Does Peppermint Essential Oil Repel Mosquitoes? Welcome to the world of authentic aromatherapy, the way the plants designed it. Today we’ll look at how and why peppermint essential oil repels mosquitoes and some of the best ways to use it on yourself and your family.
Interestingly, research is vast because they are such dangerous creatures, killing more people in a year than any other animal. Think about it. Drug companies would clean up if they could deal with diseases of public health concern such as malaria, yellow dengue fever, dengue, and viral encephalitis. What we do know is they are very close. They know that essential oils are beneficial, with almost half the patents for insect repellents now containing essential oils.
The main flaw that most of them have is that the constituents don’t last long enough to work very well as synthesized copies. So, their quest continues, and with that, we gain more and more knowledge.
What Are Essential Oils?
Some things in life make us happy, and teaching this bit is one of ours. Because on the surface, you might imagine that it might just be a bit of marketing spin to say that essential oils can even repel insects, but the truth is, this is what they were made for. This is actually what the plant had in mind…we know…bizarre isn’t it?
Let us tell you a little about our mate, the peppermint plant…
The first thing to tell you is that he doesn’t have legs…
Obvious, right? Because obviously, plants don’t have legs. They are rooted to the spot. But what are the ramifications of that?
Mint is related to some species of caterpillars, namely the Alfalfa and Cabbage Loopers. Lovely green sweethearts resemble The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and that name would suit them well. They love mint and gobble it up in mountain fulls. But our mate Minty is not keen.
What’s he going to do about it? He can’t run away, can he? So, he changes his chemistry.
Now, plants don’t make essential oils (I know people keep telling you they do, but they don’t. Essential oils are made through distillation.) Instead, plants produce Secondary Metabolites, which they make for many reasons. In particular, Mint makes certain caterpillars decide to sling their hook. The chemicals change the taste of the leaves, and the inchworm then decides dinner suddenly tastes rank and heads off to find another restaurant.
Peppermint and Bees
Now, mint is an important food for the caterpillars, so the plant will allow it for a while until the beastie starts to nibble too much. One of Mint’s concerns will be that sooner or later, it will need to flower, of course, or grow enough to put down runners and reproduce...
When Mint can flower, it has a lovely relationship with the bees. Out of every plant in the garden, they appear to love Mint the most. Peppermint likes bees because it evaporates hundreds of aromatic molecules into the air, attracting them to pollinate. So they come in their hundreds to distribute its pollen, drink its nectar, and take it back to their hive to turn into honey.
But here's a thing. Just as humans get head lice, bees also have their mites. Honey bees get a parasite called Varroa, one of the main problems threatening their species. Varroa mites do not like menthol, one of the main constituents of mint. So when bees revel in mint (and they do), they cover themselves in mint’s insecticide properties. Thymol from Thyme does a similar thing.
These fragrant molecules, these secondary metabolites, are what are distilled, captured, and made into essential oils.
So If Peppermint Attracts Bees, Why Does It Repel Mosquitoes?
So far, that’s unclear. But I guess herbs might be just like humans. If we like someone, we like them, but if we don’t, then we don’t.
For whatever reason, Peppermint hasn’t just developed a mild distaste for mosquitoes; it has the whole artillery of chemical warfare designed to kill.
It has an anti-feedant property, so peppermint probably discourages them, like it does the caterpillars. 
In a way, it seems a bit sad because, for the most part, mosquitoes don’t feed on blood. Their primary diet is nectar. Maybe the plant wants to keep it for the bees.
Several studies have also proven that it will kill adult insects in the proper doses.
How small the microscope must be to discover that the oil interacts with the GABA A receptor of a mosquito is anyone’s guess. (Actually, it’s probably enormous, isn’t it, thinking about it, to enhance the imagery that much? Anyway, it’s incredible!)
GABA is the primary calming neurotransmitter in the human body, and it is believed it does something of the same in insects. In the same way, that peppermint makes us feel a tad hyper; presumably, it does the same to the midge. Problems in human signaling of the GABA A receptor are often present in epileptic seizures. Whether the same can be true of insects is unclear, but we can see how it could make the mosquito think that another plant might be a better place to go and feed on.  Restless rotters! Be off, you blighters!
Peppermint Prevents New Larvae from Hatching
There is another exciting element. Scientists have shown that essential oil does a rather extraordinary thing. For the most part, the female lays her eggs in water. The more stagnant and stinky, the better because running water would disturb them.
However, research shows that when the oil is spread as a film on top of the water, it kills the larvae. Incidentally, peppermint is not the only oil to have this water property. Sweet Basil and Patchouli essential oils were also found to have it but to a lesser degree.
Peppermint for Mosquito Bites
What’s more, if you are unlucky enough to get bitten, then the chemicals in peppermint essential oil work incredibly quickly to support healthy immune function and healing and to soothe the itching. Of course, a little lavender essential oil probably wouldn’t hurt either.
If you feel the need to swear, know that your assailant was probably a female who needed to borrow some of your blood to give enough protein for her to breed. It helps to direct your fury accurately towards a clear target, we always feel.
When Not To Use Peppermint Essential Oils for Mozzies
What time of day the mosquitoes are most active largely depends on their species. Some species are more active during the day, and others come out more at night. Most mosquito species in the United States increase activity at dusk, as the twilight marks a sentry change between daytime and nighttime.
So, peppermint works fantabulously if you are heading out into the woods or off to a party by a lake.
But if you are on a camping trip, trying to sleep…
Essential oils don’t have side effects as such. They only have many main effects. Peppermint’s primary effect is to wake you up, make you more alert, and help you concentrate better, and in this case, we are sure it will have you entirely focused on every possible buzzing sound outside the tent. One thing is certain; if you have peppermint insides of the tent, there will be no shut-eye this night.
Always play to an essential oil’s strengths, and peppermints are always keeping your head hyper-switched on.
We’ll look at some more restful alternatives in a moment and some great ones to dab onto your mosquito net, but for the moment, think about this.
Use peppermint as a means to keep mosquitoes away from your tent. Perhaps put a bit on the guy ropes, or burn a candle on the table. A great one is to pop a Billy can on the campfire as it burns down. Just a few drops of the water will fumigate the campsite around you.
Other Less Invigorating Alternatives
Some other oils that could be less invigorating are Lavender, vetiver ylang ylang, and angelica root. Look at our article best essential oils for mosquito bites, to drill down on some facts and figures concerning them.
Likewise, other good (potentially better) repellent essential oils are citronella, lemongrass, and eucalyptus. Again, look at that article for the low down, but know that these won’t be much help for protecting you while you sleep either. However, they are all going to keep you fairly switched on.
How Long Will Essential Oils Repel Mosquitoes For?
So here is the bad news. Not very long in the scheme of things. The problem is that if the chemicals were still encased in the plant's tissues, the Mint could continue to make them. You could have a plentiful supply. However, it made them evaporate into the air. After about three hours, they are gone. So you do need to replenish the supply regularly.
You could add some vetiver essential oil to the mix. It also has tremendous effects on insects but is such a heavy and dense oil that it can help to work to fix your blend to make it last a bit longer. Not much longer, though, sadly, in this case.
Safety of Using Peppermint Essential Oil To Repel Mosquitoes
Peppermint can be a bit of a rogue safety-wise, so let’s address each point.
First, do not use peppermint essential oil on children, please.
Menthol slows down respiration, and they would only really want to use peppermint essential oil on their backs, even when they reach the age of about six.
Next, as with any essential oil, it would not be safe to use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
Finally, its invigorating nature can cause cardiac fibrillation and is problematic to people suffering from G6PD deficiency.
DIY Insect Repellent
- 100ml Distilled Water
- 5 ml Alcohol (Vodka will work nicely)
- 3ml Peppermint Essential Oil (Mentha piperita)
- 1ml Lavender Essential Oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
- 10 drops Vetiver Essential Oil (Vetiveria zizanoides)
Safety: Not suitable for use on small children.
Does Peppermint essential oil repel mosquitoes…hell yeah! It is a powerful chemical assassin that affects their ability to breed, killing nymphs and repelling adults.
Safe and easy to use, although please do not use it on young children or when you are heading off to bed. Safer alternatives would be lavender, Vetiver, or citronella.