over 10 years I switched between the two as the principal active ingredient in our insect repellent products. I eventually settled on citronella oil because since ancient times wherever the plant grew and mosquitoes were prevalent, the grass would be utilised to help keep them at bay. It just felt right to keep with the traditional use.

Since we are in the middle of summer and at the height of the bug-biting season, I recommend reading the full article where this information was sourced so that you don’t waste your time and money on some of the home remedies and old wives tales circulating on the internet. You will be surprised at some of the myths that are debunked by the entomologists. As the saying goes, ‘knowledge is power’.

If you would like to learn more about insect repellent essential oils and how to use them, see our article ‘Essential oils – Natures best insect repellants‘.

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