How Does Cedarwood Oil Kill & Repel Bugs?

Also known as cedar oil, cedarwood oil is a safe, natural, and effective pesticide and repellent. It’s non-toxic for people and pets, eco-friendly, and does not deter beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. But how does it work? How does cedarwood oil kill and repel bugs? Here’s your answer.


Lacking lungs, bugs breathe through a series of tube-like openings in their exoskeletons called tracheae. Because it’s naturally poisonous to them, when bugs are exposed to cedarwood oil they close these openings for protection, effectively suffocating themselves.

It Affects their Body Chemistry and Pheromones

All organisms require a very specific chemical balance to stay alive. Unfortunately for bugs, cedarwood oil substantially alters their unique chemistry, unbalancing their bodies’ pH levels, ultimately causing death.

Insects and other bugs also depend on chemicals called pheromones to breed, navigate, and find resources. Cedarwood oil hinders bugs’ ability to use and detect pheromones, disorienting them and disrupting their bodily functions, which often both repels and kills them.


Like many small living things, insects, arachnids and other bugs are very vulnerable to dehydration. Even a slight dip in their moisture levels can be lethal. Cedarwood oil is remarkably effective at robbing bugs of their moisture, which kills them almost immediately.

Dissolves & Emulsifies

When bugs are in an early stage of their life cycle (eggs, pupae, larvae) they are extremely delicate, and direct contact with cedarwood oil is enough to dissolve them. Cedarwood oil is not usually sufficient to dissolve larger adult bugs, however, but it can dissolve their exoskeleton. And once their shell is penetrated, the cedarwood oil will impact their body chemistry, breathing, and moisture content to an extent that a quick death soon follows.

Emulsification, or the breaking down of unmixable fluids until they actually begin to mix, is another common way that cedarwood oil helps you get rid of bugs. Cedarwood oil breaks down bugs’ fat particles until they mix with the rest of their internal fluids, killing them instantly.

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