Choosing Herbs to Repel Biting Flies

Ward Off Bugs With Your Favorite Herbs

Basil in plantpot, close up
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Biting flies are a problem for man and beast. Unfortunately, the hot and muggy weather that invites us outside and into the garden is also perfect for flies. The good news is that herbs are quite effective in repelling those biting flies.

There's no need to spray your yard or yourself with nasty bug sprays. Instead, plant a few herbs that naturally repel flies and other insects and create all-natural bug sprays and salves to use while working in the garden.

Herbs to Plant That Naturally Repel Flies

Plant the following herbs in movable pots. Then keep them growing in front of any doorways and in areas like the patio or potting bench where you tend to hang out the most.

  • Basil - Any variety of basil is wonderful because it grows extremely fast and grows well in containers. Grab a leaf and rub it on your skin for instant protection from flies and other biting insects.
  • Lemon Balm - Lemon balm is really easy to grow and makes a nice companion plant in a mixed pot. Plant it in a border around your patio, to repel biting flies.
  • Catnip - Another great repellent herb is also a favorite of your cat. It grows very well in pots and when cut, it grows back thickly.
  • Lavender - For a gorgeous border planting with benefits, plant lavender. It is a wonderful repellent for flies.

Other herbs that work to repel flies are tansy, mints, and bay.

DIY Herbal Bug Repellents

The easiest way to keep flies away is to rub any of these fresh herbs on your exposed skin.

Just pick a few leaves and rub it in. You can also kick the herbs' repellent-worthy aromas into the air by simply brushing the plants whenever you walk by. You and your garden will smell great and it tells those little pests to back off.

If you would like to make a longer lasting repellent, simply blend a selection of fresh leaves in vodka until smooth.

Strain and place in a spray bottle and spray the areas that you want flies to stay away from. This trick has been used successfully on pets and small farm animals as well.

Natural Bug Repellents With Essential Oils

You can also use the essential oils of any of these herbs to repel flies. Whether you choose to create an herbal salve or a bug spray, it's always nice to have a natural alternative to the chemical filled commercial options. They also smell much better!

Create an herbal salve. A salve is like a thick lotion that is rubbed into your skin and it has been used by herbalists for centuries. Homemade salves are easy to make and they last a very long time, so they're definitely worth a little bit of work.

To make a salve, you will need: 

  • 10-12 drops essential oils of your choice 
  • 3/4 ounce natural beeswax
  • 4 ounces herbal oil base (olive oil, calendula oil, and grape seed oil are popular options)
  • Double boiler
  • Storage jars or tins (well cleaned and, preferably, sterilized)

Warm the oil in a double boiler and slowly add grated beeswax. Stir until the beeswax has melted, then add the essential oils. Pour into jars or tins.

Create a homemade bug spray. This should be in every gardener's toolkit.

It's very easy to make and can be placed in a small spritzer bottle that sits by the front door or on your potting bench. Spray a little bit on your skin every time you go out into the garden.

This blend makes an all-purpose bug spray that smells nice and wards off all sorts of pesky insects. Feel free to replace any of the essential oils with other repellent scents.

  • 2 parts distilled water
  • 1 part witch hazel
  • 10 drops each lavender, eucalyptus, and lemon essential oils
  • 5 drops bergamot essential oil