Burn These Herbs To Deter Bugs From Your Campsite

For many, summer means camping season, and whether you're figuring out what you need for a solo camping trip or a family summer adventure, don't forget that you won't be the only one enjoying the fact that you've gone camping. Bugs will likely be there too — some, like flies, will be happy to munch on your food and others, like mosquitos, will be happy to munch on you.


To help keep bugs away from your campsite, you can harness the power of fire and herbs. You might be most familiar with using citronella to stop mosquitos from buzzing around, but you can also use rosemary, sage, lavender, mint, bay leaves, and lemongrass for a similar effect. If you're going anywhere with lots of mosquitos or flies, you'll want to add those to your must-have camping gear list.

*Note: Burning sage and other dried herbs can be a sacred practice for some Indigenous people. If you're not growing the herbs yourself, make sure that you're getting them from an ethical and respectful source.

Burning fresh herbs like mint, rosemary, lavender, and sage can keep bugs at bay

As you're setting up your camp at the end of a long day of exploring and enjoying the outdoors, lighting a campfire can help keep flying bugs away, thanks to the smoke. But you can amp up the insect-repelling benefits of that smoke by adding some fresh herbs with a strong scent directly to the fire. No need to do all of them together; you can do a mix-and-match or just one herb. The smoky smell from burning these herbs is often pleasant to people but unpleasant for flying insects.


The bonus of fresh herbs like mint, lavender, sage, or rosemary is that before you toss them into the fire, you can crush some of them to release their essential oils and rub some on your skin. The scent on your skin can stop bugs from buzzing around or biting, which is particularly helpful when you're not close to the campfire and its smoke. Another bonus is that you might be able to use some of those herbs in your camp meal!

Bring your herbs with you from your home garden or grocery store. While you shouldn't bring your own wood to a campfire, if you're camping on public land and practicing "Leave No Trace" ethics, you may not be able to or want to take anything out of the environment around you.


Burning dried herb bundles can banish bugs

One downside to the approach of burning fresh herbs is that once they burn up, you'll lose the advantage of any fragrant smoke. Plus, if you have a particularly fragrant wood in the campfire, it could overpower the beneficial herb scent. For a longer-lasting option, you can use dried herb bundles. Then, when you get to your campsite, you can light some of the bundles so they burn for a bit, and then blow out the flames and let the bundles smolder — make sure to put them in safe, non-flammable places around your camp. You can use something like an empty tin can or put them at the edges of your campfire once it's burned down to embers.


If you're planning on drying your own herbs before your camping trip, it can take a week or more for them to be ready, so it does take some planning. Tie the stems together at the base and hang them with the tops pointing down in a cool and dry space until dry but not brittle.

You could also harness the power of the oils from these herbs by bringing candles with you, which is admittedly easier if you're car camping than if you're backpacking. There are the classic citronella candles, designed as insect repellents. However, if you're not a fan of the citronella scent, you can try one like Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Candle, which uses rosemary, peppermint, and lemongrass oil.