Bees play a huge role in your yard’s ecosystem, but let’s face it. Sometimes, our properties are better without them (especially wasps). So, instead of getting rid of them permanently, let’s try a more targeted approach using essential oils.
The use of essential oils to keep bees away has been a practice for decades. Peppermint, eucalyptus, citrus oils, etc. are effective in deterring bees. You can apply them directly on your skin, or dip pieces of cotton balls and place them in specific locations to keep bees away.
Instead of trying to get rid of bees, our goal here is to keep them out of specific locations in your property, forcing them to move to another area. Stick around to learn more about these essential oils, and a couple of other tips that can help you keep bees away!
I’ve Got Bees in My Property, What Next?
There are several reasons why bees are in your yard, but we can distill it down to only one: favorable conditions.
It’s not really a bad thing if you’re getting visits from honeybees. In fact, it means that your yard has a healthy ecosystem that bees see as a place where they can thrive.
However, if you’re dealing with ground-nesting bees, it means that your soil is favorable for them, which isn’t really good for a yard. Ground-nesting bees like to nest in areas with sandy, well-drained soil with minimal growing crops. So ground-nesting bees could be a cause for alarm because it means poor soil conditions.
We’re discussing this because if you’re dealing with ground-nesting bees, you don’t need to use essential oils. You don’t even have to do anything to force them to move other than to make your soil less favorable for them.
You can start by mulching your yard or increase its density with fertilizers. Regular watering of the surface and seeding can also be an effective way to encourage them to find a different nesting ground.
It’s a crucial differentiation that you need to make because using essential oils to keep ground-nesting bees away will do very little for your yard. It’ll deter them from foraging on your flowering plants, but they’ll keep nesting in your yard unless the soil’s condition changes.
On the other hand, honeybees stay in their hives, then forage on flowering plants that can help them thrive.
Now, a VERY important distinction
We’re referencing bees here, NOT wasps. So to make this simple, you can consider bees to be honeybees, carpenter bees and bumblebees. If you have a ground nest, this will generally be a lower activity nest than if you were to see wasps.
Regardless, you need to be sure that you’re dealing with bees and not wasps. The 3 species of bees mentioned above (honeybee, carpenter bee, and bumblebee) are relatively much less than their wasp counterparts and tend to only sting if they feel threatened.
However, carpenter bees can become a real problem if they nest inside the wood of your home’s foundation. It’s important to deal with them properly.
If you can’t tell if you have bees or wasps, or if you need a professional to come examine or remove them from your yard, contact our nationwide network of pest control professionals. Our partners will connect you to a local exterminator in your area in seconds for free.
Essential Oils That Can Humanely Keep Bees Away
Essential oils are can be a very effective deterrent if used properly. Using these for your yard is relative to the type of bees you’re dealing with, but it’s the best option to keep them away from you or your house.
You also need to consider the type of essential oil that you’re going to use and make sure it’s advisable/safe to use for both humans and insects. What you need are the ones that produce scents the bees will simply avoid, forcing them to move to a more favorable location where they can thrive.
Of course, if you do purchase one of the essential oils listed below, please follow their guidelines for proper use if you’re using it in a manner that isn’t directed by that company.
Lastly, you should follow the manufacturers guidelines for diluting the essential oils before applying in any manner.
If you’re looking for other natural ways to keep bees out of your yard, we wrote another article about keeping bees out of hummingbird feeders that you can find here. The tips are super transferrable.
Let’s get to it!
Peppermint is one of the many plants that bees will try to avoid, but it doesn’t work well in larger areas as the scent becomes too dispursed. If you want to keep specific parts of your yard, your house, or even yourself, free from bees, you can use peppermint essential oil.
Peppermint essential oil is one of the most common essential oils for daily use for people and better yet, bees dislike the smell.
To effectively use peppermint essential oil, dip pieces of cotton in the poil, then place it in areas you want bees to avoid. We recommend Majestic Pure peppermint oil as it’s all-natural and has no added chemicals.
We’ve all heard of citronella oil. It’s the main component in a lot of mosquito repellents, but it also works well in keeping bees away. It’s an extract from an Asian plant grass, Cymbopogon.
The only downside when using citronella oil to deter bees is that you may need to use it more frequently than other essential oils. Citronella oil tends not to stay on plant leaves for too long.
So, you can use citronella oil by diluting it and dipping it in cotton balls, or you can get an essential oil based bee repellent like Quantum Health Buzz Away Extreme – Essential Oil Bug Spray, which has citronella as one of the primary ingredients along with a host of other essential oils.
Even if you use this product, you still need to be more specific about the areas where you want to use citronella because the cost of using the pure oil itself using it frequently can quickly add up
Using cotton balls to deter bees is one way to make it last longer, but it’s better to use in smaller areas.
Geranium is an essential oil extracted from the leaves of Pelargonium graveolens or rose geranium. It’s a native plant in South Africa, but geranium oil is a popular bee repellant in many areas.
When using this essential oil as a bee deterrent for your yard, you don’t have to soak the leaves. It’s a potent substance, and you only need a cotton ball to apply a thin layer on the surface. Geranium lasts longer on leaves, so it’s easier to keep parts of your yard free from bees.
Majestic Pure geranium oil is what we recommend for deterring bees because it’s an all-natural blend that doesn’t have fillers or additives. You can dip a few cotton balls in oil until you feel there’s a strong scent and place it in an area where you’d like bees to avoid.
Additionally, you can use Sierra Bees Anti-Bug Balm, Cedarwood, Geranium & Rosemary Oil to apply on yourself. Please follow the manufacturers instructions when using!
Eugenol (clove oil)
It sounds like a harmful chemical, but we often refer to this essential oil as clove oil. Aside from bees, it’s an effective repellent against other insects in your house and yard.
If you’re using it for your plants, dilute the clove oil with water, then use a plastic spray bottle to apply it.
This substance will leave a subtle scent on your plants that deter bees while keeping it safe for them. We reccomend SUN’s Clove Essential Oil, as this all-natural oil comes in multiple cost-efficient sizes and gives you the option to purchase in bulk.
Eucalyptus releases a scent similar to peppermint – both have various usage and are effective deterrents for bees.
Eucalyptus plants can repel bees, but it doesn’t work as well on other plants if you’re not going to apply it directly.
There are dozens of essential oils that you can use for this combination. However, we prefer to use Cliganic eucalyptus, as it is USDA organic-certified products.
Cliganic’s top-tier manufacturing process makes it one of the more prominent eucalyptus oils on the market.
Rosemary is a natural-repellent plant that works well in keeping bees away. It’s scent is strong enough that you don’t need its essential oil to stop bees from entering your house.
Grow a Rosemary, then place it on your window, and scouting bees won’t even dare to enter. However, if you want to use it to cover larger areas, you may have to use several cotton balls, soaked in essential oil.
You can also apply it directly to the leaves to deter bees from visiting certain areas of your yard.
We recommend Handcraft Blend’s rosemary because of its popularity and inclusion of a dipper with the bottle.
Rosemary can even works well in deterring other harmful insects like hornets and wasps, but if you have these on your property it’s best to contact an exterminator ASAP.
There are two ways to use rosemary essential oil to keep bees away from certain parts of your yards: you can dilute it in water and spray it on the leaves (which can even help to deter aphids), or use cotton balls, dipped in oil, and leave it in places where you want to keep bees away.
Both methods will release a scent that is unappealing to bees and will stop them from swarming in your property.
Cedar lumbar is one of the primary materials for beekeeping, but its essential oil produces a woody scent that bees will try to avoid as it doesn’t resemble flowers.
Bees don’t like the scent of cedarwood, especially when you use it on the leaves. However, you need to use it more frequently to maintain its effectiveness as a deterrent.
Take a gander at PURA D’OR’s Cedarwood Essential Oil as it’s USDA organic-certified.
Orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, or any citrus essential oil will also work as a safe deterrent for bees. Any of these oils will release a potent scent that bees hate, but combining them will create a substance that forces bees to move to a more favorable location. Citrus is not for everyone, and it can change the ambiance of your yard, but you can dilute it in water to make it less intrusive.
If you’re going to use it for your yard, you may have to use it at least twice a week. Citrus oil doesn’t last long when you apply it directly on the surface of leaves. However, if you’re only going to use it in small areas or to keep bees away from your house, then it’s one of the best oils that you can use.
You may have to be a bit more creative when combining various citrus essential oils to produce a more appealing scent. If you don’t want to go through the trial and error of testing different scents, we recommend Citrus Bliss Blend. We’re not a fan of citrus scent, but we find it more relaxing than others. Plus, it’s one of the few citrus oils that offer a money-back guarantee if you don’t like their blend.
Of all the essential oils that we’ve shared with you, tea tree essential oil is, perhaps, the most subtle.
It doesn’t have an overpowering scent, but it’s still useful in discouraging bees from visiting specific areas.
It’s the best essential oil (along with cedarwood oil) that you can use if you prefer to have a woody scent in your yard.
However, you may have to spend a bit more for this deterrent, and it doesn’t last as long as other essential oils when applied on leaves. Good news is however, tea tree oil also doubles as a natural fungicide as well.
Take a look into Handcraft Blend’s Tea Tree Essential Oil, like all Handcraft Blend’s products, this one comes with a glass bottle and a dipper as well making application much easier.
Of course, like any essential oil you need to follow the manufactures guidelines for diluting and do your own added research as well.
If you’re unsure if you have bees or wasps, or if the problem seems like a tall task, contact our nationwide network of pest control professionals where our partners will connect you with a local exterminator in your area for free, in seconds.
Why Do You Need to Use Essential Oils?
Honestly, unless you have personal reasons, the short answer is that you don’t want bees to avoid your yard altogether.
They play a significant role, not only in your yard but also in our ecosystem. The more bees there are, the easier it’ll be for our ecosystem to thrive. But in reality, the opposite is happening, and it has been the same for quite some time.
For context, the National Institutes of Health reported that the bee population has been in a constant decline and had exceeded 30% since 2006.
That number has taken into account the reproduction rate and other factors that could affect the overall bee population.
It’s crucial to establish a baseline for our reason to use essential oils as a bee repellent instead of other methods that could contribute to their declining population.
Keeping them out of your yard could even be detrimental to all your efforts in maintaining its condition, and getting rid of them permanently has serious long-term implications.
It’s understandable if you want to keep them out of specific areas. Using essential oils will allow you to make some parts of your yard “off-limits” to bees while other parts are more appealing for them.
As you may have noticed, most of the essential oils that can keep the bees away only have limited coverage, allowing you to create invisible segments in your yard. Scouting bees may go near these “off-limit” areas, but they’ll never bring a swarm.
Now, when it comes to keeping the bees away from you, essential oils are a great natural way to repel bees. Remember, try to repel bees the best you can as they’re vital to the environment.
For wasps and hornets, do what you must.
What Not To Do When Trying to Keep Bees Away
After discussing the essential oils that you can use, and why it’s a better option than other methods to keep bees away, let’s talk about something we’re all afraid of – a bee sting.
Even if you use essential oils and other methods, bees aren’t naturally aggressive unless provoked. So, to help you avoid bee stings, here are some of the things that you must never do:
- Don’t spray insecticide on bees without proper wearable protection. Aside from the Colony Collapse Disorder, which is a phenomenon that experts believe started in the winter of 2006, using an insecticide has a more direct effect on you. When you spray a pesticide to a bee, it releases a defense pheromone that puts the other bees in a frenzy. So, instead of preventing bee stings, the use of insecticide is more of an invite for bees to attack you.
Don’t go and spray bees with half efforts if that’s the way you’re going to go.
- Never try to get rid of a hive without proper training. If you see a hive within your yard, don’t spray chemicals or pesticides into it – better yet, don’t touch it. It has the same effect as spraying a bee with an insecticide, and provoking the hive will aggravate them faster. It’s better to seek help from bee removal services to lure them away from your yard safely
- Never provoke or spook a bee swarm. A swarm is a clump of bees that looks like a black cloud swirling in the air. Generally swarms are more common in hornets, but it can when their defense pheromone is released.
For instance, my father got swarmed when he ran over a grounded hornets nest with his lawn mower. Luckily he got away, but not without taking in some stings in the process.
Whenever you see a a large active nest in your yard, never do anything that could provoke them. If it truly is a large nesting, call a professional exterminator to handle the issue.
- Never trap or isolate the bees unwillingly. There are scout bees, and they often wander around your yard alone. That’s one of their traits, and that’s fine. Using essential oils to direct them to other locations is also okay. What you should avoid is to trap or isolate them from the swarm, because it’ll make them more aggressive.
If you see a singular bee, just let it be. Get it? Unless it’s already aggravated, of course.
Other Ways to Keep the Bees Away
Aside from using essential oils to keep bees away, there are a few more effective and safe repellents that you can use. If you want to have a more effective way of deterring bees, you can incorporate these methods while using essential oils:
- Fresh cucumber peel on an aluminum pie dish can possibly create a chemical reaction that releases a naturally-repelling scent. You can use it to drive bees away from your yard, but if you’re only trying to keep them away from your house, you don’t have to use aluminum. Fresh cucumber peel, lined up along your windowsill, can perhaps be enough to deter bees.
- Distilled vinegar is an excellent repellent and could keep the bees away without using harsh chemicals. You can pour ample amounts of it on a bowl, then place it in areas where you don’t want bees to be hovering around. You can also use it when cleaning your bird feeder or other areas of your property.
- Cinnamon doesn’t only repel honeybees; it’s also an effective repellent for ground-nesting bees. If you want to keep certain parts of your yard free from bees, place an open container, filled with cinnamon, then leave it for a few days. For ground-nesting bees, you can sprinkle cinnamon or use cinnamon sticks around the area to force them to find another nesting ground.
- Garlic releases a pungent smell that bees can’t stand. You can use garlic bulbs or juice in your yard to keep them away. If you want to deter bees from entering your house, you can sprinkle garlic powder near the windows or other entry points.
- Cayenne pepper has a strong scent that can drive bees away. You don’t need a lot of it, but you may have to use it in more locations, especially if you’re going to use it for your yard. It’s also an effective deterrent for ground-nesting bees, but you have to sprinkle it directly into the burrows to force them to relocate.
- Bright colors attract bees, and although it’s not a deterrent, avoiding bright colors in your house, yard, or clothes can minimize the scouts you get from bees. Muted tones are a great way to make these visits less frequent and easier for you to keep under control.
The Different Types of Bees That May Be in Your Yard
While there are over 20,000 species of bees in your yard, three of the most common species of bees that could be in your yard are honeybees, carpenter bees, and bumblebees.
Honeybees are notorious for their honey production of course. They can be easily spotted with their fuzz laden mid section and black and yellow stripes (or is it yellow with black stripes?)
While domesticated for honey production, there are some other species of bees that can produce honey but for the majority of the time, the honey that you’re eating out of a jar is coming from a honey bee… fancy!
Next up, carpenter bees. While they have a deep yellow mid section, carpenter bees are often shiny in appearance with their almost total black exterior.
Out of the three species of common bees we mentioned above, carpenter bees often tunnel through wood, leaving to potential problems in your home’s foundation. If you have carpenter bees, you should investigate and contact a pest control professional ASAP for proper removal techniques.
Lastly, bumblebees. Ahh yes, the bumble bee. These are one of the most recognizable and easiest species of bees to spot.
Simply put, they look like a flying black and yellow fur-ball. The exterior body of a honey bee is almost completely covered in fur/hair, making them quite recognizable on site.
You’ll often find bumblebees building their nest underground compared to carpenter bees who nest in wood and honeybees, who live in nested colonies.
Wrapping Things Up
Using essential oils is the best methods to humanely keep bees away, but you can’t just use any oil that you find in the market. Here are the ones that we highly recommend:
Aside from using these products to help keep bees away, there are other natural and safe ways to deter bees from your property. However, you may have to be a bit creative in using them, because these methods aren’t as versatile as using essential oils.
Betti, M. I., Wahl, L. M., & Zamir, M. (2014). Effects of infection on honey bee population dynamics: a model. PloS one, 9(10), e110237.
Matos, W. B., Santos, A. C. C., Lima, A. P. S., Santana, E. D. R., Silva, J. E., Blank, A. F., … & Bacci, L. (2020). Potential source of ecofriendly insecticides: Essential oil induces avoidance and cause lower impairment on the activity of a stingless bee than organosynthetic insecticides, in laboratory. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 209, 111764.
Steffan-Dewenter, I., & Schiele, S. (2008). Do resources or natural enemies drive bee population dynamics in fragmented habitats. Ecology, 89(5), 1375-1387.
Goulson, D., Lye, G. C., & Darvill, B. (2008). Decline and conservation of bumble bees. Annu. Rev. Entomol., 53, 191-208.
Keasar, T. (2010). Large carpenter bees as agricultural pollinators. Psyche, 2010.
Imdorf, A., Bogdanov, S., Ochoa, R. I., & Calderone, N. W. (1999). Use of essential oils for the control of Varroa jacobsoni Oud. in honey bee colonies. Apidologie, 30(2-3), 209-228.
Lindberg, C. M., Melathopoulos, A. P., & Winston, M. L. (2000). Laboratory evaluation of miticides to control Varroa jacobsoni (Acari: Varroidae), a honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) parasite. Journal of economic entomology, 93(2), 189-198.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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