We have SERIOUS insect problems where I live. Here’s my location on a map of the US showing Lyme disease cases:
My hometown has one of the highest rates of Lyme-carrying ticks in the state. To make matters worse, I live directly adjacent to wetlands. Our town’s newspaper is called The Mosquito:
All this is to show you my street cred when it comes to doing mortal battle with disease-carrying insects…
What I’ve learned is that one of the best weapons in my arsenal is…cedar oil.
What Is Cedar Oil?
Cedar oil is an essential oil derived from conifer trees (trees that bear cones and needle-like leaves) of the pine or cypress families.
It has many applications including medical and industrial uses, but is also commonly used in perfumes, aromatherapy and in pest control. Turpentine is derived from the resins of live conifer trees.
It has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and is considered safe enough by the FDA (Food & Drug Admin) to be used as a food preservative. The ancient Egyptians even used it in their embalming practices because it kept away insects.
What Do Cedar Oils Do?
Cedar oil controls different insects in different ways. It is known to be toxic to fleas, ticks and mosquitoes specifically, which are the common pests we’d love to get rid of. However, many a pesky insect beyond ticks are turned away by the natural effluvium of cedar. Another perk is that it’s completely non-toxic to humans and pets and for me, has a woodsy aroma that I’ve come to consider a sign of summer.
How Do I Use Cedar Oil as a Natural Tick Repellent?
There are a number of ways to deploy cedar oil spray to protect your yard from insects. We live in an area that is completely infested with ticks and mosquitoes and I’ve tried many methods to reduce them. I’ve settled on a set of strategies that includes elements of landscape design, tick tubes and spraying.
Until we added this oil to our arsenal, everything else seemed only modestly effective. This is just my personal assessment, but I think it was the single largest factor in our ability to control the ticks. Before we started using it there were many tick bites, now it’s extremely rare that anyone gets bitten in our yard.
We use it in mainly two ways: as a lawn/yard treatment and sprayed directly on our clothing and/or bodies.
How to Kill Ticks in Your Yard
There are a few common ways to use cedar for killing and repelling ticks and other insects. You can buy cedar mulch or pellets that you spread on your yard, which is a fairly durable solution that doesn’t need to be repeated that often. That solution works for various bugs but it is NOT intended to repel or kill ticks specifically, and it says so on the bag.
The main method we use is spraying. Every two to three weeks, we spray the entire yard where the kids play and the surrounding areas and structures, from the ground up to about 5 feet high on any structures.
Dr. Ben’s makes a hose-end sprayer bottle called Yard Guard that requires no adjustments at all to get the right concentration. Just attach to the hose and start spraying. This product is a natural tick repellent for yard use specifically.
Here’s a view of the front, you can see that it has a wide spray pattern and a shut off valve to make it easy to use on the hose.
I use this one when doing extra treatments for ticks only (as opposed to mosquitoes and other bugs, though it repels/kills them too).
However, it’s been a while since I bought YardSafe because it’s only slightly less convenient and cheaper to buy their Nature’s Defender Outdoor Bug Spray.
If you’re using it for fleas and ticks it’s still a bit cheaper, and if you move up to the next size it becomes substantially cheaper again on a square foot coverage basis.
A quart of Nature’s Defender comes with a hose-end sprayer with marks on the bottle to make it easy to mix.
I spray a broader area when treating for other insects like mosquitoes and I add garlic oil for that because it’s a relatively inexpensive addition and mosquitoes hate it. The hose end sprayer has a good capacity and you can use it for any spraying needs, so it beats buying a similar sprayer for $10-$20.
I typically do the entire yard spraying with garlic oil mixed in as well for extra mosquito repellent. I combine with the Dr. Ben’s and do it all at once using the hose-end sprayer you see below. Works great.
Tick Repellent Clothing
It is possible to buy clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin. Permethrin has a low mammalian toxicity but it is a synthetic toxin nonetheless, and the warnings on the bottle look very different than what you see below.
Instead of buying dedicated, toxic clothes, we prefer to just spray our clothes with Dr. Ben’s Evictor.
Below is the full product description from the back of the bottle. There’s not much in it actually. In terms of active ingredients, it’s just cedarwood oil. And inactive ingredients? Just hydrated silica. That’s it.
Dr. Ben’s sells personal size spray bottles but we usually buy the quart-sized containers above, which are great for spraying down clothing.
We also pour it into smaller spray bottles like the homemade version below, which are perfect for cars, purses, etc. We keep a number of them throughout the house.
Before going out into the yard we spray down all our clothing and, to a lesser extent, our skin with the Evictor.
Do this outside because while it doesn’t smell bad, you don’t necessarily want your house to smell that woodsy. We’ll repeat that process every few hours if we’re out for a long time.
Where Can I Buy Cedar Oil?
If you want to know where to purchase cedar oil and/or want to see the complete line of products, head over to the Dr. Ben’s site.
They have a wide array of products, from products for humans like we’re discussing here to products for cats, dogs, livestock and even household products like detergents and cleaners. You can also dip your toe in the water with a tiny personal bottle or go whole hog and buy gallon jugs to dowse your whole property.
How Does Cedar Oil Work?
A common question from readers is “how does cedar oil kill ticks, fleas, bed bugs and other insects?” It kills insects in 6 different ways:
- Encapsulation and/or emulsification of body fats
- Pheromonal interference
- Neutralization of bodily fluids
- Inhibits breathing
- Dissolves insect larvae
A: The list of insect it doesn’t kill is probably shorter than the list it does kill. Here’s the list of pests that I know it kills, either from personal experience or manufacturer claims:
A: Both. In its liquid form is a contact killer of most insects. Once it has dried, it becomes a potent natural repellent.
A: Yes. Cedarwood oil is typically used to describe the essential oil for use in aromatherapy and home remedies used on humans whereas cedar oil typically describes the oil used as a pesticide. But they are the same oil, derived from the same trees.
A: No. The ability to kill many pests without harming bees an other beneficial insects is THE key property of it, and the one that makes it superior to chemical pesticides in my opinion.
A: As you’d imagine, it smells like cedar. Ever smell a cedar box or a closet made of cedar? It’s like that only more potent.
A: Cedarcide uses Texas cedar (Juniperus ashei).