Bugs Away!

 In Remedies, The Blog

 Not to brag, but this is the best bug repellent I’ve ever used…

First attempt worked for a long time, but sadly all good things must come to an end

When my younger son was a newborn, we lived in a wooded neighborhood, between a creek and a retention pond in the Houston area. We get HUGE bugs down here & lots of them. I think they like the heat & humidity. To say it was buggy is an understatement. Add to that we loved being outside, but my baby was being eaten alive! He was too little to use regular store-bought bug sprays on him (I generally detested them anyway for the chemicals, smell, and ineffectiveness), so I did what any modern mama would do… I went to Google.

I found that pure vanilla extract diluted with water would help repel the bugs. I already had some on hand, so I figured why not give it a shot? It was safe & natural and if it worked, great! If not, well, I wasn’t out much. That stuff worked like a charm!! We started making big batches and spraying it in the yard, where it would even repel those annoying June bugs we get so bad without repelling the natural pollinators like bees & butterflies we loved to watch in our garden! It would last 6-9 months, even through the rain. We couldn’t afford a regular exterminator at the time, so we were on our own. It was inexpensive, effective, and it smelled delicious!

We used that same treatment for about 5 years. I told everyone about it. Sure, you have to splurge for real vanilla extract instead of that imitation stuff, but what’s 3 buck for a natural remedy that really works rather than all those chemicals that stink and don’t?

Unfortunately, all at once it lost it’s effectiveness. The mosquitos started biting again. All the other creepy crawlies came back, and our door was covered in June bugs half the year again. I don’t know what it is about those things, but they creep me out!

Back to the drawing board

In that time, we started hiking a lot as a family. Deep into the woods, along rough paths next to creeks are the kids’ favorite spots. But then once my magic sauce stopped working, they constantly complained about the bugs. We tried a couple of the “natural” bug sprays on the market, I’ve experimented with different recipes I’ve found on Pinterest, but alas none of them worked. We still got bit, and for Baby Girl, bug bites are ugly. She gets these huge, nasty welts.

A couple weeks ago I found a recipe on the group board for my Young Living Essential Oils group… Could this be the one or just more wasted supplies? We had a camping trip coming up in Austin, and were really looking forward to it… Except for the bug issue. We were not looking forward to that.

So I put in a quick order to get the one oil I didn’t yet have and figured I’d give it a shot. The day we leave, I’m scrambling to throw it together real quick (procrastinate much?) and couldn’t find one of the oils, so I threw in one that the organic exterminator we used to work with included as his main ingredient. (Still sad they sold out to one of the big national companies. We haven’t found anyone that good since.) I also couldn’t for the life of me find one of the other ingredients, so I went with my old friend Vanilla Extract.

Test time!

Now ordinarily, you’d want to put anything with essential oils in a glass bottle, but I figured as far as I was diluting it it wouldn’t be a problem. Plus I was in a hurry. So I dumped all the ingredients in the spray bottle, packed it up and prayed.

We got out to the campsite, unloaded & sprayed everyone down real quick. While James was setting up camp, we went on a night hike along a creek, down to a waterfall with the rest of our Cub Scout pack and a few others who were visiting the park and just lucky enough to join 20 young boys searching for bugs & other night critters! Many fellow hikers brought along their commercial bug spray and were reapplying at each stopping point. I heard lots of bug slapping.

The kiddos & I had no bites! The munchkins tend to be bug candy, especially August now. She apparently tastes better than her brother.

When we got back home late the next day, we noticed a fresh couple spots on August, thinking she got into something at home since we’d only applied the spray mid-morning the following day… Turns out she picked up chicken pox somewhere along the way. When we posted to the Pack Facebook page to warn the other parents just in case, many people commented on chigger bites and how their family was covered in them. Now I’ve been eaten pretty good by those nasty little buggers, and what we have going on here is definitely not chigger bites!

So what is this magic formula already??

OK, fine. I bet now you want to know what I used, huh? The magic potion we used to avoid the bites everyone else had to deal with… Here ya go:

Bugs Away Image

NOTE: I use and love Young Living Essential Oils, which you can get here: http://tiny.cc/nfzmly

Bugs Away!

Total Time: 5 minutes

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  • 3-4 oz of pure vanilla extract (homemade with vodka)
  • 20 oz of distilled water
  • 10 drops Citronella
  • 10 drops rosemary
  • 10 drops thyme
  • 10 drops peppermint
  • 10 drops thieves
  • 10 drops purification
  • 10 drops lemongrass
  • 10 drops geranium
  • 15 drops lavender


  1. Put all ingredients into a large spray bottle. I just used one of those empty cleaning spray bottles I got from the home improvement store. Bonus- large spray area means quick coverage!
  2. Shake well before each use.


I use and love Young Living Essential Oils, which you can get here: http://tiny.cc/nfzmly


Time to get outdoors!

Where will you explore now that you can go bug-free?

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