DIY Bug Spray

Grandfather kneeling down talking to a young boy

The days are longer, the grass is greener and the trees are budding, summer is right at our doorstep, hurray! It’s time to plan those outdoor excursions and activities! Unfortunately for us in Manitoba, with summer also comes mosquitos; those buzzing, bloodsucking, skin itching pests! There’s not one Manitoban who hasn’t dealt with the wrath of this pesky bug buzzing in their ears.

Mosquitos are not only uncomfortable; since they cause an allergic reaction that is very itchy when bitten but the bites may also transmit communicable diseases such as West Nile Virus here in Manitoba. There are many forms of repellants that are available such as: covering your body from head to toe, sprays, bug zappers, citronella candles, to even low frequency sounds that supposedly mosquitos cannot tolerate.


For the most part many bug sprays contain DEET, DEET is an insect repellent that is used in many products to prevent bites from mosquitoes, horseflies, fleas and small flying insects, it is a yellowish liquid that has a slight odor. The chemical was developed by the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) chemists in 1944 as a pesticide but instead was used by the U.S. military when fighting combats in insect infected jungles. It has been commercially available since 1957 and has since become commonplace in insect repellents. DEET is typically used directly on the skin or clothing to ward off pests, however there are other ways that DEET may find itself into your body. Exposure can also happen by contact with the eyes, inhalation when sprayed, or by ingestion if sprayed on hands and the hand touches the mouth. Interestingly drinking alcohol may also cause DEET to be more absorbed through the skin. DEET has been found in the blood 12 hours after it has been applied. Side effects of DEET include irritation, redness, rash, and swelling when left on the skin for extended periods of time. People that have swallowed products containing DEET have experienced stomach upset, vomiting, and nausea.

Instead of using synthetic chemicals like DEET to deter bug bites, there are other effective remedies. For example, many types of essential oils along with apple cider vinegar and witch hazel will do the trick! My top three picks are Lemon Eucalyptus, Tea Tree oil and Rose Geranium oil!

3 Essential Oils

Native to Australia, Lemon Eucalyptus is a variety of eucalyptus that has citronella notes. Many insect repellents have now offered this in their formulas for a DEET free option.

Tea tree is also native to Australia, it is prized for it’s antiseptic and fungal properties. Insects are not keen to its fragrance therefore it makes an excellent bug deterrent.

Rose Geranium is a hybrid of roses and geraniums, its scent is pleasant to humans but mosquitos don’t dare go near!

These 3 essential oils plus witch hazel and apple cider vinegar make an effective bug spray minus the toxic chemicals found in commercial products and can be made cheaply at home!! I have texted this formula in the back woods of Nopiming with really good results, the bugs stayed away! So before heading out and buying a synthetic chemical bug spray, consider making one at home!

DIY Bug Spray


  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Witch hazel
  • Rose geranium essential oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil
  • Small spray bottle


  1. Fill bottle with half apple cider vinegar and half witch hazel
  2. Add 10-15 drops of each essential oil
  3. Give it a shake and you’re ready to go!



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