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Best homemade insect repellents for getting rid of bugs

by Mr Yellow

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With summer on our doorstep, all we can think of is the longer days, warm weather and sunshine, outdoor barbecues and daily trips to the beach. However, the heat and humidity that comes along with summer see flies, mosquitoes and other creepy-crawlies coming out in droves. Whereas most of us resort to coating ourselves with bug sprays and using a variety of insecticides, store-bought insect repellents and traps may be convenient and effective yet they are packed with chemicals linked to a series of illnesses that can harm us. Keep your home safe from these unwanted visitors with the help of these natural alternatives that actually work.

1. Cockroach 

Perhaps one of the nastiest creatures to invade your home, cockroaches can be a true menace to overcome and when considering their breeding rate and the fact that a female roach can hatch up to 40 eggs at a time, you can easily be swamped by them. Now you might have heard that cockroaches could survive a nuclear apocalypse, however, there are a few effective ways to eliminate them.

Cayenne pepper spray

Typically used to flavour your dishes while boasting an impressive list of nutrients and antioxidants, cayenne pepper is also considered the king of medicinal herbs that can remedy everything from a sore throat to joint pain. But did you know that it can also serve as an effective roach repellent? Cockroaches hate the smell of cayenne, as well as that of garlic and onions so this spray should work like a dream. Visit these herbs and spices stores to get hold of this ingredient.

You will need:

  • Spray bottle
  • Tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • Crushed garlic clove
  • Crushed small white onion
  • Four cups of water

Bring the water to a boil. In the meantime, mix the cayenne pepper, garlic and onion in a small bowl. Add this mixture to the water and let it boil for about ten minutes. Next, remove from heat and let it cool down. Add the mixture into the spray bottle and spray this repellent in infested areas. Some sure-fire places where you'd expect roaches to thrive are your kitchen counters and behind appliances like your cooker and refrigerator, along the baseboards, down your drains and in any cracks and crevices you might have.

Boric acid and sugar cockroach trap

Used as an insecticide since the late 1940s, boric acid is one of the most effective natural cockroach killers since it has the same effect as commercial repellents that dehydrate the pests' exoskeleton - think of this as the bug's shell. Although detrimental to these pests, the good news is that boric acid is not harmful to humans, though do avoid exposing your kids and pets to these traps. Get in touch with these suppliers to purchase some boric acid. On the other hand, the sweet stuff is simply used as bait.

You will need:

  • 3 teaspoons boric acid
  • 3 teaspoons sugar (or any other substances cockroaches might find yummy like honey, jam and peanut butter)
  • 3 teaspoons water
  • Glass jars (optional)

This is a very simple paste to create. All you need to do is just mix the ingredients together and apply your homemade cockroach killer in areas where you've spotted them. Alternatively, if you'd rather not apply the paste directly on your surfaces, you may want to place it inside glass jars.

The placement of this trap is important. You can determine this by paying attention to the direction these pesky visitors creep into when you scare them off like with that cayenne pepper spray mentioned above.

2. Mosquito

Truth be told, our local mosquitos may not harbour dangerous pathogens like the zika virus, malaria or dengue fever, but they can still infect us with certain illnesses, not to mention their buzzing is beyond annoying. Having said that, climate change and the expansion of international travel and trade could potentially place Europe at a higher risk of tropical insect-borne diseases as was the case back in 2007 which saw Italy face an outbreak of the Chikungunya fever. Although there is no need to sound the alarm bells as yet, it's time to beat the bite and protect yourself and your family.

Tea tree oil and coconut oil paste

Widely used for its medicinal properties, tea tree oil is known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, while it has been praised for warding off mosquitos and healing any bites quickly. Wondering why it works so well? The oil's strong aroma is what keeps the mosquitos away, however, the coconut oil will make it more bearable to you.

You will need:

  • 10 drops of tea tree oil
  • 30 ml coconut oil

Mix the tea tree oil with the coconut oil and apply directly to the exposed areas of your skin. Slap this mixture on your skin around 2 to 3 times before venturing outdoors and if you're going to spend a good few hours out, make sure you take this concoction with you to reapply.

Baking soda and vinegar mosquito trap

Is your house already infested with mosquitos? Direct them to one area of your room with a mosquito trap and get rid of them once and for all. What's so special about this trap? When baking soda comes into contact with vinegar, the two substances release carbon dioxide, which highly attracts mosquitos.

You will need:

  • An empty plastic bottle
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup of baking soda

Take an empty bottle and cut it in half. Add the baking soda to the bottom part of the bottle, while invert the top part to look like a funnel and place it on top of the bottom half. Pour the vinegar and place it either in a corner of a room or outside your bedroom to ensure a restful night, free of mosquitos' annoying buzzing right in your ear.

3. Bees and Wasps

As you're sitting comfortably on your beach towel soaking up the sun, you reach for your bezzun (the typical Maltese bread roll) and unwrap it gently. You're about to dig into it when a curious bee decides to venture near you. A common sight in Maltese beaches, in essence, bees are only dangerous to those who are allergic, however, a bee sting is certainly no fun, while the numerous chemicals it contains could have an adverse reaction on your skin.

Yet, as local endemic bees like the Apis Mellifera Ruttneri, otherwise known as the Maltese honey bee, are under serious threat of extinction due to pesticide overuse, climate change and unsustainable development practices, it's important to preserve them. The below natural repellent will do just that - send them away- without killing them.

Liquid dish soap, peppermint oil and spices spray

Peppermint and spices such as cinnamon and cayenne pepper are known for repulsing all sorts of insects including bees and wasps. This spray can be used both indoors and outdoors and although the water will eventually evaporate, the strong scents of the other ingredients will linger on deterring these insects from coming anywhere near you.

You will need:

  • A spray bottle
  • Water
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • A few teaspoons liquid dish soap
  • ⅛ teaspoon peppermint oil
  • Cinnamon

Mix the liquid soap with the water, making sure you add enough soap so that the mixture is soapy and sticky. Next, add a few drops of peppermint oil purchased from these beauty product stores. To make your spray truly repulsive, add the cinnamon and cayenne pepper to the mixture and once the solution is ready, you may spray away. Ideally, avoid directly spraying the pests and instead, spray the area around you. Alternatively, if you'd like to prevent them from entering your home, spray your mixture on windowsills and door frames.

Have you spotted a hive in your back yard and need to get rid of it asap? You can use the dish soap spray mentioned above, but it's important to remember that bees tend to have a hive-mind which means that when irritated or threatened, they tend to react instantly and as a group, which might make this a dangerous undertaking. In this case, it's best to stay clear of hives and get in touch with a professional.

4. Fly

Probably one of the most irritating of summer insects, there's nothing worse than having to shoo flies away as you are trying to relax. Not just a nuisance, there is more to this pest than meets the eye. Flies are known for lingering around decaying organic matter and faeces on which they feed, breed and lay their eggs, which means that they can be loaded with bacteria. When a fly lands on your household surfaces or your food, the bacteria they carry can potentially make you ill with a score of infections and illnesses such as gastroenteritis for example. So, the common housefly that tends to infest our homes and place of work is certainly a pest you should consider banning from entering indoors.

Essential oils spray

Often used in aromatherapy and alternative medicine, essential oils' unique aromatic compounds can have several health properties amongst which include decreasing your stress and anxiety levels and helping you with sleep issues and insomnia. Yet, they have also been used as effective insecticides to repel bugs.

You will need:

  • A few drops of essential oil - flies tend to hate the smell of lavender, clove, lemongrass, mint, eucalyptus and camphor oils, so any of these will do
  • Water
  • A spray bottle

Simply fill your spray bottle with water and add a few drops of your preferred essential oil. Spray each time you spot one of these infuriating insects.

Homemade fly paper trap

Although fly papers are available in stores, you should consider making your own. All you need to buy is some thin paper, fabric or some brown paper from these stationers and fabric shops. Next, you may either dip the material in corn syrup or spread some on it. Ideally, you should hang multiple strips of these in various areas around your house, particularly in places where flies tend to enter from such as windows and doorways. As the flies will attempt to proceed indoors uninvited, the syrup will attract them, but they will end up getting stuck instead.

Bonus repellent: fruit flies

Typically found hovering over your fruit bowl like a menacing black cloud, fruit flies can be really annoying and hard to get rid of. The best thing you could do is create your own DIY trap. Pour into a small bowl or cup around an inch or so of apple cider vinegar or normal vinegar and cover it with cling film. Poke a few holes here and there using a toothpick but make sure that the holes are not too big. You want the fruit flies to enter the trap yet be unable to escape it. Place your snare right next to your fruit bowl.

5. Ants

Comfortable and spacious that acts as a shelter protecting you from the elements while containing a good supply of food, your home is not only your own slice of heaven but that of ants too and these little visitors, in particular, are notorious for finding their way into your home. Being social insects, if you've spotted one, rest assured that more are to follow. Their presence might make you squeamish but they can also spread bacteria and cause serious damage to your house's structure, so it's best to get rid of them at once.

Vinegar Spray

An ingredient that can be used for anything and everything be it pickling your vegetables or decalcifying your shower head, vinegar has been used for generations and for good reason. For starters, it is versatile enough, while it is environmentally friendly and safer than other store-bought products. What's more, it's an inexpensive item that ants really hate.

You will need:

  • A spray bottle
  • Apple cider vinegar or normal vinegar - it works just as well
  • Water

Mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray generously on any surface you please since the vinegar will not ruin your furniture or fabrics. You can either spray directly on ants that have creeped out of their nest or you may want to use this mixture as a deterrent by spraying onto windowsills, countertops and any other location you find most fitting. Off to camping this summer? Have a look at our survival guide and don't forget to take the solution with you to spray around the perimeter of your tent.

Peanut butter ant trap

Whereas the vinegar spray is quite effective in eliminating a few ants that might be present in various areas of your home, if you have a bigger problem, you'll need a more fruitful solution. Ants tend to find any form of food source appealing enough, most especially sugary substances, but some types are more drawn to protein. So here is how to whip up a peanut butter treat ants cannot resist.

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon boric acid
  • Container with lid

Combine the peanut butter with the boric acid to create a thick paste and spread it all over your container. If the lid is too hard for you to pierce to make holes, then opt to cover the container with some cling film. Remember that peanut butter might be delectable to your pet too, so keep it away from this kind of trap since boric acid should not be ingested by pets or humans.

6. Silverfish

A small, wingless insect whose name derives from its silvery light grey colour and its fish-like movements, silverfish can thrive in most climates though they tend to prefer dark and damp places. This is why they are most commonly found in bathrooms, kitchens, as well as basements. Capable of destroying books, wallpaper and your clothes, they are generally more active during the night, which means that you're bound to get a fright upon entering your bathroom in the middle of the night or when you reach for your favourite book and one darts out.

Cedar oil spray

Cedar oil is pleasantly fragrant to us humans but to silverfish, the smell is appaling. For this reason, it helps protect your clothing, linens, books and papers. In addition, cedar also repels moths, just in case these winged creatures give you the creeps too.

You will need:

  • Spray bottle
  • Water 
  • Cedar oil

Dilute the cedar oil with water, add the mixture to the spray bottle and spray into cracks for an instant deterrent against silverfish. Another option is to fill small sachets with pieces of cedar and hang them inside your cupboards and wardrobes. These can easily be placed between books too.

Don't let these spine-chilling creatures take over your house, infest your surroundings with bacteria and damage your belongings. Arm yourself with all the ingredients you need to create batches of natural insect repellents and traps. Alternatively, get in touch with these pest control services available across Malta and Gozo.

Keep on discovering local with Yellow


Mr Yellow
About Mr Yellow

With a passion for helping others and a desire to making you more efficient, Mr Yellow has managed to arm himself with powerful capabilities making your daily searches a breeze. Putting his knowledge, creativity and wit into action, he also crafts insightful and engaging articles encouraging you to explore the Maltese Islands and experience new adventures, while offering some interesting tips on a number of topics. Ever-present, Mr Yellow always has your back. 

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