Does Cedar Wood Repel Bugs? + Fleas, Mosquitoes, and More!

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Cedar wood is sought-after by many woodworkers because of its beauty, but is it strong enough to withstand insect attacks? While buying any lumber can be tempting, you wouldn’t want to end up with materials prone to infestations. 

So, does cedar wood repel bugs? Allow me to shed light on this matter and explain how it can enhance your woodworking experience.

How Cedar Wood Wards Off Bugs

Unlike other softwood species, cedar carries a neurotoxic chemical component called Thujone. Thanks to this substance, the material can dispel bugs and insects away from its surface. 

You may not know, but it also produces natural oil that serves as an insecticide. Besides repelling bugs, this attribute waterproofs the cedar wood. It forms a protective layer to block water and moisture away from the material. 

If you’re familiar with cedar materials as I am, you’d know that they carry an aromatic scent. Although it’s an excellent feature for woodworking, what makes it handy is its ability to ward off insects. 

Cedar Wood Wards Off Bugs

Because of this distinct smell, bugs are unlikely to lay eggs on its surface. It’s also one of the primary reasons why many woodworkers and homeowners choose cedar wood for highly exposed structures and projects. 

Here are the specifics of how cedar wood’s chemical and oil components repel bugs from its surface:

By Suffocation

As mentioned, cedar lumber produces a natural oil. While it’s not harmful to humans, this component can be poisonous to an insect’s breathing tube or tracheae. It can block the exoskeleton’s opening and suffocate the bug shortly after extensive exposure.

Change in Chemical Balance

Insects rely on specific pH levels to ensure their survival. However, when they come into contact with the oil generated by cedar materials, their chemical equilibrium is disrupted, leading to their inevitable demise.

By Dehydration

Another remarkable cedar wood trait is its ability to suck moisture out of the surrounding air. It often serves as a natural dehumidifier, so it can cause insect dehydration and kill them.

insect dehydration

By Emulsification

If you ask me, cedarwood oil’s ability to break down insect bodily fluids is the most remarkable of all its traits. It can crumble the bug’s fat substances until they mix with the oil.

How Long Can Cedar Wood Ward Off Bugs?

You can count on cedar wood to keep bugs away from your workpiece for up to six months. However, this duration only applies if the material has ideal conditions. It can sometimes only serve as an effective insect repellent for three months. 

You can determine the duration by checking factors affecting cedar’s protective longevity. First, the wood’s exposure to indoor or outdoor elements can change its repelling capabilities. Unfortunately, the more exposed the material is, the less resistance it will get. 

While it’s true that cedar has perks suited for outdoor projects, its resistance to infestations is more effective for indoor workpieces. Considering the extended exposure to harmful elements and conditions, the material’s durability in exterior applications isn’t guaranteed. 

And, of course, you can’t rule out the climate. The changing weather is a hindrance in maintaining a wooden workpiece. So, believe me when I say cedar’s insect-repelling attribute won’t last as long as a year when exposed to harsh weather conditions. 

Cedar Wood Ward Off Bugs

If you reside in a location with extensive dry seasons, remember that heat can dehydrate the material and render most of its protective features useless. 

What Bugs Can Cedar Wood Repel?

Most insects can’t withstand the repelling attributes of cedar lumber pieces, with some even getting killed instead of warded away. However, if you want the specifics of the most common bugs it can handle as proof, here’s a list:

While most of the bugs I mentioned can be problematic to any woodworking workpiece, ladybugs are great for preventing severe infestations. So if you’re constructing near an area with these insects, I recommend finding a different wood alternative.

Do Spiders Hate Cedar Wood?

Spiders[1] are not insects like the ones I listed, but it doesn’t mean cedar lumber can’t repel them. All the components this softwood produces (oil, aroma, and chemicals) can keep those little critters away. 

As you know, spiders eat insects. And because cedar wood eliminates their food source, they will unlikely stay around the lumber’s surface. On top of that, they also utilize their chemosensors to detect harmful chemicals that this softwood carries. 

If you scan today’s market, you’ll see that many people use sheddings and chips from cedar materials to ward off spiders. Some manufacturers even include cedarwood oils in specialized repellents. 

Spiders Hate Cedar Wood

Does Cedar Repel Bed Bugs?

I included bed bugs in the list, but the reality is cedarwood can only repel these insects. Like it or not, killing these pests is a different matter, and the process isn’t as easy as you think. 

Besides the oil and chemical, bed bugs can’t withstand the aromatic scent this material carries. Ultimately, the smell is the attribute that keeps bed bugs away from the material because cedar’s chemical components are not strong enough to eliminate them altogether. 

How About Rats?

Unfortunately, there are more practical ideas to pursue than repelling rats using cedarwood materials. Although it’s clear that this material’s natural oil, chemical, and scent can keep most insects away, these things aren’t strong enough to save your workpiece from rodent attacks. 

There’s no denying that cedar timber’s natural oil and chemical makes an excellent repellent. However, it doesn’t have enough concentration to affect the senses and bodily fluids of more enormous creatures like rats. 

On the bright side, it’s crucial to note that cedar carries hydrocarbons. This aroma can ruin a rat’s liver while inhaling wood fibers and dust particles.

How about rats

Can Bugs Eat Cedar Logs?

Like any other wood type, insects aren’t restricted from eating cedar, even the purple heart cedar specie. While I discussed how this softwood could repel bugs, you must know that some insects can still be in contact with the material and cause minimal surface damage if given a chance. 

If the material is relatively old, you can witness infestation eating away at cedar wood. As I said earlier, its repelling ability will weaken or disappear over time as it ages. Considering the absence of chemicals and oils, it will turn into typical lumber.

The wood’s aging will dry up all cedar’s protective elements, giving insects and bugs enough time to build up and damage the material’s surface. 

Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean cedar logs are inferior regarding insect-repelling attributes. It’s still one of the best options to avoid wood infestations in the long run. However, you must remember that this feature won’t be there forever. 

If you want my advice, you can use cedarwood for your wooden projects and apply protective finishes and products over it to extend its material life. 

Can Bugs Eat Cedar Logs

It’s an effective trick to utilize for different applications because you never know what harsh conditions it can undergo over time. 

What are the Insects Cedar Attracts?

These softwood species don’t attract insects or bugs because they have repellent properties to prevent infestations. Unlike typical lumber trees, cedar produces oil that can be harmful to the likes of moths, ants, roaches, and many more. 

Thanks to its high chemical concentration, bugs get killed before they can cause massive damage to the material. However, it doesn’t mean they can’t touch or eat cedarwood’s surface. 

Besides bugs, you can count on its repelling attributes to turn away rodents like rats and spiders to which your workpiece will be exposed if you place it outdoors. 

Since these trees are often in low-lying locations, their surrounding soil can be a bit swamp. Because of this, it’s only natural that it’ll initially attract the presence of mosquitoes and other insects that thrives in damp and dark areas. 

These conditions are the ones to which these bugs get attracted and not the cedar material itself. Nevertheless, the wood’s natural elements will manifest and drive these insects away. So no matter how many of these pests gather, cedarwood will always keep them away for as long as its repelling abilities work. 

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Cedar wood does repel bugs, but it’s important to note that it’s not a permanent attribute. Like any other wooden material, aging will minimize its resistance and durability. So if you want it to last longer, proper usage and regular maintenance are key.

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You've probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.
Robert Johnson

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