Does Basil Repel Bugs? (Everything You Need To Know)

Many people do not want to use harsh chemicals like DEET to repel pests. There are lots of claims about which plants repel bugs. You may be asking yourself, “Does basil repel bugs?” 

Finding good, researched claims about what plants repel what bugs can be difficult. However, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about using basil to repel bugs. 

Does Basil Repel Bugs?

Yes, basil repels some bugs. It repels mosquitoes, flies, whiteflies, potato bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and aphids. Basil can be burned, used as a companion plant, or rubbed on your skin. Pots of basil will repel flies and mosquitoes. The active ingredient in basil is methyl eugenol.

Why Does Basil Work as Bugs Repellent?  

Basil has methyl eugenol in its oil. The chemical masks the odor of people, plants, and other things with the methyl eugenol so the bug can’t find its target. Methyl eugenol not only repels some bugs but can even kill mosquito larva in a high enough concentration. 

Difference Ways to Use Basil to Repel Bugs 

Burning dried basil repels flies and mosquitoes. Living pots of basil also repel flies and mosquitoes.

As a companion plant, basil repels whiteflies, potato bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and aphids. Don’t plant it near rue, though.

The essential oil repels mosquitoes and flies. Rubbing basil leaves over your skin can result in skin irritation, however, so use a carrier oil like olive oil to put the basil essential oil in and rub on your skin. 

What Kind of Basil Keeps Bugs Away the Best? 

Sweet basil, holy basil, lemon basil, and cinnamon basil have been studied the most. Lemon basil and cinnamon basil are best at repelling bugs. 

Making Basil-Based Insect Repellents 

There are several ways to use basil as an insect repellent. Basil is one of the few aromatic plants to smell while growing. Other plants only release their smell after a leaf is bruised. This means you don’t have to injure the basil plant for the aroma to repel some bugs. 

Basil can be planted around other plants to repel tomato hornworms, whitefly, aphids, thrips, flies, and mosquitoes. You can place pots of basil around a porch to keep mosquitoes at bay. 

Basil can be burned to repel flies and mosquitoes, much like citronella is burned. One study used this recipe for basil cones. 


  • 250 grams of dried basil 
  • 180 grams sawdust 
  • 240 grams of cassava starch 
  • 220 milliliters water 


  1. Take dried basil and grind it into a fine powder.   
  1. Grind sawdust into a fine powder. 
  1. Mix cassava starch with warm water. 
  1. Boil cassava solution for 30 minutes to make it gel. 
  1. Mix the sawdust and the basil into the gelled cassava. 
  1. Put part of the mixture into a cardboard cone with a volume of about 283 cm. 
  1. Gently dry the cones in an oven set to 200 degrees. Watch the cone closely to make sure they do not start smoking.   
  1. Remove the cones from the oven when they are dry. 
  1. Remove the cardboard cone from the dried cone. 
  1. Burn the cones on your porch or another outside area to repel flies and mosquitoes. Do not burn inside. 

Basil can also be used as an essential oil. Alone, basil oil irritates the skin. If used with a carrier oil, that doesn’t usually happen. Use the mixture in a small spot on your skin to ensure you are not allergic to it.   

Drop 6-8 drops into a cup of olive oil. Mix well, then smear the result on your skin. This protects against mosquitoes and flies. It continues to repel flies and mosquitoes for about two hours. 

How To Use Basil As A Pest Repellent 

Common Questions About Using Basil to Repel Bugs 

While basil repels some bugs, it does not repel all of them. Here are the bugs research has shown basil repels and the bugs there is no data for.  

Does basil repel mosquitoes? 

Yes, basil oil repels adult mosquitoes and kills larvae. 

Does basil repel flies? 

Yes, when burned, when placed in pots around the area, and when used as an essential oil. 

Does basil repel potato bugs? 

Yes, when planted near the potatoes. 

Does basil repel thrips? 

Yes, when planted as a companion around the vulnerable plant. 

Does basil repel aphids? 

Yes, as a companion plant. 

Does basil repel tomato hornworm? 

When basil is planted around tomatoes it repels the tomato hornworm. 

Does basil repel whitefly? 

Yes, when used as a companion plant. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I get basil essential oil? 

Many health food stores sell basil essential oils. You can also purchase it online.

Can I increase the amount of essential oil my basil plant has? 

Yes, you can. If you slightly underwater the plant, it will produce more essential oil. When basil blooms, a lot of that oil goes into the flowers. If you pinch off the flowers before the bud out, your leaves and stem will have more essential oil in them. 

In conclusion, basil is an alternative to DEET when trying to keep flies and mosquitoes from biting you. While DEET lasts about six hours, basil needs to be reapplied after about two hours. You can make a basil incense cone to burn outdoors like citronella. You can plant basil around vulnerable plants to repel flies, whiteflies, potato bugs, thrips, tomato hornworms, and aphids.  

Photo of author

Stephanie Suesan Smith

Stephanie Suesan Smith has a Ph.D. in psychology that she mainly uses to train her dog. She has been a freelance writer since 1991. She has been writing for the web since 2010. Dr. Smith has been a master gardener since 2001 and writes extensively on gardening. She has advanced training in vegetables and entomology but learned to garden from her father. You can see her vegetable blog at

Leave a Comment