8 Scents that Termites Hate

Close up termites or white ants destroyed

Protect your assets! Termites cause billions of dollars in damage each year in the U.S. If you have any type of wood materials inside, on, or around the exterior of your home, pay attention because this can be a very expensive problem to have! Termite infestations are messy, smell bad, and cause irreversible damage to structures.

Termites are repelled by the essential oils found in plants like rosemary, dill, tea tree, garlic, clove, and the mint family. These scents can be used as repellents, and planted in strategic locations around your home to help deter termites from your property.

If your home is surrounded by trees, wood mulch, built from wood, has exterior wood siding, or you have stacks of firewood sitting near your home, let’s get down and dirty about how to prevent termites from taking up residency!

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Do Even Scents Work To Repel Termites?

Termites live in colonies and they consume the cellulose in wood at an alarming rate. It is a lot easier taking preventative measures, than dealing with a large, messy colony of termites that have taken up residence in your items and home. Responsible homeowners can take preventative actions to stop infestations from occurring.  

To best deter these wood munching pests from residing in and around your home, the American Wood Protection Association published a study “Fumigant Toxicity of Essential Oils to Reticulitermes flavipes” that described the effectiveness of using the essential oils as a fumigant. This study proves how these potent essential oils are in protecting your most valued wood products, even in a very diluted form. If used undiluted, the toxicity of dill weed, lemongrass, tea tree, rosemary, or geranium (Egyptian) essential oils caused up to 100% mortality of this naturally occurring insect species, so use with caution! 

Another study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry revealed that garlic and clove essential oils were the most effective at targeting termites, along with some others, listed above. 

Now, before we get into it, please know that termites are quite serious and that while scents can help confuse their senses, its not full-proof as there’s SO many variables (potency, placement, weather, species, etc.) If you actively have a termite infestation, I highly recommend speaking with a professional if you have termites on your property. You can also read our guide on how termites spread here.

Next, we’re going to review each of the scents discussed in the study and give some detail where they come from.

1. Termites Hate Dill Weed

Umbrella of green fragrant dill in the garden

Dill is most commonly grown as an herb and is known for its flavoring in dill pickles and dilly beans. To use this method as a termite deterrent, consider growing some dill near some old wood piles, or even in your garden.

If you’re a huge dill fan, here is a great reason to purchase some essential oil of dill and use it as a termite treatment around your home!

2. Lemongrass’ Strong Scent Repels Termites

Lemongrass leaf with drop of meadow in morning

For some, lemongrass is the smell of heaven or a flavorful meal! For others, it is the smell that evokes disgust and repulsion… especially if you’re a termite. This flavorful herb is easy to grow and looks like a bright tuft of ornamental grass.

If you’re in the camp of loving the lemongrass scent, perhaps this is the right plant to grow or essential oil to purchase because of its extreme effectiveness in keeping termites away!

3. Termites Hate Tea-Tree Oil

Tea tree, or melaleuca species, is a tree that grows in Australia. It’s known for its fragrant leaves, bark, and amazing insect repellent, and therapeutic properties.

Since you’re likely to apply these essential oils to damp wood that you don’t want to be rotting, tea tree is a great choice to use, since it also has anti-fungal properties.

4. Termites Are Disgusted By Rosemary

Now here is a scent I would love to have wafted in (or out!) of my kitchen window! Rosemary is a kitchen herb used often in savory dishes. It is also on the shortlist of scents that termites hate! As a bonus, rosemary also attracts beneficial insects to your garden!

Rosemary is in the mint family. All plants in the mint family will have the tell-tale sign of a square stem and are often be very fragrant when the leaves are crushed.  

This savory herb can be used as a scented barrier along with your home, or also as an essential oil form. Rosemary is easy to grow, and will provide many scented sprigs you could also place around the foundation of your home!

5. Termites Hate Egyptian Geranium

Egyptian Star Cluster flowers or Pentas Lanceolata

As any preschool teacher can attest due to youngsters commonly spreading head lice, the essential oil of geranium is known for its gentle but effective insecticidal qualities. What’s great about this oil is its gentleness on the skin and its calming aroma that is said to also reduce anxiety.

That sounds like a nice spray to use around the property, doesn’t it? After searching for bulk bottles, I was only able to find this 4 ounces Egyptian Geranium product.

Since the study conducted was so specific on the species of Egyptian Geranium, it’s unclear if any geranium plant would have similar results. There are so many lovely geranium flowers to grow, it sounds like a worthwhile experiment!

6. Garlic Is A Powerful Repellent In The Garden against Termites

Using garlic in its plant form, or as an essential oil is a great choice, as it is known for its effectiveness in fighting termite infestations.  

Since garlic is best planted in the fall, you could get creative and plant it alongside your spring-blooming bulbs, since the growing requirements are pretty much the same. There is no shame in having edible landscaping, especially when you know you’re also setting up a scented barrier to protect one of your greatest investments!

One great thing about using a very strong-smelling essential oil like garlic is it will be easy to know when you need to reapply it again! Even after the ‘fumes’ of the essential oils have dispersed, there’s a strong probability that the scent of the garlic will remain on the wood it’s been applied to.

7. The Scent Of Cloves Will Drive Away Termites

Clove tree with blooming flowers and fresh green and red raw sticks growing in Bali mountains. Tropical plants, natural food spices, producing aromatic ingredients and oil in Indonesian plantations.

Clove bud was one of the most promising essential oils that showed the most potent anti-termite activity among the plant essential oils tested. This is a very strong essential oil that has very powerful fumigant properties when applied in its essential oil form.

Another method one could try is sprinkling clove buds in or around the wood that is needing protection. The spicy aroma will surely make you smile knowing that it’s your secret weapon to peace of mind, and smells of pumpkin pie!

How To Apply These Scents To Repel And Termites

  • Use plants or essential oils: We have listed 7 scents so far found in plants. If you have an interest in growing the plants mentioned above as a natural repellent for termites, this could be a very enjoyable experience for you and more cost-effective and is where the last scent can be found.
  • Shop smart for essential oils: Essential oils can be very expensive, especially if you’re purchasing Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade oils or organic essential oils. Studies have shown that for termite control, it doesn’t make a difference if you use synthetic essential oils created in a lab, or if you use very high-grade essential oils.  
  • Understanding why essential oils work: Essential oils are naturally volatile, meaning that they are unstable in their liquid form. When the liquid form is no longer contained in a bottle, the oil will immediately begin transforming from a liquid to a gas, hence the word meaning of ‘volatile.’ This is why they are considered as a ‘fumigant’ while treating termites.
  • What the science says: In the study “Fumigant Toxicity of Essential Oils to Reticulitermes flavipes” scientists applied essential oils at a dilution rate of 1:50, and a mortality rate of 95%-100% occurred in the termites exposed to this naturally volatile solution.  

    The big takeaway here is that even with these essential oils diluted down to a 2% solution, its toxicity is incredibly effective for getting rid of termites from your wood products and your home. Just be weary about spraying too close to areas you frequent depending on the specific spray.
  • How to make a solution to spray: For making an essential oil spray solution, it’s recommended that you use a spray applicator with a wand. Since you’ll likely be spraying along the base of your home, deck, firewood, etc, it will be useful to have something not very heavy to carry around that also has a spray wand.
  • The proper mix: We learned that only a 2% solution of essential oil is a powerful combination, which may be too strong if you are only using this as a preventative measure. For a more tolerable solution, try a 1% or less solution by adding 1.5 tablespoons of essential oil for a 1% concentration.

Here Are A Few Extra Tips To Ensure Your Success!

Whenever handling pure essential oils, it is always important to read safety guidelines. While spraying any solution, safety goggles, rubber gloves, and a protective mask is best practice. If you’ve ever experienced peppermint oil in the eyes, trust me, you’ll never want to do that again!

Remember that oil and water don’t naturally mix. It is very important to shake your solution very well before application, and even during the application process!

Be sure to spray all the wood near your home and buildings that are already moist! Remember, this moist wood is where termites are most likely to tunnel into first. This is also where any pheromones may have been left by other termites signaling away into a nest. 

Other Ways To Repel Termites From Your Home

If you’re worried about termites, it probably means you have a forest nearby. Maybe your home is in a forest, maybe it’s on the edge of a forest, or maybe you or your neighbors collect a lot of firewood for wood-burning stoves.  

In any of these situations, you will probably have termites living near your home, and therefore should be thinking of some solid Integrated Pest Management solutions; or in other words, how can we use nature to help manage nature?!

Attract Natural Predators of Termites 

Natural predators of termites include ants, birds, fish, lizards, and toads.  Other natural predators may include ladybugs, praying mantises, centipedes and spiders. 

Keep in mind that these predators use termites as a food source during different phases of a termite’s incomplete metamorphosis life cycle. 

For example, a fish or toad is more likely to eat termites during their ‘swarm’ phase, as winged adults, as they leave the nest and fall into puddles or ponds of water. A bird such as a woodpecker is more likely to drill into wood to find adults and nymphs while burrowed into the wood.

Grow Plants That Repel Termites And Attract Their Predators!

A great way to deter termites is to grow plants that attract their predators. Termites like moist areas with damp wood the best, so consider where these habitats might be. This is where you might want to add some beneficial plants that will attract the right predators.  

Do you use wood mulch around your home in landscaping? Where are those downspouts from the roof draining to? Are they clean from debris and pouring rainwater away from your home? Do you have leaky irrigation spots? 

If you answered yes to any of those questions, consider integrating some new plants into your landscaping that may attract beneficial insects and deter termites.  

There are some well-known and common scented plants that are surprisingly effective against deterring termites from entering your home from around the base of your wood structures. This is where you need to be most defensive for your home’s structural integrity; as in, keeping those wood-eating termites away. 

Consider planting some mint around a firewood building to naturally repel termites away, while also attracting their predators! 

Plants In The Mint Family Repel Termites And Attracts Beneficial Insects!

Close up of beautiful fresh mint growing in the garden

An excellent choice to attract beneficial insects to your home landscaping is kitchen herbs, such as Oregano, thyme, lavender, basil, cilantro, mint, and others. These scented, useful flowering plants will be your new best friends as they add flavor to your meals, and peace of mind that nature’s balance is being restored outdoors.  

Other examples of plants in the mint family are catnip, sage, lemon balm, bugleweed, bee balm, and so many more!   As an added benefit, these plants are often very easy to grow and can be started from seed as an economical option!  

Many people will grow plants from the mint family from Home Grown Seed Vault Packs in pots due to their sprawling growth habit that can spread over an area quickly.  

Other helpful plants to attract beneficial insects to your garden are daisies, sunflowers, bee balm, and geraniums. Isn’t it wonderful to plant beautiful and functional plants near your home?

For more basic termite prevention, keep in mind that there are lots of resources out there to help you identify and prevent termites on your property. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests never storing firewood or wood debris next to the house, and not planting your plants too close to any wood structure. I’d say that goes for our beloved mint family as well!

That’s A Wrap! 

Now that we understand how to use the power of nature to battle nature, are you ready to make your plan of attack? Consider what your current problem might be. Are you planning for prevention or have you determined that you have an infestation? Remember, the use of even diluted essential oils can be deadly to termites, so it’s worth thinking through the plan of attack thoroughly.  

If you believe you already have a severe infestation, you may want to consider hiring a professional to help manage the problem. If you’re in the prevention phase or believe your termite infestation might be in the early stages of development, there is still time to consider how to employ the scented plant power strategies listed in this article.

Good luck!

References:

Park, I. K., & Shin, S. C. (2005). Fumigant activity of plant essential oils and components from garlic (Allium sativum) and clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllata) oils against the Japanese termite (Reticulitermes speratus Kolbe). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry53(11), 4388-4392.

Clausen, C. A., & Yang, V. W. (2008). Fumigant toxicity of essential oils to Reticulitermes flavipes. In Proceedings, 104th annual meeting of the American Wood Protection Association… Portland, Oregon, May 18-20 2008: volume 104. Birmingham, Ala.: American Wood Protection Association, c2008: pages 49-54..

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