infrequently asked questions

“Buzz Away” is not bee repellant

A reader in Texas wrote to say that she used a product called “Buzz Away Insect Repellant” to deter mosquitoes while she was working on her patio. She had enclosed the patio in plastic for the winter and decided to spray both inside the plastic and around the door to keep the mosquitoes from coming in. Within minutes she discovered bees making their way through the door into the patio. Ultimately, she had to use smoke to get rid of them. She asked if I had ever heard of insect repellant that attracted bees.

I looked up the product on the Internet and found it is made from the pure essential oils of cedarwood, citronella, peppermint, eucalyptus and lemongrass. Whoa! Lemongrass? Peppermint?

Now, to be fair, the fine print says it’s used to deter mosquitoes, gnats, blackflies, and no-see-ums, but in big black letters it says, “Insect Repellant.” Last I checked, bees were most definitely insects.

I know for a fact that honey bees are attracted to both lemongrass and peppermint oils. I know they are attracted to eucalyptus trees for nectar and pollen, and cedar trees for pollen–although I don’t know if the oils of these trees are attractive or not. Unfortunately, I am pretty much clueless about citronella from a bee’s perspective.

I don’t have a bottle of the stuff so I don’t know if the label contains any caveats about bees, but it seems to me that the label should specifically say that while it may deter mosquitoes it appears to be quite inviting to bees. Not only is the name confusing  (“Buzz Away” sounds like bees to me) but the description “insect repellant” is confusing as well.

I think it is great that many folks are finally using repellants instead of pesticides. But to encourage their use, the label should be crystal clear about what is repelled and what is attracted. The word “insect” is way too general–and mosquitoes aren’t the only bugs that buzz.


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  • Hello,

    My shed is about 4″ off the ground. A hive [colony] has taken residence under the front door. I need to get rid of them.

    I have been using my essential oils diffuser to try and get rid of them. First I put it several feet from the door. Evening after evening, or early morning before they’re active, I turn it on with enough water and oil to run 24 hours. At this point, I have it 9″ off the ground, one foot from the shed, pointed right at their entrance. I know the oils I’m using can kill them as it can kill wasps and I have found a few dead around the diffuser. But my method just doesn’t seem to be doing the trick.

    I’m using high quality essential oils. I have “tried” – peppermint, lemon, citronella, eucalyptus, oregano. Meaning I’ve cycled through different ones. Peppermint being my staple.

    I don’t want to kill them. I’m trying to convince them to leave.

    Any suggestions?

    A phone call would be good if you’d like. Please send me an email and I’ll send my number.

    • John,

      I don’t have an answer for you, but I can tell you that I’ve used peppermint, lemon, and oregano to attract swarms of bees into a bait hive, and I’ve used them in bee feed as a feeding stimulant. I’m sure they are enjoying your diffuser no end.

      You may have to have a beekeeper do a trap out. You would need to enclose the opening to the underside of the shed and then supply a one-way exit and a hive for them to accumulate in.