The Ultimate Natural Guide to Battling Summer Bugs

Homemade remedies for insect stingsGood Ole Summertime, fun time spent outside often includes sharing your space with bugs. These little critters don’t have to spoil your vacation especially if you are prepared.  

The past few weeks have left me feeling more like a cruise director & camp nurse  rather than a consultant for aromatherapy.  Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do and summer is one of my favorite seasons when my kids are home.  So I’ve been wrapped up in vacations, doing life with my family and dealing with my own little issues of summer bugs (more on that later).  Thanks to a recent call from a friend looking for bug advice, I was snapped out of my busy schedule to share some of what I’ve been using “in the field” these summer days….

Everything Changes When You Have a Baby  We haven’t used chemical pesticides for a long time.  I stopped using garden chemicals when we had our first baby, a Leonberger puppy.  All I could think about were his little paws running on chemical sprayed grass from a lawn service we had used almost twenty years ago. Even then, I sensed that it was not good for his pads to be in contact with the harsh substances, even after it had dried. That’s when I found a natural gardening company that makes corn gluten, a natural fertilizer and weed suppressant.  We’ve been using this on our lawn ever since.  Natural Lawns of America is a lawn service that uses corn gluten if you’re not a DIY’er for lawn care.

It’s a Journey Since then, I’ve expanded my repertoire of chemical-free living to natural bug defense and avoided much chemical exposure to myself and my kids.  I’m thankful I had some resources to direct me all those years, especially finding out that many toxic chemicals are even passed on to developing babies from their pregnant mothers.  It helps that more companies are eliminating harmful ingredients like DEET and using natural insect repellants like essential oils in their product, but you have to be intentional in seeking them out and continue to READ LABELS.  It definitely pays to have some key essential oils on hand for when disaster strikes, summer is not the only time bugs are prolific.  Be prepared for fall when the weather cools and little pests are looking for refuge from the foul weather.   If you have some key essential oils on hand you’ll be less likely to reach for the chemical products. The best advantage you have with quality essential oils is they are really versatile and you have many options to deal with a host of pests if you have a basic set on hand like the  a  Starter Essential Oils Kit.

Bugs and insects do not discriminate, they may visit any socioeconomic group regardless of race, skin or hair color. It’s also not unusual to bring home visitors from vacation or camp.  Here are some

Simple tips to keep your house from being a haven for little critters:

  • No Entry Check your home’s foundation and seal cracks where insects and little pests may enter your home.
  • Eliminate the Bait Sweep up floors and keep counters clean.
  • Heat Them Up  heat is a fantastic weapon against pests. Wash clothing, bedding, linens in HOT water, add some vinegar for extra power. Dry pillows and other items that cannot be washed on high heat for 15-20 minutes to kill larvae and eggs.
  • Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum.   Make sure your vacuum does not have any leaks, then vacuum everything if you can. Vacuuming regularly will keep pests from multiplying and getting comfortable in your home. Toss out vacuum cleaner bags frequently if you’re dealing with an infestation.
  • Keep Personal Items To Yourself Be careful about sharing personal items like pillows, hairbrushes and bedding where insects can migrate to a new home.
  • Diffuse and wear essential oils.  There are many essential oils that are natural pest deterrents and smell great. Your home does not have to smell like a Citronella candle either. A  Purifying blend is one of my favorites 
  • Be Thorough Be especially diligent after returning from vacations, camps or trips to exotic or rural locations. You might even consider quarantining items (in airtight plastic trash bags) until they can be laundered and cleaned properly.

Here are some common summer (and year-round) bugs that are quickly deterred by Essential Oils

Ants  Ants love a picnic, so the first line of defense is eliminating their food supply. Sweep up the kitchen after meals. Find out where ants are entering, then simply swab some essential oil along the beginning of their trail. There are many oils ants will avoid including peppermint, lemongrass, Eucalyptus, cinnamon, thyme, citronella and basil. A Purifying Blend and Cinnamon/Clove Immune Blend are also great options.

Bed Bugs I am thankful I have not dealt with bed bugs, I’ve only dealt with them second hand, coaching some others who have. If you have any infestation, you have to deal with this in a manner you are comfortable with. I’m against pesticides in my home only because I’ve been using essential oils for many years with success and I have no doubts about their effectiveness. I do know that a bug infestation has a huge emotional impact on our psyche and your sanity matters (read below on LICE for my personal experience)! If you get a pesticide bomb in your home, don’t beat yourself up for using chemicals. If you do a bomb, add essential oils to your wash to help remove pesticide residue.  You’ve got to get the bugs under control,  enlist help if you can. I know families that checked into a motel short term until their home was under control. It may also help when you:

  • Wash everything (clothes, bedding, mattresses, stuffed animals, carpets) in HOT water,
  • Add Purifying Blend or Immune Boosting Blend to laundry, 3-4 drops per load to kill bugs and larvae.
  • Make your own air freshener to spray furniture and bedding, let this sit an hour before vacuuming (but more potent with 10-20 drops of oil per 8 ounces of water
  • Vacuum, Vacuum, Vacuum – spray carpets and rugs with a Purifying blend or Immune Boosting Blend air freshener first
  • Wear lavender – this is one of the most gentle oils, it will help heal bites, soothe itchy skin and deter bed bugs.

I did deal with fleas on my cat over 20 years ago, it was a small incident that I controlled with lavender essential oil. The key to controlling bed bugs is to try and catch it early. If it’s not controlled and it gets to monumental proportions where you have many bites and wholevhouse infrstation, the important step is to keep bites clean and dry to prevent infection. Bathe in lavender to soothe itchy skin and spray mattresses with Thieves spray during clean up and when you travel to prevent hosts from joining your vacation.

Bees, Wasps, Hornets I’ve been helping my family deal with bee, wasp and hornet stings for years with essential oils, but my vacation last week left me dealing with one firsthand. At the lakefront, I was stung by a bald faced hornet.  I knew in an instant it was a bad one. It got me just above the armpit and I felt a zing even go down to my forearm. This was the one time I forgot to bring my emergency oils with me down to the lake, so I sprinted up 111 stairs to our cottage to retrieve my essential oils. I timed it later and figured it was about 1 minute before I applied the oils. 

I alternated a Purifying blend and Immune Boosting Blend every minute for 5-6 minutes and within 15 minutes the pain subsided. I did apply an ice pack too since I though it was a venomous sting.  I only had some slight itching on and off for about a day, which was relieved by another drop of Purifying Blend, Immune Boosting Blend or Peppermint.  All three of these are our standard application for any bee, wasp or hornet sting, you can use any or all of them, alternating between application. The sooner you can apply one of these the quicker it will stop the venom from spreading into your system. I’m sure that my entire arm would have become swollen and inflamed if I had not applied the oils ASAP. I applied a drop of oil undiluted (Neat) onto the sting location every minute for about 10 minutes following the sting.

I had a teenager go to camp a few weeks ago, he has seen the effectiveness of oils with bee and wasp stings, once getting stung on the jaw. He didn’t hesitate bringing a small sample bottle of Immune Boosting Blend with him and was grateful to have it. One day of camp, he and four others were stung by wasps in a nest just outside their cabin. He offered a drop of Thieves for each one and they recovered  within minutes.essential oils for insect stings

Lice In addition to being stung by a hornet, the beginning of my vacation also involved the discovery of lice on a couple of my kid’s heads. Ironically, a friend had called me the week before to ask me advice for dealing with this little parasite. I guess I should be happy the information was fresh in my mind, I also was prepared and had a small arsenal of the best oils for battling lice. It was not my favorite way to start a vacation, but at least our cottage was equipped with a washer and dryer, so that helped a great deal. We experienced lice one other time, a month after we moved into a new home almost 5 years ago, this time was not quite as traumatic as that. Often we fear most what we don’t understand, and the first time around I learned to understand lice very quickly. 

The first time around we acquired lice from a sleepover where a guest brought more than her pillow for the night. This time we traced it back to picking it up from the movies (I know, pretty gross, but imagine all the heads sitting in those chairs hour after hour, day after day. It shouldn’t be a surprise.  I’ve heard airplanes are also a common pick-up place, unless you travel overseas to a country like Africa where they fumigate the plane, the passengers and all their belongings mid-flight.)

I’ve also learned that it’s not uncommon to have recurring bouts with Lice, especially with over the counter pesticides.  Lice are becoming resistant to  these chemicals just as germs are becoming resistant to  antibiotics.  The likelihood that lice will bounce back from essential oils is slim, just make sure you have a pure, therapeutic grade essential oils if you are going to use them on lice.  Oils that are diluted may be no more effective than spraying a perfume on them. They might move away, but may not be destroyed.  Like many other issues with bugs it helps to rotate essential oils so the bugs don’t get too comfortable.  Here is what we did to exterminate them:

1.  Coat everyone’s hair with coconut oil. Extra virgin is best, but any version will do. I added 4 drops of  an essential oil  blend of Melaleuca and Rosemary essential oils.  Comb through hair with a lice comb to remove any full grown insects.  Leave the coconut oil on overnight (you can wear a shower cap to protect pillows).

2.  Banish all brushes, combs and hair accessories to a boiling pot of water on the stove. I designated a shelf in the bathroom for clean hair brushes and combs and instituted a “one time use” policy for all hair care. After it’s one time use, a brush or comb was placed in the stove top pan for a 10 minute boil.  If you have special brushes that you don’t want to boil in water, place them in a sealed bag for at least 2 weeks.

3.  Remove the toys eliminate anything that is not necessary, you can place soft toys and decorative pillows in trash bags for at least 2 weeks.

4.  Strip the beds  wash all bedding in HOT water and dry on HIGH heat.  I also through all pillows into the dryer on HIGH HEAT for 20 minutes just for extra measure. I continued to change the pillow cases each night for 4 nights to keep things clean.

5.  Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. Make sure you vacuum mattresses, furniture and the carpets under and near the edge of beds.  I would vacuum at least everyday for a week.  You can make your own air freshener a bit stronger and spray furniture,  and items that cannot be washed. Just test a small area first if you’re not sure about staining.

6. Wash the clothes minimize the clothes you are using and wash clothing after one wearing in hot water and dry on high heat. If you have any clothing that has been potentially exposed to bugs and cannot wash it, bag it up with the pillows for 2-3 weeks.

7.  Day 2,  wash out the coconut oil, rinse with 2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar in 1 cup of water with 2 drops of essential oil of your choice (lavender, melrose, purification, rosemary, eucalyptus (a Eucalyptus R…C blend would be perfect)  then apply 2 drops of a Purifying blend diluted in aloe vera to the scalp. When the hair is dry, run a flat iron or hot curling iron over every bit of hair to sear any lice eggs.

8. Remain diligent – the life span of a louse is almost 25 days so it’s important to continue to keep surroundings clean to prevent re infestation. Vacuuming, heat and applying essential oils to the hair will make living conditions difficult for lice.  Add some lavender and cedarwood essential oils to keep you grounded and calm.

Mosquitoes Mosquitoes are not only pesky, they can carry a host of diseases from malaria (in hotter climates and countries) to West Nile virus.  I’ve found the best defense against mosquitoes is wearing light colored clothing to cover your skin. On top of that, you can spray a number of essential oils. My favorites are lavender (especially gentle for kids), cedarwood, citronella (found in the Purifying blend), Immune Boosting Blend (for adults and children over 8), peppermint (for kids over 8, and make sure not to get this in your eyes).  Make your own air freshener to spray clothing and exposed skin. If you get bit, apply a drop of lavender or Purifying Blend to the bite as soon as possible. If you are bitten over a large area of your body, add 10 drops of lavender essential oil and 5 drops of thyme essential oil to a cup of apple cider vinegar or the juice of two lemons

Spiders – lavender is the most used essential oil for spider bites, it alleviates itching and swelling. Just apply 1 drop of food grade lavender essential oil undiluted to each bite. (Make sure your oil is food grade, any additives or chemicals may cause irritation) Many spider bites occur at night time, spray your bed linens with lavender to deter these critters from joining you after nightfall.

Ticks – Most common ticks are easy to spot, if you have one attached, place a drop of Purifying Blend, Thyme or Cinnamon/Clove Blend directly onto the tick and it will quickly dislodge. Never pull a tick out from the skin or the remaining pest can cause a nasty infection if not removed properly.  Deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, a debilitating illness if it isn’t treated quickly.  Lyme disease has been on the rise in the US, it’s reach growing further each year. I live in Wisconsin where the incidence is pretty high and I have several friends dealing with chronic cases. 

The Essential Oil Desk Reference I use indicates several essential oils to use to fight against Lyme Disease if you should come down with it: oils effective for Lyme Disease, including “Copiaba for joint pain,  Blue Cypress, Melissa, Oregano, Clove and Thyme to kill the parasite.  These oils are listed  in defense of the microorganism “Borrelia burgdorferi”   Oregano and Clove are particularly powerful antibiotics, so much that they do kill off some of the “good bacteria” in your gut and should be supplemented with a pro biotic to replenish the good stuff. If you suffer from Lyme disease, talk with your doctor about these options for treatment. Deer ticks are only as large as a pin head, and often go undetected unless you experience a classic bulls eye irritation surrounding the bite. Because of this, prevention of tick bites is essential.

Palo Santo is a an essential oil grown in Ecuador. It’s chemical structure is similar to Frankincense, however it has shown effective against mosquitoes and ticks.  Dilute 5 drops of Palo Santo in 1 Tablespoon of Aubrey’s Aloe Vera and apply to the neck, back of the ears and other exposed skin. You can also make your own spray by diluting 20 drops of Palo Santo essential oil in an 8 ounce spray bottle, spray your clothing and skin with this oil to deter ticks, mosquitoes and other flying bugs.  Purifying Blend essential oil is also a good option to spray on clothing and skin to deter these pests.

There you have it, our family’s choice for natural pest control.  None of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA and this information is for entertainment purposes only. For medical treatment , see a doctor.

Simple Summer Bug & Pest Essentials

Apple Cider Vinegar – for rinsing hair, applying to skin for bites, and diluting essential oils

Aloe Vera – soothes bites and itchy skin, use to dilute essential oils for skin and scalp

Essential Oil Basics: Lavender, Peppermint, Palo Santo, Purifying Blend, Immune Boosting Blend, Melaleuca/Rosemary Blend


Happy Summer!


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