If there’s any one bug that can make most people shudder when it’s found crawling on their exposed skin, it’s a tick. And no wonder! These tiny creatures, who are technically arachnids, not insects, feed entirely on blood, like mini vampires. Added to that, their method of burrowing their head under your skin while they feed is cringeworthy.
I’m sure everyone remembers being cautioned by their parents, “Don’t pull a tick out! It will leave its head behind!” leading us all to anxiously try methods such as touching a freshly extinguished matchhead to a feeding tick’s body, or dabbing the little parasite with rubbing alcohol, hoping it will back out.
Wouldn’t you much rather find a way to keep ticks off yourself and your pets to begin with?
Even better, without applying chemical insecticides to your skin?
Today, we will talk about using neem oil for tick control and answer some of the most common questions about this all-natural insecticide.
Table of Contents
- Does Neem Oil Kill Ticks?
- Does Neem Oil Prevent Ticks?
- How to Use Neem Oil to Kill Ticks?
- How Often Should You Spray Neem Oil to Keep Your Yard Tick-Free?
- Is it Safe to Apply Neem Oil on My Pets for Tick Prevention?
- Is Neem Oil Safe to Apply on Humans?
- What are Some Alternative Ways to Get Rid of Ticks in the Garden?
Does Neem Oil Kill Ticks?
Neem oil is made from the neem tree’s pressed seeds, which are native to Southeast Asia and Africa. Its active ingredient, azadirachtin, works as an insecticide and repellent for over 170 types of bugs, including ticks.
Neem oil kills ticks in two ways. When spraying a prepared solution onto a tick-infested area, like tall grass, the oil coming into direct contact with a tick can potentially clog the parasite’s airways, suffocating it.
When neem oil is applied to a surface that a tick will bite, such as your skin, or your pet’s skin, the ingested azadirachtin goes to work on the tick’s biological system, disorienting it, and preventing it from completing life cycle activities, such as feeding, breeding, and laying eggs. Without the urge to feed, the tick will starve to death in a matter of days.
Does Neem Oil Prevent Ticks?
Neem oil has the added benefit of having a pungent, garlicky/sulfuric odor, which many pests try to avoid.
There is anecdotal evidence that suggests neem oil can be used as a tick repellent – either by creating a lotion to be applied to your skin, or as a spray on your clothing when preparing to enter an area where ticks may be present.
If you already have neem oil on hand to kill ticks and other bugs, you may want to try making a repellent from it.
There are more proven types of essential oil that can be used for the purpose of repelling ticks in your yard, listed below.
How to Use Neem Oil to Kill Ticks?
To eradicate a tick infestation in an area of your yard, consider first what other plants are present. Garden vegetables and flowering shrubs will need a slightly weaker solution than an area of grass.
For grass: To every gallon of lukewarm water, add 3 Tablespoons of neem oil, and 1 Tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Shake well and transfer to a garden sprayer. Using a back-and-forth motion, thoroughly spray the grass in the infested area.
For flowering shrubs and garden plants: Use the same method but change the formula to this: For every gallon of lukewarm water, add 3 teaspoons of neem oil, and a few squirts of liquid dish soap.
Neem oil is considered a safe, organic pesticide by the EPA, but you should always take the following precautions.
- Never spray neem oil when the sun is high, or the oil may cause foliage burn. The best time to spray is an hour before dark, as neem oil can suffocate bees that come into direct contact with the spray.
- Never spray neem oil near children or pets, as the inhaled spray may cause health issues for sensitive systems.
- Never spray neem oil near inhabited bodies of water, as neem oil is considered mildly toxic to fish and aquatic creatures.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid contact with neem oil.
- Always wear gloves and eye protection, and consider wearing a mask when spraying neem oil, especially on a breezy day.
How Often Should You Spray Neem Oil to Keep Your Yard Tick-Free?
You can apply neem oil spray every one to two weeks during summer.
Is it Safe to Apply Neem Oil on My Pets for Tick Prevention?
Neem oil is considered safe to be used on dogs if diluted properly. You should consult your veterinarian before using a neem oil product on your dog, as some dogs may have an allergic reaction to it or be on a medication that would interact with its properties.
- Dab method: To make a diluted “dab”, mix one part neem oil with ten parts carrier oil, such as olive or grapeseed oil. Dab on your dog in spots known to harbor ticks (head, neck, ears, tail) Watch your dog’s skin for signs of irritation. If there are none, you can apply the diluted dabs every three to four days.
- Shampoo: To eliminate ticks on your dog, you can add neem oil to regular pet shampoo but do not add neem oil to a shampoo that already contains flea/tick repellents. Use 1 teaspoon of neem oil added to 2 Tablespoons dog shampoo. Avoid applying on the face and be sure to keep your dog from licking the suds (use a cone collar if needed).
Never use neem oil on cats, as cats groom themselves constantly, and ingesting neem oil could be fatal.
Is Neem Oil Safe to Apply on Humans?
Neem oil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and even today, many health and beauty products contain neem oil. You can easily turn your regular hand lotion into a tick-repellent lotion or make a DIY spray for your clothing.
Lotion – Combine 1/2 teaspoon of neem oil with 1/2 cup of your favorite hand lotion. If using an unscented lotion, you can mask the scent of neem oil by adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
Spray – Combine 1/2 teaspoon of neem oil with 1/2 cup grapeseed oil and 4 Tablespoons hot water. Shake well before spraying your shoes, pant cuffs, shirt sleeves, and hats. (Be aware that the oil may stain clothing)
Always test your neem oil mixture on a small area of skin first to check for sensitivity or allergic reaction. Never use neem oil solutions on children or those with weakened systems.
What are Some Alternative Ways to Get Rid of Ticks in the Garden?
There are many other solutions for removing ticks in your yard and garden areas, some natural, and some chemical.
Below are a few essential oils that work much better as repellents than neem oil does, as ticks hate the scent of the following.
1. Peppermint essential oil – add 8 drops to 1 cup of water and spray the oil in areas where you want to repel ticks. Repeat when the scent fades.
2. Cedar oil – add 1 to 2 teaspoons cedar oil to 1 cup of water and spray the area thoroughly. Not only do ticks hate the smell, but cedar oil will also kill ticks by dehydrating them, and disrupting life cycle activities.
3. Lemon Eucalyptus – add 30 to 40 drops lemon eucalyptus oil to 1 cup of water to use as a spray. Ticks hate the scent and will avoid the area.
Although not an essential oil, homemade garlic spray can also repel ticks because of its strong odor. To make your own, soak 3 bulbs of finely minced garlic in 1 cup of water overnight. Strain and use in a spray bottle.
Diatomaceous earth is a great natural and effective method for tick control. Made from the crushed, fossilized remains of aquatic creatures, this powdery substance has minuscule sharp edges that abrade the exoskeletons of beetles and ticks, allowing the silica to come in contact with their soft, inner bodies, killing them via dehydration.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth at least 1” thick in a perimeter line around your yard or garden.
Landscaping – The following plants have such strong scents it’s been reported that they will deter ticks from hanging around.
Keep chickens – Although not everyone has the ability (or desire) to keep free-range chickens, it is a noteworthy solution, as they are voracious and enthusiastic tick-eaters. They’ll also control the invasions of many other bugs, including beetles, grasshoppers, termites, caterpillars, and slugs, to name just a few.
Pesticides – If all else fails, or you need immediate relief, you may choose to use pesticides that have proven effectiveness in tick eradication. Permethrin and Talstar have been used long and successfully in the pest control industry.
Michelle Weaver is a former pastry chef of thirty years who reinvented herself during the pandemic, now happily earning a living through freelance writing and selling her art. She and her significant other live in an 1895 farmhouse in North Carolina, where they have several acres, allowing her to garden to her heart’s content. When she’s not playing in the dirt, she enjoys hiking in the nearby mountains, creating new vegetarian recipes, and photographing the wildlife that comes to visit.