9 Scents That Ladybugs Hate (And How To Use Them)


ladybug on green grass. Nature background bug on green grass

Seeing a ladybug outside may put a small smile on your face. They’re supposed to be good luck after all! But when you find one in your home, and then another one, and then a bunch more, it’s not such a happy sight. The good news is you can repel them naturally using scents and smells they dislike.

Ladybugs have a strong sense of smell that they use to find mates, food, and overwintering spots. You can use scents they dislike to repel them from your home and garden. Scents like citronella, citrus, cloves, mums, bay leaves, peppermint, camphor, catnip, and lavender keep ladybugs from your home.

Read on to discover the 9 scents that ladybugs hate, and how to use them around your house to keep those pesky ladybugs out for good!

Why Repel Ladybugs?

Ladybugs, ladybirds, lady beetles…what’s the difference? These are actually all the same insects, referring to the large class of beetles known as Coccinellidae

Contrary to what many people think, not all ladybugs are the same. There are TONS of species of ladybugs, about 5,000 in the world, 500 of which reside in the United States.

These little insects are well-known for their orange- or red-colored bodies and cute little spots. But really, ladybugs come in all different colors and sizes, and not all have spots.

Gardeners know and love these beetles because their main source of food is aphids – a gardener’s mortal enemy.

So, what’s so bad about ladybugs? Why do we need to repel them?

Ladybugs Swarm

Like many animals and insects, ladybugs slow down in the winter and seek shelter from the cold. Unfortunately, they do this in a swarming fashion to help stay warm. 

When a ladybug finds a warm and cozy spot, i.e. your home, they’ll signal to other ladybugs using a pheromone signal according to Michigan State University. This attracts other ladybugs to the area, creating a swarm.

Reflex Bleeding Can Stain Walls And Fabric

Bear with me, this one is a little gross! When ladybugs get scared, they actually release a little blood from their joints. This foul-smelling liquid is yellowish and can stain light-colored walls and fabric.

This is thought to be a defense mechanism for ladybugs because the liquid smells bad, hopefully encouraging a potential predator to choose different prey. It’s the same concept as a stinkbug.

Ladybugs Keep Appearing in Your Home

Some Ladybug Species Are Pests

Most of the time, ladybugs are great to have in the garden. But some species can be problematic.

The Mexican bean beetle, a relative of the ladybug, and the squash beetle both feed on garden plants and are considered pests of the garden. Soybeans, squash, and pumpkins can be affected by these pests, among other crops.

Keep Ladybugs In Your Garden

Unless you are plagued with Mexican bean beetles or squash beetles, you should really let your ladybugs flourish in your garden. Why?

  • Ladybugs are predators, not herbivores – they won’t eat your plants or vegetables (except 2 species).
  • Pest control – ladybugs eat aphids, which can destroy garden plants. In fact, a single ladybug can eat as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime!

In fact, people often introduce ladybugs into their garden as a method of dealing with spider mites and aphids!

Using Scents To Repel Ladybugs

Whether you’re having problems with ladybugs in your home or you’re dealing with those pesky herbivorous species in your garden, we’ll walk you through how to repel them using natural scents.

Red ladybug on a green leaf in the garden

Citronella Repels Ladybugs

Sure, you’ve heard citronella candles repel mosquitos and flies, but what about ladybugs? Rest assured, citronella repels ladybugs, too!

Citronella works by masking the smell of other potential foods. For ladybugs, this means aphids. The powerful smell of citronella will overwhelm a ladybug’s sense of smell, making it leave the area in search of other food sources.

If you want to repel ladybugs from your garden, you can use citronella sprays such as Mosquito Guard Natural Repellent Spray. This product is made with citronella and geraniol oils, both of which are used in citronella candles and oil products.

It is made with natural oils and should be safe for your plants. However, it’s always good to spray a little on your plants and monitor the response before applying. Always apply to the stalks and leaves of the plant and never on edible vegetables or fruits.

For your porch, try using citronella candles like Murphy’s Naturals Mosquito Repellent Candle. Don’t let the name fool you, this product will also work against ladybugs and pretty much any flying insect!

For inside the home, you may need to get a little creative. Once ladybugs have established an overwintering spot in your home, it can be incredibly difficult to get them out. 

Prevention is the key!

Using citronella on your porch is a good deterrent to keep ladybugs away from your house. However, ladybugs are small and will look for any openings they can find to get inside.

Try using a citronella oil spray by combining 10-15 drops of citronella essential oil with 1 cup of water. Place it in a spray bottle and spray around your windows, door frames, vent openings, cracks, holes, or any other opening that may lead inside. 

When ladybugs make their way inside, they look for dark, cool environments. It’s a good preventative measure to spray corners and damp places like this with citronella as well.

Ladybugs Hate Citrus

Some pests are attracted to fruit – looking at you, fruit flies – but others are repelled by it. Ladybugs are one of those insects that are repelled by citrus-y fruits and scents.

The repellent effect of citrus lies in the chemical limonene, which is what gives the fruit its zesty flavor and smell. 

Limonene can repel ladybugs by overstimulating their sense of smell, disorienting them, and making it hard to find their food source. When a ladybug smells it, they’re likely to buzz off.

You can use actual orange, lemon, or other citrus fruit peels to repel ladybugs from your garden. Use a cheese grater and create some zest from the rinds of your fruit. Spread these around your garden to create a scent barrier that will repel ladybugs.

If you need to repel them from your home, the best time to do it is early fall. You can use something like Green Gobbler All Natural Orange Oil Concentrate and treat the areas around cracks, windows, door frames, and other openings.

This product is a good choice because it can be used on a multitude of surfaces without you having to worry about harsh chemicals. You do have to mix it before use, but the concentrate will make up to 20 bottles of spray.

Use Cloves To Repel Ladybugs

Macro Photo Of A Ladybug On A Leaf

Cloves contain an ingredient called eugenol that is known to repel tons of creepy crawlers. This scent works similarly to citrus, overstimulating the olfactory system of a ladybug.

It’s hard to find a pre-made product with only clove oil, but it’s simple to make your own spray! Use the essential oil such as Ethereal Nature 100% Pure Oil, Clove, and add 10-15 drops of it into a cup of water.

Place this mixture into a spray bottle and you’re ready to go! Clove oil will also repel several other pest insects, which can be an added bonus if you’re dealing with multiple bug problems. (although, ladybugs aren’t technically bugs but rather beetles).

Ladybugs Can’t Stand Mums

When fall rolls around and the gorgeous blooms from summer fade away, mums come out in force as a last grasp on life before winter sets in.

They’re beautiful in color and perfect for keeping those pesky ladybugs away from your home and garden. The only downside is that mums bloom in the fall, so you won’t get much protection from them in the winter, spring, and summer months.

With that being said, fall is the prime time for ladybugs to begin moving inside your home. It’s as if it was meant to be! 

To repel ladybugs with mums, simply plant em’ and reap the benefits! The fragrant scent the mums produce seems to be particularly distasteful to ladybugs, who will shy away from them.

Bay Leaves Repel Ladybugs

Bay leaves have been used in the culinary industry for years as a garnish and flavoring…but do they really repel ladybugs?

Yep! Remember our good old pal eugenol that is found in clove oil? Well, this useful chemical is also found in bay leaves, along with linalool, another favorite insect-repelling chemical.

You might have bay leaves in your pantry right now, but if you don’t you can always find them at your local grocery store in the spice aisle, or purchase them online like the Happy Belly Bay Leaves.

Crush those leaves up and sprinkle them around your garden to keep ladybugs out. For your home, you can use the same techniques and sprinkle the crushed leaves around your attic, in the basement, near the windows… anywhere that’s slightly moist, dark, and cool.

If you’re not big on having little crumbly leaves around the house, you can crush them and place them in cheesecloth bags for easy cleanup. Either way, just be sure to reapply the scent often to continue deterring those beetles year-round!

Ladybugs Hate Peppermint, Camphor, And Catnip

Mint plants tend to have a refreshing smell to we humans. But to a ladybug, the scent is WAY too strong and messes with their sense of smell.

Anything that belongs to the mint family – peppermint, camphor, and catnip – will drive a ladybug crazy and make it buzz off to someone else’s house.

The nice thing about the mint family is that there’s such a variety of choices. All three of the above-mentioned scents come in an essential oil form which you can dilute in water to make a spray.

Alternatively, you can plant peppermint and catnip around your garden and home to repel ladybugs. Catnip, as any cat owner knows, can be bought in its dried form from any pet store. You can sprinkle this in a similar fashion as bay leaves. Target areas that are cool and damp in the house.

Camphor is a bit trickier because most products made with it nowadays are synthetic, so you can’t really plant it as a repellent. But the oil should do the trick!

Again, you’ll need quantity here if you’re going to use the plants instead of the oil concentrate itself.

Use Lavender to Repel Ladybugs

Lavender has gained a lot of popularity for its calming effect and sweet-smelling fragrance. It’s used to improve sleep, reduce stress, and relieve aches and pains.

This miracle plant is loathed by ladybugs. They can’t stand it! Lavender has a pretty strong smell, and it’s this intense scent that makes ladybugs scram. 

Lavender comes in many forms – essential oils, the plant itself, even dryer sheets are scented with it!

An easy way to use lavender to repel ladybugs is to use sachets. These are small bags filled with dried lavender flowers. It reduces the mess of simply sprinkling the dried leaves, but still has a potent scent that will drive ladybugs away.

Something like French Lavender Sachets will do the trick just fine. You can place these sachets around your home (think attics, small spaces, damp areas, basements, etc.). You can also spread these sachets around your garden to repel any nuisance ladybugs there.

If you’re worried about them blowing away, you can staple them to small stakes or hold them down with rocks to keep them in place.

If you’re placing these in your home and you have pets, be sure to place them out of reach of your kitties and dogs. You’ll need to replace the sachets once the scent runs out. 

What Are Ladybugs Attracted To?

If you’re seeing an abundance of ladybugs, there may be a reason for it. Something about your yard or home might be attracting those spotted beetles, and knowing what it is can help you keep them away from your home and garden.

Ladybug on green grass and blue background

Certain Plants Attract Ladybugs

Just like minty plants repel ladybugs, certain plants actually attract them. If you have some of these in your yard, it may be why you see so many ladybugs in your home in the winter.

  • Dill
  • Alfalfa
  • Parsley
  • White Clover
  • Sunflowers
  • Garlic
  • Cilantro
  • Marigold
  • Chives

Why Are Ladybugs In My House?

The main reason ladybugs are attracted to your home is because it provides a warm, cozy spot to spend the cold winter months.

If you have any openings in your home such as vents, ductwork, electrical wiring, torn screens, or drains, ladybugs may be using them as a highway system to enter your home.

Be sure to seal up any cracks or holes in your house and repair broken window screens. Also, check your houseplants before bringing them inside for the winter…there may be an unwanted hitchhiker!

What To Do With A Ladybug Invasion

As we mentioned before, ladybugs can swarm in the winter months. They’re used to huddling under tree bark or rocks to stay warm in the winter. To survive, they need large numbers to generate the most heat possible.

If ladybugs have already found their way into your home, it’s too late to use repellents except to avoid further infestations.

In some cases you’ll be able to go ahead and put ladybugs outside.

So, if you find yourself with a TON of ladybugs in the house, what can you do? You’ve got a few options:

  • Fire up the vacuum cleaner: using a vacuum cleaner is an efficient way to get rid of ladybugs. However, just be sure to understand that the ladybugs will not be able to survive the vacuum cleaner, and the few that do will not survive once you place them outside.
  • Do nothing: This is the suggested route to go. It may not be your favorite option, but here are a few things to know about ladybugs in your home during the winter:
    • They don’t reproduce/lay eggs in your home
    • They don’t eat your clothing and rely on fat stores to survive the winter
    • They are harmless to you and your pet (minus an accidental nibble if they’re frightened)
    • Any that survive will leave on their own in the springtime

Get professional help: This is always a safe route to go. If you’re unsure what to do or how to handle an invasion, ask a professional.

That’s All For Now!

Ladybugs are, for the most part, beneficial beetles that eat the peskier bugs out there like aphids. However, that doesn’t mean we want them invading our homes in the fall.

To repel them from your home before they invade, you can use scents and smells they dislike. To recap, here are the 9 scents that ladybugs hate:

  • Citronella
  • Citrus
  • Cloves
  • Mums
  • Bay Leaves
  • Peppermint
  • Camphor
  • Catnip
  • Lavender

Now you have all the knowledge you need to repel those ladybugs from your home and garden! Remember, as with any scent deterrent, you’ll want to reapply often. And if you find yourself overwhelmed with those spotted beetles, be sure to consult a professional!

References

Li, J., Hu, H., Jing Mao, Yu, L., Stoopen, G., Wang, M., Mumm, R., Ruijter, N., Dicke, M., Jongsma, M. A., & Wang, C. (2019, August). Defense of pyrethrum flowers: repelling herbivores and recruiting carnivores by producing aphid alarm pheromone. New Phytologist, 223(3), 1607-1620. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6772172/

Majerus, M. E.N. (2009). Ladybugs. In Encyclopedia of Insects (Second Edition ed., pp. 547-551). Academic Press. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123741448001569

Tomlin, P. (2017). The Effect of Environmental Choices on Ladybug Behavior. South Carolina Junior Academy of Science, 266. https://scholarexchange.furman.edu/scjas/2017/all/266/

Walliser, J. (2013). Attracting beneficial bugs to your garden: a natural approach to pest control. Timber Press. https://books.google.com/books?id=nFknAgAAQBAJ&dq=scents+to+deter+ladybugs&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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