Scientific research on the benefits of plant extracts has developed immensely in the last couple of years. Most people know that essential oils possess excellent anti-bacterial, antiseptic and anti-fungal properties but cannot imagine using them against bed bugs. The truth is that essential oils were instrumental in our ancestors fight against bed bugs long before we were born.
You would be surprised at how essential oils such as lavender oil are effective against these vampiric bugs that plague our dreams. This post helps you to figure out which essential oils to use against bed bugs and how to use them. The knowledge we aim to impart is crucial in ridding your home of these pestilent blood sucking bugs.
Table of Contents
What are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are liquid extracts obtained from plants. These oils are extracted from various parts of select plants including roots, stems seeds, flowers, and the plants’ barks. There are several ways to extract essential oils but the most common one is steam distillation.
The core aim of the steam distillation process is to retain the plant’s natural “essence”. You can use these oils exclusively or in combination with other natural oils. Considering that essential oils are in their natural form, they are highly concentrated and potent. Owing to this fact, these oils can be toxic and dangerous if you misuse them.
How to use Essential Oils against Bed bugs
Essential oils have emerged as a welcome alternative to pesticides as the world continues to embrace environmental-friendly bed bug treatment methods. There are a variety of essential oils that you can use in different ways in your fight against bed bugs. Your choice depends on your end goal whether it is to repel, kill them or treat bed bug bites on your skin.
The strong scent and plant essence of some essential oils work to repel bed bugs and deter them from living and multiplying in your home. Botanical elements of some essential oils have a toxic effect on bed bugs. These botanical elements include:
Thymol, Eugenol, and Carvacrol have a neuro-inhibitory effect on the nervous system of bed bugs, while Linalool and Geraniol overexcited their nervous system, causing a shutdown. Note that you can either use these essential oils singly or combine them. Mixing different essential oils appropriately offers the highest efficacy against bed bugs.
Bed bugs bites often elicit skin rushes and nerve-wracking irritation. A Healthline publication suggests that some essential oils have antimicrobial and antiseptic properties that effectively treat bed bug bites. Some of the essential oils that can alleviate the symptoms of bed bug bites include:
- Tea tree
Are essential oils effective?
The answer to whether essential oils are effective against bed bugs or not is complex. In the fight against bed bugs, you can use essential oils as repellants, killing agents, or treatments for bed bug bites. The effectiveness of each essential oil depends on its constituents and your intended application.
Essential oils are not as effective in killing bed bugs as they are in repelling them. In moderate to severe infestations, essential oils don’t often guarantee 100% mortality. If you live in a bed bug-susceptible area, essential oils are more effective in repelling them rather than killing them. When treating bed bug infestations, it is wise to consider other effective bed bug treatment methods rather than essential oils.
When used improperly, essential oils can force bed bugs into other rooms, causing the infestation to spread thus, worsening the problem.
Most companies incorporate essential oils as green insecticides in their product line because of exemptions from FIFRA regulations. These exemptions allow the companies to avoid paying US EPA registration expenses and get their product to market faster. Temprid SC and EcoRaider are examples of popular products that use essential oils as green insecticides.
Although you can fight bed bugs with essential oils, they will need to be used in conjunction with other methods to remove the whole infestation.
Essential Oils that Work against Bedbugs
The use of essential oils in the fight against bed bugs has risen in recent years. Several essential oils have been shown to have high toxicity against bed bugs. Here are some common essential essentials that work against bed bugs:
1 – Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of the Australian tea Melaleuca alternafolia. Apart from its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties it has a strong scent and natural essence, making it a good bed bug repellant. The solvent properties of tea tree oil also suffocate bed bugs by soaking their exoskeletons
To guarantee maximum effectiveness of tea tree oil, you must use it in its undiluted form. You also need to ensure that the oil comes into direct contact with bed bugs. Bed bugs are adept in hiding, hence the need to incorporate other treatment options such as heat treatment.
To repel bed bugs, spray undiluted tea tree oil on bed bug hideouts like bed frames, cracks, mattresses and other areas with an infestation. You can also mix it with other essential oils like citronella, lavender, geranium, lemon grass and alcohol. Take caution when handling undiluted tea tree oil as it is toxic when ingested and can be irritable to the skin.
2 – Lemon grass oil
Lemon grass oil essential oil is extracted from the leaves and stalk of the lemon grass plant. It has a signature grassy, citrus-like smell. Lemon grass contains citronellic acid that increases the acidic conditions in bed bugs effectively killing them. You have to apply it directly on bed bugs to guarantee maximum effectiveness.
To kill bed bugs, spray undiluted lemon grass into bed bug infested areas of the house making sure that it comes into direct contact with the various staged of bed bug growth. Do this repeatedly over days or weeks to achieve desired effect. This will also serve as bed bug repellant.
3 – Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil serves as an excellent bed bug repellent. It contains high menthol constituents that emit a strong scent that repels bed bugs. Although it is more effective as a bed bug repellent, it can kill bed bugs on direct contact. This means that you have to apply the peppermint oil directly bed bugs for it to work. Take note that applying it once may not be enough to ward off bed bugs.
4 – Lavender oil
Lavender oil is an excellent bed bug repellent although it can be lethal to bed bugs on direct contact. When using it, you need to remember that there are several species of lavender, some more effective than others. English Lavender, often labelled as L. Angustifolia is the most effective bed bug repellent. The most common species of Lavender include:
- Dutch Lavender
- English Lavender
- French Lavender
- Spanish Lavender
You must take great care when using lavender oil as it can be toxic to you and your kids. While it works wonders in its undiluted form to kill bed bugs and eggs, it is recommended that you dilute it with water to ward off the pests while at the same time achieving a pleasant fragrance in your home.
5 – Eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus oil treats mild infestations and is highly effective in repelling bed bugs. It contains a chemical called PMD that wards of bugs from you. Extracted from the leaves of the eucalyptus trees, it has been recommended as a viable option for fighting bed bugs.
You can create an eucalyptus oil spray yourself. All you need is the eucalyptus oil, water, and a spray bottle.
- Fill the spray bottle with about 30 ml of water.
- Add 15 drops of the eucalyptus oil in the bottle.
- Mix it thoroughly.
- Spray the area affected by bed bugs.
You may need to use multiple spray sessions to effectively get rid of bed bugs
6 – Cinnamon oil
Most people love the smell of Cinnamon but do not know that it is an excellent bed bug repellent. Bed bugs avoid areas that have been sprayed with cinnamon oil because they cannot stand its smell. It also works longer than other essential oils after application to repel bugs. That said, have to apply it consistently to achieve your desired result.
Like other essential oils, undiluted cinnamon oil has the highest potency to kill bed bugs. However, take strong precautions when handling it and do not ingest it or let it come into contact with your skin. The safer method would be mixing it with distilled water and spraying it on bed bugs.
7 – Clove oil
This essential oil obtained from clove trees contains Eugenol, one of the most effective compounds against bed bugs. Eugenol kills bed bugs. Clove oil takes a two-pronged approach in the fight against bed bugs. Apart from its ability to kill bed bugs, its smell and acidity chases away these critters.
It is wise to use clove oil in combination with water or other essential oils. In the right concentration, clove oil can kill bed bugs. Nonetheless, it is in your best interest to also employ other effective bed bug treatment methods.
8 – Thyme oil
Thyme oil is one of the most effective natural bed bug killers because it contains a compound known as Thymol. That said, its effectiveness is subject to a number of things including the amount you choose to use. A study at Purdue University suggests that thyme oil is only effective when used in the right amount.
Thyme depresses the bed bugs’ nervous system thus, killing them. This essential oil works best when diluted with water or mixed with other essential oils. In its undiluted form, it works best as a repellent.
9 – Neem oil
Neem seeds from neem tree produce neem oil when crushed and distilled. Neem oil contains Azadirachtin, a compound that disrupts bed bugs’ normal body activities. Neem oil is effective across all stages of a bed bugs life cycle including eggs, nymphs and adult bed bugs.
Unlike most essential oils, neem oil works best in its undistilled form. You need to spray neem oil directly onto bed bugs to kill them. It is also wise to incorporate other treatment methods such as heat treatment to achieve your desired results.
10 – Blood orange oil
A publication on the Journal of Medical entomology recognizes blood orange oil as the most effective plant extract for killing bed bugs. This essential oil is extracted from the fruit of the blood orange tree, native to Italy. The wonder oil has been known to work long after the effects of the other essential oils have waned off. You have to use it in its potent undiluted form and in large amounts to guarantee maximum effectiveness. It can also be used to repel bed bugs when diluted and applied on bed frames, cracks and other furniture.
11 – Cedar wood oil
Cedar wood oil comes in handy if you want to repel bed bugs and keep them away from your home. The oil is extracted from the leaves, bark and berries of the cedar and even juniper trees.
Apart from repelling bed bugs, cedar wood essential oil can kill them if you apply the right amount directly on their bodies. To make your own cedar wood oil be bug repellant, mix cedar wood oil with water in a spray bottle, shake it.
12 – Oregano oil
Oregano essential oil contains Carvacrol, a compound known to kill bed bugs. It depresses the nervous system causing a shut down and eventual death. This requires a large amount of it and a direct contact with the bed bugs.
Apart from killing bed bugs, Oregano is an excellent repellent. A 2018 study uncovered the fact this essential oil is 40% more repellent than most commercial insect repellent sticks. That said, you need to keep in mind that the experiment was carried out in a controlled environment. Using Oregano essential oil alone may not be enough to ward of bed bugs thus, it would help to employ some bed bug monitoring tools.
13 – Palmarosa oil
Known for its rosy, citrus smell, the native Indian essential oil has gained a huge following around the world. It’s extracted from the leaves of the Palmarosa plant. Geraniol compound contained in this essential oil is instrumental in repelling bed bugs. In its pure state, Palmarosa oil is toxic to bed bugs but using it in combination with the other essential oils achieves even better results.
14 – Spearmint oil
Spearmint oil is an essential oil that provides the same results as the peppermint oil, except with a softer touch in its smell. It is extracted from the spearmint plant, not to be confused with peppermint plant as it has signature spear shaped leaves.
Like the peppermint oil, its strong smell can be use to repel bed bugs. Spray a solution of spearmint oil, distilled water and either alcohol or a detergent in suspected infestation zones.
15 – Basil sweet oil
Basil sweet oil contains linalool, a compound famous for its effectiveness against bed bugs especially when used as a fumigant.
For it to work, you need to make highly concentrated solution and apply it directly on the bed bugs. Basil sweet oil loses its potency faster than other essential oils thus, cannot guarantee results when used alone.
16 – Anise star oil
If you have a reservation against the synthetic pesticides, anise oil may be the essential oil for you. It offers all the benefits of synthetic pesticides without the annoying environmental impact. Pure anise oil has been known to repel bed bugs. Extracted from dry fruits of anise plant, anise oil is remarkably effective in wading off bed bugs.
Combine a few drops of anise oil with water and spray on bed frames, cracks and crevices to repel bed bugs. Spray at regular intervals to keep these pesky wall crawlers at bay. In case of a massive infestation, it is best to consider other effective and less costly bed bug treatment options.
Which essential oils are the most effective against bed bugs?
There are several essential oil-based products that claim to be the most effective against bed bugs. A study at Purdue University identified some of the most effective compounds contained in essential oils. Here are the most effective essential oils and their associated compounds:
- Oregano oil (Carvacrol chemical compound)
- Thyme oil (Thymol chemical compound)
- Lemon Grass (Citronellic acid chemical compound)
- Clove oil ( Eugenol chemical compound)
- Blood orange oil
Note: Knowing how to use essential oils is just as important as your ability to pick the best essential oil.
Essential oils are a healthy choice for fighting bed bugs, but they are not 100% effective in moderate to severe infestations. It would be wise to use these plant extracts as a preventative measure and incorporate other bed bug extermination methods. Here are some tips on how to make essential oils work for you:
- Settle for quality distilled essential oils
- Do research when you are not sure how a particular essential oil works
- Have an open mind and try experimenting within the confines of essential oils safe use practices.
Which essential oils are not effective against bed bugs?
According to a study about essential oils toxicity on bed bugs, basil sweet, Anise star, and spearmint are less effective.
Do bed bugs develop resistance to essential oils?
No. Essential oils are not neurotoxins hence bed bugs cannot develop genetic resistance to them.
Are essential oils dangerous to us?
In undiluted form, ingested oil can be lethal to human beings. There are also reports of people developing skin allergic reactions when they come into contact with either diluted or undiluted essential oils.