Bug spray for gardens

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Bugs can be a real pain. They not only annoy and bite people…they can also wreak havoc on plants. To keep your plants safe from pests, make my homemade bug spray for plants and keep your flowers, herbs, vegetables and other plants insect free!

This post contains affiliate links.

It’s so disheartening when you spend time caring for your plants, only to have bugs wreak havoc on them. There are tons of chemical laced plant sprays that kill or deter bugs like aphids and other critters, but you don’t really need them. All you need is a couple of household ingredients to make your own natural bug spray for plants.


What’s in Homemade Bug Spray for Plants?

2 tablespoons of Castile Soap ( Purchase HERE )

10 drops of Lavender Essential Oil ( Purchase HERE )

1 1/2 cups of water

Spray Bottle ( Purchase HERE )

How Do You Make Bug Spray for Plants?

Add the Castile soap, lavender and water to a clean spray bottle and shake well before each use.

To use, spray plants liberally with the lavender Castile soap mixture and leave it…no rinsing necessary.

The mixture will not only get rid of the bugs eating your plants, but it will also deter them from coming back. Because Castile soap is a plant based soap, this mixture is safe for flowers, plants and herbs too!

You can find the Clear Glass Bottles HERE and my free Printable Labels HERE!

Here are a few more of my posts that may interest you if you love plants like I do…

How To Plant a Container Herb Garden

Make an Automatic Plant Feeder In Minutes

25 Gardening Tips and Tricks

I hope you enjoy these tips…be sure to check out all of my home tips and cleaning tricks HERE!

Organic Pest Control for a Vegetable Garden

For various reasons, some people prefer to use non-chemical means for controlling diseases, insects, and other pests. Allergic reactions to chemicals, a desire to grow purely organic vegetables, or protection for young children are all reasons to use non-chemical controls for pests. If used correctly, non-chemical pest controls can be very effective in keeping your garden healthy.

VFNT Seeds: The easiest way to avoid disease problems is to choose varieties of vegetables that are resistant to disease. Over the years, many disease-resistant vegetable varieties have been developed. You’ll notice that seed packages and catalog descriptions of some vegetable varieties include V, F, N, and T in the name. These abbreviations indicate disease resistance that has been bred into the variety. V and F stand for verticillium and fusarium wilts, which are fungi that cause tomato plants to turn yellow, wilt, and die. N indicates nematode tolerance. Nematodes are tiny parasitic worms that cause knots on stems and roots of vegetables. Tobacco mosaic virus, indicated by a T, affects foliage by yellowing and curling; it also causes severe root damage.


Water Early: If you irrigate your garden with a sprinkler from overhead, it’s best to water early in the day so plants can dry off before night falls. Foliage that stays wet for long periods of time is susceptible to leaf diseases, fungi that grow on leaves, tender stems, and flower buds. This tends to be a problem when plants stay wet throughout the night: Fungi spread quickly during the cool, moist evening hours. The fungi will cause the plant to be weakened, flowers will fall off, and fruit will begin to spot and become soft.

Crop Rotation: Do not grow the same plant family in the same spot year after year. Repetition of the same crop gives diseases a chance to build up strength. Design your plan so that each family of vegetables — cabbage family, cucumber family, and tomato/pepper family — can be moved to another block of your garden on a three-year rotation.

Paper Collar

You may notice one morning that a couple of healthy young plants have keeled over and died. This is a pretty sure indication that cutworms are present. Feeding at night and hiding during the day, cutworms are most destructive early in the season, cutting off transplants at ground level. To prevent the cutworm from finding your cabbages, peppers, and tomatoes, wrap each stem with a paper or thin cardboard collar as you transplant it into the garden. The collar should reach at least one inch below and one inch above the soil level. In time, the collar will disintegrate; by then the danger of cutworm damage will have passed.

Beer: A Handy Bait

Snails and slugs pose a problem for many garden plants, especially during seasons with plenty of rain and rich, succulent growth. Lettuce and potatoes are especially susceptible to slug damage: Irregular holes will be found in the leaves. Snails and slugs feed mostly at night, hiding from the hot sun.

One way to control these pests is to remove the places where they hide; but if you’re using mulch in the garden and supplying plants with the moisture they need, you’re still likely to find snails and slugs. Although commercial baits are available, shallow pans of beer placed throughout the garden will attract and drown the pests.

Not all insects in the garden are pests. Most are benign residents, and some are actually beneficial, providing a means to control insect pests. Insects such as ladybugs, lacewing flies, and praying mantises feed on bugs that are destructive to your crops. You should protect them when you find them in your garden. Harmless to your garden plants, these useful insects gorge on aphids, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers and other bothersome insects.

Want more information about vegetable gardens? Visit these links:

  • Caring for a Vegetable Garden: Read our guide to nurturing your vegetable plants for the best harvest.
  • Vegetable Gardens: Find out everything you wanted to know about vegetable gardening.
  • Vegetables: Pick out your favorite vegetables to plant in next year’s garden.
  • Gardening: We answer all of your general gardening questions in this section.
  • Garden Care: Whether you’re growing cucumbers or columbines, we have all the information you need to nurture a thriving garden.

Organic Pest Control Solutions

No garden is totally free of pests and diseases. Fungal infections, caterpillars, beetles, dogs, deer—the list of potential predators seems endless. But you can minimize their damage by using organic pest control.

What is organic pest control? It is a method of protecting your garden against disease and predators without synthetic chemical products. In some cases, you can get rid of problems before they arise by simply switching to organic gardening.

These basic organic gardening tips will help protect against the most common crises that arise in both vegetable and flower gardens.

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Beneficial Insects vs. Garden Pests

Not all crawling and flying critters are bad for your garden. Without bees, broccoli, squash, apples and many other food crops would fail; many other insects perform a service by destroying harmful insects. Ladybugs, for instance, can help control aphids. Spraying organic pesticides and insecticides can destroy good bugs as well as bad so should be used as a last resort, particularly when bees are present.

The following are beneficial insects. Don’t kill them if you see these in your garden.

  • Ladybugs
  • Praying mantis
  • Hoverfly
  • Lacewings
  • Honeybee
  • Dragonfly

Garden Pests to Pick

Most other insects are pests and can be safely eliminated. But to be safe, learn to ID pests.

Trying to identify a particular pest? The best place to start is the host plant. Insects typically target specific plants, so research what pests your host plant is prone to and whether the pest will cause significant damage.

Some common garden pests to watch out for:

  • Slugs
  • Japanese beetle
  • Cabbageworm (also called cabbage loopers)
  • Squash bugs

Luckily these bugs tend to be large enough to see and grab. Deal with these larger insect pests and harmful caterpillars by simply hand-picking them off the plant. This approach is easy, effective, and free. If you don’t want to touch the bugs, you can always wear gloves.

Waste Management

Removing dead leaves, fallen fruit, and other debris that provides refuge for pests will help prevent infestations. Also, remove and throw away infested plants; don’t add them to your compost pile.

Organic Insecticide and Organic Pesticides

Some gardeners use a homemade insecticide, such as salt spray, mineral oil, or garlic spray. These natural insecticides fight off pests without harming you or the plant. Just remember to reapply these natural garden pesticides frequently, especially in rainy climates.

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DIY Organic Pest Control

Many plants are susceptible to attack only while young and tender. Those young leaves are much tastier than older leaves. The best way to deter pests is by a physical barrier to stop unwanted pests from getting into your garden in the first place. Here are some good options.


Dogs, rabbits, and other animals may be deterred by installing a fence securely attached at ground level. Larger garden pests, such as deer, may require tall fencing, which can get expensive. To avoid investing a lot in barriers, consider surrounding these plants with individual collars of fencing.

Row Covers

These lightweight fabric sheets drape over hoops or posts to cover plants without smothering them and allow light to pass through. Commonly used in commercial nurseries to protect tender plants from light frosts, row covers also protect vegetable crops from small animals and insects, such as birds, rabbits, squirrels, and caterpillars. Protect row crops with a tunnel-shape cloche created with wire hoops and row-cover fabric.

Row covers are most useful when plants are young and small, remove them as the plant grows and stems thicken, then turn to natural garden sprays, such as organic pesticides.

Buy it: Tierra Garden Tunnel Garden Cloche, $26


Sometimes you need to protect only one plant or row of plants. A cloche is a temporary cover sized and shaped to fit a particular plant. For single plants, make inexpensive cloches by cutting the bottom off of gallon plastic milk jugs and setting them over the plants. The primary danger with cloches is heat buildup on sunny days. Make sure to remove or vent the cloches so they don’t overheat your plants.

Cutworm Collars

Cutworms are night-crawling pests that chew through stems at ground level; they are particularly fond of young transplants of broccoli, cauliflower, and their relatives. Foil cutworms and other pests by forming 2- to 3-inch-diameter collars out of large index cards with the ends stapled together. Slip a collar over each transplant and push the collar an inch or so into the soil.


Sold as bird netting, this lightweight mesh protects berries and tree fruits from birds and pests like squirrels. Physical barriers are generally effective, but there are other options to keep pests away.

Natural Insecticide

Some gardeners make homemade organic pest control insecticide for plants. These recipes rely on ingredients such as salt, mineral oil, or garlic. Use these natural remedies to fight off pests without causing harm to you or the plant. Just remember to reapply these natural garden pesticides frequently, especially in rainy climates.

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Disease-Resistant Planting

Various diseases and fungus infections can destroy a wide range of your precious garden plants. Leaves with a powdery appearance or strange coloration are common signs of infection. The key to beating diseases is prevention, mainly by choosing disease-resistant plants. If you aren’t so lucky with this option, try these tips to make sure your plants thrive through nasty conditions.

Give Plants Space

Fungal infections need moisture to grow and spread. Crowded plants don’t dry as quickly after a watering or rain, giving the fungus the opportunity to develop and spread. Don’t space plants closer than recommended, and give them more than the recommended amount of space in humid climates.

Keep Leaves Dry

Avoid overhead watering and overapplying natural garden pesticides, such as organic pest spray. Instead, water around the base of plants when possible. If you are growing vine crops, like tomatoes and cucumbers, support the plants on trellises so leaves and crops don’t touch damp soil.

Rotate Crops

Some disease-causing organisms will overwinter and multiply in the soil beneath a susceptible plant. Vegetable gardens are particularly at risk for this problem. To keep such diseases in check, change where you grow a particular crop each year. For instance, if you grew tomatoes in the northeast corner this year, plant them in the northwest corner next year. Rotation of crops helps promote better soil fertility and is one of the best pest preventions.

Test and Maintain Your Soil

Some plants grown in poor soil or soil that is too acidic or alkaline will develop problems. Your local county extension service can inexpensively test your garden soil and recommend changes to fix deficiencies. Plan to add organic matter to your soil regularly to improve its structure and water-holding ability.

Image zoom Peter Krumhardt

Keep Weeds at Bay

Weeds are inevitable. Although you can’t rid your garden of them completely, frequent light weeding is easier than waiting until the weeds mature and set seeds.

Use Mulch

Mulch has many benefits, including keeping weeds down, cooling the soil, and preventing moisture evaporation. Organic mulches also feed the soil as they break down.

Apply a Pre-Emergent Control

Look for a corn-base organic pesticide that prevents annual weeds from developing. Because these organic pest control products don’t affect established plants, they can be applied before seeds have sprouted to control many common weeds. Bear in mind, however, preemergent products don’t work on perennial weeds and annual weeds that are up already up and growing.


Some organic pesticides discourage insects from munching on a plant. An example would be cayenne, liquid soap, or organic spray mixtures using mint, onion, or garlic. Though effective, these spray mixtures have to be applied every couple of weeks or after a rain. There are also repellants available at your local garden center.

Natural mosquito repellent

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Natural Insect Control: Other Ways to Beat the Bugs

Natural bug sprays aren’t the only nontoxic ways that you can fight back against mosquito bites and other bugs. Here are some other approaches to natural insect control – see which ones work and which don’t.

  • Long sleeves and pants. Yes, it’s probably obvious. But one good form of natural insect control is to cover your arms and legs. While a mosquito might be able to get through very thin clothing, moderately thick fabric will stop them. “No mosquito is going to bite you through a canvass shirt,” says Lunder.
  • Fans. Here’s a natural insect control tip. Mosquitoes have trouble maneuvering in wind. So when you’re sitting out on our porch, think about using a window fan or overhead fan. The mosquitoes will have trouble getting near you.
  • Environmental control. Eliminate standing water in your yard, which will prevent mosquitoes from breeding. Empty bird baths weekly and fill puddles with dirt.
  • Citronella candles. Despite the lore, citronella candles – or other natural bug repellent candles – don’t seem to work very well. They could even have risks. “I’d caution people about burning bug-repellent products, like citronella candles,” says Lunder. “Inhalation is a very direct form of exposure, so you’re breathing in whatever chemicals are in the product.”
  • Bug zappers. Don’t bother. Sure, they may electrocute loads of bugs, but they usually kill beneficial insects that eat pests or serve as food for birds. One study showed that of all the insects slaughtered by bug zappers, a mere 0.13% were biting mosquitoes.
  • Ultrasonic devices. Again, don’t bother. They don’t work.
  • Traps. Relatively new on the scene, these devices use various methods to attract and then trap mosquitoes. Many give off carbon dioxide, mimicking a breathing animal or person. While they certainly do trap mosquitoes, experts aren’t sure how well they control mosquito populations in a given area. You’ll also have to decide whether the device itself – which might run on a gas-powered engine – is preferable to the bugs.
  • Permethrin-treated products. Permethrin is a kind of chemical repellent that’s added to some clothing, shoes, and camping gear. While the idea of wearing a shirt treated with an insecticide might make you uneasy, Lunder points out that it has an advantage.
    “It’s not being applied directly on your skin, so it could be a really good option,” she tells WebMD. However, Lunder cautions that you should probably wash permethrin-treated clothing separately from other laundry. Like DEET, permethrin is a neurotoxin that can affect the nervous system. You may want to weigh using either chemical against the risk of disease-carrying insects.

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I’m a bug magnet. I always have been. My husband and I can be sitting outside, and within five minutes, I’ll get bit no less than 10 times, and the bugs won’t even come near him!

When I was a kid, people used to say it was because I was so sweet! And while that’s a nice sentiment, it doesn’t make the thousands of bug bites I’ve gotten over the course of my life any less itchy. I’m not sure what it is about me that is so attractive to buggies, but man, I really wish they’d, uh, bug off.

If I want to sit outside in the summer, I literally have to surround myself with citronella candles and douse myself in bug spray. I’ve never really felt great about spraying super chemically bug spray all over my skin, so I’ve been working on perfecting an all-natural homemade tick and bug spray for the past few years.

My previous blend of citronella, lavender, clove, and eucalyptus worked incredibly well for mosquitoes and those annoying biting flies (I’m looking at you, deer flies!), but it did nothing to keep off the ticks that have infested our yard. I started to do a bit of research about repelling ticks and landed on adding rose geranium essential oil. Rose geranium is the essential oil to repel ticks, and in particular, the pelargonium capitatum x radens variety of rose geranium is the most effective. I also added some cedarwood oil—ticks loathe the smell of cedar (but I love it!). We actually spray our yard with cedar oil to help keep the tick population down.

The best part about this blend? It actually works! I mean, I’m not guaranteeing you’ll never get bit again wearing this stuff, but it definitely reduces my bite-levels dramatically. Now, instead of getting bit 70 times in an evening (this literally happened one night while visiting Canada—we counted), I might get bit once or twice. I’ll take it! Especially when I factor in the whole not-spraying-my-body-with-scary-chemicals-regularly aspect. It’s a win!

The key here is to apply liberally and reapply frequently—I’m talking every 1-2 hours. This isn’t like the DEET stuff where you can spray it once and be good all afternoon. It’s important to keep reapplying.

I will say, gathering all the essential oils takes a bit of investment if you don’t already have them on hand. If you have to buy all the essential oils I list below, you’re looking at right around $125 (more if you want premium brands). Which sounds crazy, but it ends up being just shy of $6 per batch of bug spray.

Considering store-bought bottles of natural bug spray run $10-$12 each for a smaller batch than what you’ll be making? You’ll definitely be money ahead over the course of a summer. Especially when I tell you that this mix works way better than any store-bought stuff I’ve ever tried!

If you are short on cash though, I recommend starting with the citronella and rose geranium essential oils—those two will do a lot on their own! In fact, many people use a dab of rose geranium oil “neat” on their wrists and ankles to help repel ticks during hikes.

You can also tweak this recipe to fit your own bug-repelling needs. I’ve listed the types of bugs that each oil repels in the recipe below, so feel free to leave out any that aren’t applicable to your area of the world (or add more of a specific kind if you have a real infestation). I’m not associated with any essential oil companies and have no loyalties there, so I’ve linked to each of the brands we use down in the recipe below.

As far as bottles go, the spray is pictured here in eight-ounce amber glass Boston bottles with a heavy duty sprayer. The amber is great because it blocks UV light that breaks down the effectiveness of the essential oils. And the heavy duty sprayer is nice because it really pumps out the spray so you’re covered. However, the heavy duty sprayer goes through the spray MUCH faster than a fine mist sprayer (like this). I actually have the tick spray in both kinds of bottles. I use the heavy duty sprayer for the first application of the day, and then the fine mist sprayer for reapplication throughout the day.

As always, make sure you label your homemade creation! You can download the labels I use in these pictures below. They are formatted to work with Avery 22808 Kraft Paper 2” round labels.

Download Tick and Bug Spray Labels


  • 80 drops rose geranium oil, for ticks (1 teaspoon)
  • 80 drops lavender oil, for moths, mosquitoes, fleas, and biting flies (1 teaspoon)
  • 80 drops citronella oil for mosquitoes, biting flies, no-see-ums, and gnats (1 teaspoon)
  • 80 drops thyme oil, for mosquitoes (1 teaspoon)
  • 40 drops cedarwood oil, for ticks (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 40 drops eucalyptus oil, for all biting and stinging bugs (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 40 drops peppermint oil, for ants and mosquitoes (1/2 teaspoon)
  • 20 drops basil oil, for mosquitoes and biting flies (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 20 drops clove oil, for mosquitoes (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 4 ounces apple cider vinegar or witch hazel (see notes)
  • 8 ounce glass spray bottle
  • Distilled or filtered water
  • Labels


  1. Combine all essential oils and the apple cider vinegar or witch hazel in the eight ounce glass spray bottle.
  2. Top off bottle with distilled or filtered water. Screw on sprayer and shake well. Apply label.
  3. To use: Shake bottle well, then apply liberally on exposed skin every 1-2 hours while outdoors.


  • Some natural bug spray recipes will call for vodka in place of the apple cider vinegar or witch hazel. This works just fine, but the vodka will sting like a mother trucker on any sort of open wound (or freshly shaven legs). We made one batch with vodka and won’t be doing that again!
  • This makes for a very strong bug spray, which works for us buried in the woods in the country. If you just need some spray to keep the backyard mosquitos away in the city? You’ll probably be able to get by with half-strength (use half the amount of essential oils) recipe and stretch your oils!
  • If you don’t have citronella oil (or don’t want to buy it), you can use lemongrass oil as a replacement.

Natural Home Pesticides: Organic Garden Pest Control

Organic garden pest control is on the minds of many gardeners these days. Natural home pesticides are not only easy to make, they are cheaper and safer than many products you can buy on store shelves. Let’s take a look at some natural insect repellents you can make for the garden.

How to Make Natural Pesticide

The best way how to make natural pesticide is to use natural products that you have laying around your house. Garden pests are repelled or killed by a surprising number of safe and natural products. Here are a few natural insect repellent recipes:

Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #1

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)
  • 2 tablespoons mineral or vegetable oil
  • 2 cups water

Peel the garlic cloves and puree the cloves along with the oil and water. Allow to sit over night and then strain the mixture. Add the soap and mix toughly. Pour into a spray bottle and use on pest infected plants.

Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #2

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap or Murphy Oil (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)
  • 2 quart of water

Combine ingredients and pour into a spray bottle. Use this organic bug spray for plants on your affected plants.

Organic Garden Pest Control Recipe #3

  • 1/2 cup chopped hot peppers (the hotter the better)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons dish soap (Note: do not use a dish soap that contains bleach)

Puree peppers and water. Let sit overnight. Strain carefully (this will burn your skin) and mix in dish soap. Pour into a spray bottle and spray this organic bug spray for plants on your buggy plants.

Natural home pesticides are exactly like chemical pesticides in one very important way. Organic bug spray for plants will kill any bug in comes in contact with, whether a pest bug or a beneficial bug. It is always best before mixing up any natural insect repellent recipes to think hard how much damage pests are really doing to your garden.

You may be doing more damage to your plants by killing the bugs than the bugs were doing to your plants.

BEFORE USING ANY HOMEMADE MIX: It should be noted that anytime you use a home mix, you should always test it out on a small portion of the plant first to make sure that it will not harm the plant. Also, avoid using any bleach-based soaps or detergents on plants since this can be harmful to them. In addition, it is important that a home mixture never be applied to any plant on a hot or bright sunny day, as this will quickly lead to burning of the plant and its ultimate demise.

If you have a home garden, you already know just how much work it involves. In addition to the regular work of watering, feeding, and weeding you have to worry about keeping your crops healthy, which requires pest control. Insects and other garden pests, if left unchecked, will quickly destroy your garden, leaving you with nothing for all your hard work.

Nobody wants to douse their homegrown fruits and vegetables with chemical pesticides, despite how quickly they work. Many of us prefer the peace of mind natural products bring us. Rather than rely on the harsh chemicals found in commercial products you can create a natural bug spray for garden pests using one of our simple recipes.

Using homemade pesticides will work faster than picking the bugs off by hand, but note that they will sometimes kill off beneficial insects along with the targeted ones.

Are Natural Pesticides Safe?

Many people assume that all natural pesticides are safe to use on all plants. This assumption is often made because of the word “natural.” Although you are using natural ingredients to make a homemade insecticide that doesn’t mean they are all going to be safe for your garden, your soil, or even for you.

All insecticides are created to kill insects; therefore they contain some ingredient that allows them to accomplish this task. Some of the included components in your homemade bug spray for plants may even be toxic to humans or animals. Before using any DIY bug spray for vegetables or houseplants research the required ingredients so that you can choose the least harmful option for your home and garden.

Easy-to-Make Bug Sprays for Plants

1. Oil-Based Homemade Bug Spray for Plants

This oil-based spray works on aphids, thrips, and many other insects. When making this oil-based spray, you are making a concentrate rather than a ready-to-use solution.

Recipe for Oil-Based Homemade Bug Spray for Plants

  • 1 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon mild soap

Mix the oil with a mild soap, such as Dr. Bronners Castile soap, in a large container. To prepare for use add two teaspoons of the insecticide with 1 quart of water inside a spray bottle. Spray directly on plants that have pests.

2. Natural Bug Soap Spray

This insecticidal soap spray is similar to the recipe mentioned above. It does not contain oil but is just as effective as the oil-based spray.

DIY Soap Bug Spray Recipe

  • 1-quart water
  • 1 ½ teaspoon liquid soap

For the liquid soap, you will want to use a mild detergent such as Castile soap. Combine the soap and water in a spray bottle, shake well, and spray directly on the surface of the infested plants. Soap spray should only be applied early in the morning or in the evening, and never during the hottest part of the day as it could burn the plants.

3. Neem Oil

Organic gardeners love neem oil, as it is a biodegradable and nontoxic insecticide. Neem oil spray works against a variety of insect pests and is considered a natural fungicide.

Neem Oil Bug Spray

  • 2 teaspoons Neem oil
  • 1 teaspoon of mild liquid soap
  • 1 quart of water

Combine Neem oil with water and soap in a spray bottle. Shake to mix and spray directly on affected plants. Neem oil can also be used as a preventive on houseplants not yet infested.

4. Natural Bug Spray for Garden

Although you might enjoy the aroma of garlic, not everybody does, including insects. Garlic’s strong smell is what makes it such an effective natural insect repellent.

Natural Bug Spray for Garden Recipe

  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 1 quart of water
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mild soap

Puree the garlic and water in a food processor or a blender and allow to sit overnight. Strain mixture into a jar, and then add vegetable oil, soap, and more water. To use, dilute 1 cup garlic mixture with 1 quart of water inside a spray bottle and spray on infested plants.

5. Diatomaceous Earth

If you are looking for something safe to use around vegetable plants, diatomaceous earth in food grade is an excellent choice as it’s a sedimentary rock formed from fossilized algae. To use diatomaceous earth, sprinkle it around your garden or directly on foliage. This natural pesticide must be reapplied after it rains, as the rain washes away the powder.

6. Tomato Leaf Insecticide

Tomato plants contain alkaloids, as they are a part of the nightshade family. Alkaloids are beneficial for controlling pests, such as aphids and other destructive garden insects.

Tomato Leaf Bug Spray Recipe

  • 2 cups tomato leaves
  • 1-quart water

Chop the fresh tomato leaves. Add the leaves to the water and allow to sit overnight. In the morning, strain out the leaves. Pour tomato water into a spray bottle and spray on your vegetable plants.

7. Chili Pepper Plants Bug Spray

This natural insecticide spray is similar to the garlic spray above. It’s interesting to note the spray can be diluted or used full-strength on infested plants.

DIY Bug Spray for Vegetables with Chili Peppers

  • ½ cup of chili peppers
  • Liquid soap
  • Water

Puree chili peppers with one cup of water in a food processor. Pour into a pot, add a quart of water and bring to a boil. Allow the concoction to cool, strain out chilies, and pour into a sprayer. Add three drops of liquid soap directly to a sprayer and spray on plants as needed.

8. Garlic and Onion Based Homemade Insecticide

This recipe uses a handful of methods to create a natural pesticide that is safe and nontoxic, even when used at full-strength.

Recipe for Homemade Insecticide with Garlic and Onion

  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid soap

Puree garlic, onion, and powdered cayenne pepper and let sit for up to one hour. Strain into a jar or spray bottle and add liquid soap. Shake or stir to mix well.

Use full strength on upper and lower sides of leaves. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to one week and then toss.

9. Hot Pepper Spray

If you have a mite or whiteflies problem, you need to whip up a batch of hot pepper spray. The capsaicin, which is the compound that causes peppers to be hot, irritates garden pests just as it irritates humans.

Recipe for Hot Pepper Spray

  • 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
  • 3 drops biodegradable dish soap
  • Water

Mix hot pepper sauce and dish soap in a quart of water. Allow to sit overnight and then transfer to a sprayer. Spray infested plants as needed.

10. Garlic Oil-Based Bug Spray for Plants

If you need something to deter Japanese beetles, as well as other beetles, mites, and whiteflies, a garlic oil spray should do the trick. Never apply garlic oil spray to plants during the heat of the day, as the oil will burn the plant leaves.

Garlic Oil Spray Recipe

  • 2 teaspoons mineral oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water

Mince the garlic and add to the mineral oil. Let sit overnight and then strain to remove the garlic. Add strained oil to a pint of water and then add dish soap. Store in a glass bottle.

You must dilute the mixture before using. To use the spray, add two tablespoons garlic oil mix to a pint of water. Spray plants generously.

11. Slug Deterrent

Slugs are deterred in a variety of ways. One method uses beer placed in an old can or pie plate positioned in the ground. Sink the container deep into the soil and keep beer one inch below the soil levels, so the slugs have to enter the dish to drink.

Citrus rinds placed around the garden do well to trap slugs, as well as snails. Every morning check the peels for slugs and snails, throw away any infested peels and replace with new ones.

12. Earwig Trap

Trap earwigs with a wet newspaper and some string. Roll up the paper, get it wet, and tie it with a string. Place the damp newspaper in an area known for earwigs.

In the morning place wet newspaper inside a plastic bag and dispose of in the trash. Earwigs crawl into the paper and get stuck.

13. Yellowjacket Repellent

Why buy a commercial yellow jacket trap when you can make your own with an empty two-liter bottle and some sugary liquid? To make the trap, cut the bottle about a quarter of the way down. Turn spout end upside down and place inside the bottom portion of the two-liter, so the spout is pointed down.

Fill the bottle with 1 cup of sugary liquid, such as juice, soda, or sugar water and add a dash of vinegar to prevent honey bees from landing in the trap. Empty the trap at night when yellow jackets are less active. Replace liquid as needed.

14. Natural Plant Spray with Baking Soda

Powdery mildew on your plants is just as big a concern as an insect infestation. To prevent powdery mildew in your vegetable garden use a baking soda spray.

Baking Soda Spray Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon dish soap
  • Water

Combine baking soda, dish soap, and cooking oil with one gallon of water. Pour into a sprayer and spray plants weekly. The baking soda spray disrupts the spores and prevents germination. Oil and soap added to the baking soda ensure the spray sticks to the leaves.

15. Red Pepper Insect Spray For Plants

If you need to repel mammals and birds, make a batch of red pepper spray. The red pepper spray is designed to make your plants less tasty to these garden pests.

Red Pepper Bug Spray Recipe

  • 4 tablespoons Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water

Mix Tabasco sauce and dish soap in a quart of water and spray directly on targeted plants. The capsaicin irritates the animals, so they will look elsewhere to forage. The spray must be applied every week to remain active.

16. Introduce Beneficial Insects for Pest Control

One of our best organic gardening tips for pest control is to add other beneficial insects to your garden. Two of the best insects to introduce to your garden are ladybugs and the praying mantis. Ladybugs keep aphids under control while the praying mantis eats any insect within its reach, including spider mites and their eggs.

Thank you for reading our ideas for DIY bug spray for vegetables and other plants. We hope you found these insect control tips helpful. If you have, please take a minute to share our bug spray recipes with others on Facebook and Pinterest.

The weather is turning warmer and the outdoors beckons. But, with warm temperatures come insects that can bother you and your family. They can munch on your garden and plants, infest dry good or show up around drains and sinks. Instead of reaching for the can of bug repellent or insecticide, consider using these herbs as a natural insect repellent. You can plant the recommended selections in your yard or grow them in containers inside or outside so that you can move them around the home, patio and yard as you need them.

1. Mint

Mint will repel ants, fleas, moths, beetles, aphids and mice – which will help keep your dog healthy, too. Caution: cats love mint, so plant it where you don’t mind them hanging out. Once you plant it, it will grow every season, and even take over a bit of your garden, so plan accordingly, or plant in a container.

Use the leaves for mint tea, cooking Moroccan-inspired dishes, and for mojitos or mint juleps to cool off in the summer heat.

2. Basil

Basil is so useful. It will naturally repel insects like mosquitoes and flies. Not only will Basil prevent the unwanted buzzing around your head, you can pick out a few from the garden to put with some tomatoes to go into your salad with some fresh mozzarella cheese. There are many different scents, so experiment with what you like.

3. Bay Leaves

What a relief to know you can keep roaches away with bay leaves, and then use the dried leaves in stock for soups and stews, or use as the basis of an herb wreath.

4. Catnip

Not only will your cats love it, but a mixture of catnip and rosemary can make a spray or oil to ward off mosquitoes. Add some lemon balm to boost the potency.

5. Lemon Balm

In addition to adding it to your mosquito repellent, you can brew tea to relieve stress.

6. Dill

Not just for Grandma’s pickles, dill will naturally repel insects such as aphids, squash bugs and spider mites. Use the fresh stuff on salmon when you grill or bake it, or in dips.

7. Lavender

Adding beauty to a garden or yard as well as fragrant functionality, lavender repels moths, fleas and flies, including mosquitoes. Dry it and use it in little cloth bags as sachets in your drawers, or fill a rectangular piece of cloth for a soothing eye pillow. Dried lavender can also be hung in bundles and hung near dried goods to ward off insects.

8. Rosemary

Another hardy herb, once you plant it, it will grow nearly year round in milder climates, and then reappear each spring. Use it to repel cabbage loopers, carrot flies, slugs, snails and the Mexican bean beetle. Add some sprigs to flower arrangements (it means “rememberance“), and you can use the hardy stalks as skewers on the grill, in meat dishes (particularly lamb), and even throw some on hot coals for an aromatic grill.

9. Thyme

Shoo away the cabbage looper, cabbage maggot, corn earworm, whiteflies and tomato hornworm with this herb. Use it in poultry or seafood dishes when you want to take them in a Greek or Italian direction. It’s also great when making Provencal dishes like ratatouille.

10. Garlic

Say goodbye to a host of pests when you plant garlic including aphids, the Japanese beetle, carrot flies, codling moths, snails, root maggots, cabbage loopers, the Mexican bean beetle, peach tree borers and rabbits. Use fresh garlic to add depth and flavor to just about any dish: soup stocks, sauces, crushed fresh for bruschetta and in marinades.

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Best product
for Potato Beetles

Colorado potato beetles (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) are such a common pest in home gardens that they are often just called “potato bugs.” Both the adult and larval forms chew leaves and can completely defoliate an entire crop if natural control methods are not implemented. Their feeding can greatly reduce yield and in some cases, may even kill plants. Alternate host plants include tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.


Adults (1/3 inch long) are rounded, yellowish-orange beetles with black stripes on their wings and black spots just behind the head. The plump larvae (1/8 to 1/2 inch long) are red with black head and legs, and become yellowish-red or orange with two rows of black spots on each side of the body.

Life Cycle

Overwintering beetles hibernate in the soil or garden debris, emerging in the spring. At this point, they do not have enough energy to fly and must walk in search of suitable host plants. Females lay orange-yellow eggs in clusters on the undersides of leaves. In 4-15 days (depending on temperature) hatching occurs, and the voracious larvae begin feeding on foliage for up to one month. When mature, they drop from the plant, enter the soil and pupate, emerging as adults 5-10 days later. There are 1 to 3 generations each year.

How to Control

  1. Plant resistant cultivars when possible.
  2. In early morning, shake adults beetles from plants onto ground cloth and dump captured pests into soapy water.
  3. To impede the movement of overwintering adults, mulch at least 2-3 inches deep with a layer of clean straw or hay as soon as plants emerge.
  4. Protect plants with Harvest-Guard row cover through spring.
  5. Beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, spined soldier bugs and lacewing, feed on eggs and the young larval stages.
  6. Beneficial nematodes will attack the immature stages developing in the soil.
  7. Diatomaceous earth contains no toxic poisons and works on contact. Dust lightly and evenly over vegetable crops wherever pest insects are found.
  8. Surround WP (kaolin clay) forms a protective barrier film, which acts as a broad spectrum crop protectant for preventing damage from chewing pests.
  9. Monterey Garden Insect Spray (Spinosad) is a highly effective bio-pesticide recommended for use against potato beetles. For best results, apply when young.
  10. Safer® BioNeem contains azadirachtin, the key insecticidal ingredient found in neem oil. This concentrated spray is approved for organic use and offers multiple modes of action, making it virtually impossible for insect resistance to develop. Best of all, it’s non-toxic to honey bees and many other beneficial insects.
  11. BotaniGard ES is a highly effective biological insecticide containing Beauveria bassiana, an entomopathogenic fungus that attacks a long-list of troublesome crop pests – even resistant strains! Weekly applications can prevent insect population explosions and provide protection equal to or better than conventional chemical pesticides.
  12. Spot treat with fast-acting organic pesticides if pest levels become intolerable.
  13. After harvest pick up garden debris and turn the soil over around plants to disturb overwintering beetles.

Tip: Line trenches between potato rows with plastic to trap adults. A recent study found that trenches with walls sloping at greater than 46 degrees will retain an average of 84% of all adults caught.

The potato bug, also called the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata), is a very common agricultural pest. Many have bemoaned the day that these pesky little bugs appear in their garden. But there’s ways to wipe them out! Today I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the potato bug and how to get rid of them when they appear.

Organic Control Options:

  • Monterey BT
  • Garden Dust
  • Azatrol EC
  • Monterey Garden Insect Spray
  • Safer Brand Home & Garden Spray

Environmental Control Options:

  • Ladybugs
  • Lacewings
  • Beneficial Nematodes

To Prevent Potato Bugs, Use:

  • Harvest-Guard Floating Row Covers
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Surround WP
  • Neem Oil

Potato Bug Overview

Common Name(s) Potato bug, Colorado potato beetle
Scientific Name(s) Leptinotarsa decemlineata
Family Chrysomelidae
Origin Originated in the United States & Mexico
Plants Affected Potatoes, eggplants, tomatoes, other nightshades and Solanaceae family plants
Common Remedies BT sprays/dusts, Azadirachtin sprays, spinosad sprays, pyrethrin sprays, beneficial insects (ladybugs, lacewings, spined soldier beetles, beneficial nematodes), floating row covers, kaolin clay, diatomaceous earth, neem oil

Before we dive into the important information: Did you know that the common potato bug was a villain in the Cold War? The countries who had signed the Warsaw Pact were convinced that the United States had a CIA plot to destroy the crops in the Soviet Union, and that the potato bug was one of the CIA’s weapons to be used against them. While this was far from the truth, it’s a fun little sidenote of history.

But let’s move on, and I’ll tell you all you need to know about potato bugs!

What Do Potato Bugs Look Like?


As far as bugs go, potato bugs are sort of cute. But they’re only cute until their voracious appetites kick in! These little oval bugs are cream to yellowish-orange in color with ten distinct narrow black stripes along their back. Their heads have spots that match the striping color. They do have wings, but the wings fold in against the body in much the same way a ladybug’s do, making them not readily visible.

There is another beetle that looks very similar – the false potato beetle, Leptinotarsa juncta. This cousin of the potato bug is similar in coloration to the potato beetle except that it has fewer dark stripes (eight instead of ten) and has very definite orange streaking as well. While it feeds on similar families of plants, it is not a major agricultural pest like the potato bug is as it doesn’t typically go after food crops.

Life Cycle Of Potato Bugs

Potato bug larvae. Source:
Anton Valenkulo

An adult potato bug can lay 500 or more eggs per month, with an average of 30 per day. These eggs are yellow to orange in color and are placed on the underside of leaves in clusters. It can take 4-15 days for the eggs to hatch, and they hatch when temperature conditions are most optimal.

The larva produced is a reddish-brown oval shape, looks slightly hunched, and has two rows of dots along its sides. The larva will feed upon its host plant before spreading out to other plants. There are four instars, or stages of larval development. The first three instars last 2-3 days, and the final one lasts for 4-7 days.

At the end of the final instar, the larva digs into the soil beneath the plants and develops a pupa, and it will reemerge as an adult potato bug in 5-10 days. If it is getting towards the colder months of the year, a larva may enter diapause while it’s in its pupa form. This condition is effectively a form of hibernation wherein the pupa remains inactive until weather conditions improve, generally in the spring, and then pupation resumes and the adult beetle emerges.

Once the adult beetle emerges, it will return to its host plant of choice to mate and feed and to produce their eggs. They can fly, which means that if they do not discover a close host plant upon emerging, they can travel to find suitable food.

Common Habitats For Potato Bugs

Potato bugs are most commonly discovered around potato or sweet potato plants, as that is their preferred food, but they can be found in other garden environments. They can be widely found throughout the continental United States and Mexico, up into Canada, and across northern Europe and northern Asia.

What Do Potato Bugs Eat?

While their name indicates their favorite potato plants, the potato beetle fed on the related plant buffalo bur prior to widespread farming of potatoes in the United States, as well as on wild tomatoes and other nightshades. It seems to prefer the solanum species, which includes not just potatoes, but eggplants and tomatoes. Some peppers are also impacted by this pest as they’re closely related.

If none of these species are available, Solanaceae family plants in general are preferred, as they have similar nutrient qualities. In some areas of the United States such as the southeast, potato bugs may compete with their cousins (the false potato beetle) for food sources until appropriate food choices are available.

How To Get Rid Of Potato Bugs


Like many other beetles, there are a wide variety of steps which you can take to eliminate this little garden nightmare. However, other than picking the beetles off the plants and dropping them into a bucket of soapy water to drown them, what methods are most effective? Let’s explore your options.

Organic Potato Bug Control

One of my favorite non-toxic insect control methods is the use of Bacillus thuringiensis, also referred to as BT. This bacteria will poison the potato bugs and work as an effective organic insecticide for many other species of garden pest as well. It does not harm the plants, humans, or pets, and in fact is quite a beneficial addition for most garden soils.

If you’d like to try a non-liquid form of BT, you can use Garden Dust. This powdered BT variant is easy to use and works just like the liquid formulas do.

Azadirachtin sprays have had good success on potato bugs in the past. One of my favorites is Azatrol EC, and it will effectively kill the potato bugs when diluted as per the directions and applied to your plants.

Another great insecticide choice is the use of spinosad sprays. Monterey Garden Insect Spray is a popular formula that contains spinosad, and it will demolish the potato bug population very well.

Finally, a pyrethrin-based spray such as Safer Brand Home & Garden Spray is also another good choice against most beetles as well as caterpillars. Pyrethrins have an additional benefit in that they’re commonly used in some areas by cities as part of a city-wide mosquito repellent spray, so if your city regularly sprays for mosquitos and they’re using a pyrethrin, you may see an incidental drop in potato bugs or other insects at the same time!

Environmental Potato Bug Control

Interestingly enough, ladybugs may be one of your first lines of defense against future generations of potato bugs! Ladybugs are known to eat potato bug eggs off of the leaves of plants. So maintaining a good population of ladybugs in and around your garden will help protect you from potato bug outbreaks, as well as from aphids and other related pests.

Other beneficial insects may also be of use in your war against the potato bugs. Like ladybugs, lacewings will consume the eggs of potato bugs.

While it’s hard to find spined soldier bugs in a commercial setting, spined soldier bugs will eat not just the potato bug eggs, but their larvae as well. Spined soldier bugs are also fond of other beetle eggs and larvae, such as the Mexican bean beetle and flea beetles. They also devour cabbage looper larvae and cabbage worm larvae as well, so if you have a natural population of spined soldier bugs, try to keep them around!

Beneficial nematodes can also help you out, especially when you have overwintering potato bugs to contend with. These teeny, tiny little bugs will burrow into the pupa of potato bugs during the winter and feed on the larva inside. They can also help with active larvae, especially during the pupal stage.

I mentioned hand-picking potato bugs very briefly, but if you have a lot of adults, you can lay down a sheet of plastic under your plants and tap or shake the foliage of the plants to knock them onto the plastic, and then dispose of them by dumping them into a bucket of soapy water. They will drown. This method is useful, but won’t take out the larvae or eggs as easily, so you should pair it with one of the other methods described.

Preventing Potato Bugs

One of the most effective remedies for all sort of beetles, moths, and other garden pests is the use of Harvest-Guard floating row covers. I can’t recommend this addition to your garden often enough. While you do have to remove the floating row covers when it’s time for your plants to be pollinated, you can eliminate or reduce the bug population by using them up until then.

Once you’ve taken off those row covers, you may need another option. Kaolin clay can form a natural barrier against insects and a repellent option. Available commercially under such names as Surround WP, a thorough coating over your plants of this material can help keep the potato bugs from munching on your leaves or laying their eggs.

Another option is diatomaceous earth. Made from the finely-powdered shells of diatomaceous sea life, this nontoxic powder is harmless to humans or pets. However, to insects, it’s like walking over millions of tiny knives. The diatomaceous earth will cut the fragile bodies of potato bugs, making an effective repellent solution.

You can impede the progress of overwintering potato bugs by mulching your plants 2-3″ deep with straw or hay once the plants have emerged. While this is mostly a repellent solution, it also keeps the surface of your soil moist and slows down other bug infestation, as the straw/hay will form a matted layer that keeps moisture underneath and slows crawling insects from reaching your plants.

Neem oil is also a popular insecticidal spray. The oil coats the eggs of potato bugs and prevents them from hatching. While it won’t kill the bugs themselves, it can coat the leaves and stems of plants and make them much less palatable to the potato bugs. Plus, neem oil is really useful in other ways for your garden, as it can act as a form of fertilizer and can help keep a wide variety of other insects at bay!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do Trichogramma wasps eat potato bugs or their larvae?

A: While Trichogramma wasps are really effective against most species of caterpillar, they aren’t as good against things such as potato bugs. Beetles are not the wasps’ favorite foodstuff! However, they can be beneficial in that they can help to eradicate pests that other beneficial insects such as lacewings might find as an alternate food source. If you use the wasps to combat your cabbage loopers or cabbage worms, for instance, your lacewings will probably be more inclined to eat the potato bugs instead. So they’re great as part of an overall beneficial insect program, but they won’t go after the potato bugs themselves.

Q: Are potato bugs also called pill bugs?

A: Nope! Pill bugs are actually a form of woodlice, part of the Armadillidiidae family. Pill bugs can actually be quite beneficial in your garden. But they’re not potato bugs, and won’t demolish your plants like potato bugs will!

Hopefully, you now know everything you’ll ever need to know about how to wipe out the Colorado potato beetle. This “Cold War menace” is still a menace today… but you should be able to get rid of them with one of the above methods. Do you have preferred ways of getting rid of the potato bugs in your garden that I haven’t mentioned? Share them with everyone in the comments!

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Kevin Espiritu
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