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How to Make Bug Spray
By Jill York - June 13, 2014

How to Make Bug Spray

Legend has it that during the Black Death plague of the 1300's, there were 4 thieves arrested for stealing from the homes of those who had died as a victim of the plague.  These thieves seemed to have some secret that kept them from contracting this terrible illness.  As the story goes, one of the thieves was an herbalist who put together an herbal vinegar that protected them from contracting the plague.  As others discovered the secret, they reported success as well.

There are several different recipes recorded, but all the recipes have similar herbs that contain the same type of medicinal properties.  Hopefully we will never need the recipes for a plague, but they are successfully used in our day as a natural insect repellent.

The Vinegar of The Four Thieves recipe at the Bulk Herb Store:

  • Rosemary - antiseptic properties, helps repel bugs and rodents
  • Sage - antibacterial
  • Lavender - high in volatile oils, making it excellent for an insect repellent
  • Peppermint - also high in volatile oils
  • Wormwood - antiseptic
  1. Combine 2 tablespoons of each herb {rosemary, sage, lavender, peppermint, and wormwood} into a jar.
  2. Pour 2 quarts of raw apple cider vinegar over the herbs.
  3. Cover with a lid and let sit in a dark cool place for 2 weeks, shaking daily.
  4. After 2 weeks, strain herbs from vinegar.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped garlic to the vinegar mixture, cover and let sit for 3 days.
  6. After 3 days, strain the chopped garlic out.
You now have a natural insect repellent concentrate! To use this as an insect repellent, pour the vinegar mixture into a spray bottle halfway, and fill it up the rest of the way with water.  Spray on clothes and skin to discourage insects, ticks, and other critters!

You can buy these herbs separately, or purchase the convenient mix from the Bulk Herb Store HERE!

While there are different versions to the four thieves story, one thing seems to be certain: the recipes that follow the story are effective as a natural insect repellent and disinfectant.

What do you use as a natural insect repellent?


  1. Melanie
    We are loving our four thieves vinegar! It works for bugs and as a hand sanitizer
  2. Kim
    Hi! This summer, as in many summers past, I'm heading to a Christian summer camp. I ALWAYS get eaten alive at the camp by mosquitoes, flies, spiders, etc, etc. The store-bought nasty stuff never seems to work, and I hate how it makes my skin feel. I'm really considering trying this mix, but I'm concerned about the smell. Will I walk around smelling like vinegary herbs? Or, does the vinegar smell lessen once this dries?

    Also, how well does this work when compared to the synthetic bug repellents ones buys in stores? I'd love to hear!

    1. Jill York
      Hi, Kim! I think it works very well! It does smell like vinegary herbs when it's sprayed and for a while after, but the smell does fade.
    2. Meagan
      Honestly Kim, I'm not sure how I'd compare it to commercial bug repellents as I haven't used them in so long. If you're worried about the vinegar smell perhaps making a different one would be best. I have a post here for a bug repelling oil which would last longer than a spray, but you can't put it on your clothes. We will be covering this topic, but it will be later in the summer... like in August. Sorry we couldn't be of more help, but you can find a good bit of natural bug repellants by searching Google.