Does Incense Repel Bugs?

None of us want our homes to be invaded by bugs. The problem with bugs is they find our warm, cozy, comfortable homes attractive and want to take up residence. Just to make the problem worse, there are so many different bugs out there – spiders, flies, ants, mosquitoes – the list seems endless. So, how do we deter these pesky creatures from adopting our home as their home? We can put them off by making our homes too smelly for them. There are ways of doing this that make our homes still smell nice for us, but not for them. 

Normal incense, however, has no effect in driving out bugs. The aroma they produce is too gentle. In fact, there is even suggestion that incense may actually attract mosquitos!

Does incense repel bugs?

The incense sticks that you can buy, or even make, do not have any effect on the most common bugs. The sticks or coils will help create a calm atmosphere in your home, especially if you use them when you meditate.

You might be in a store and see incense sticks on sale advertised as good for repelling bugs. These will be a different product to those used for meditation. The incense will have been replaced with another ingredient known to repel bugs. 

The sticks sold as insect repellent products will have a different smell than normal incense sticks. They will probably smell of lemon or mint. These are much harsher scents and won’t be so good for meditation!

What scents do repel bugs?

We have to turn to strong natural scents if we are to succeed in keeping the bugs out of our homes. Nature does provide us with the means to deter almost all types of bugs. By using natural scents we can be sure there is nothing to harm our kids or our environment.

The strongest scents include citronella, which is great for keeping the mosquitoes away when we are sitting on the porch or entertaining in the garden. Lavender is an excellent repellent, as it is a strong scent, yet also calming and great to help you get a brilliant night’s sleep.

Lemon is a popular scent in the home as it has a clean, sharp scent. It is no surprise that popular cleaning products have a lemon aroma. Lemon is also a great cleaning agent, so it is a win-win situation if you use these products. Lemon balm is an interesting garden plant that can be brought into the house in bunches as decoration as well as a deterrent. Although it is actually a mint, it has a strong lemon aroma.

Garlic is another strong-smelling natural product that you can grow in your garden. The scent of garlic is great if you are plagued by a range of bugs – and has the added advantage of keeping vampires away! Use garlic if you are not put off by the distinctive smell.

If you are plagued by bedbugs, then try using lemongrass. It is both a strong aroma and has a high acidity, which bedbugs hate. Peppermint, tea tree oil and neem oil have also been known to work against bedbugs. 

Can candles repel bugs?

Candles have the advantage of burning for several hours, with the aroma they produce not diminishing or losing intensity. If you want to use citronella outdoors, then citronella candles are the best way to proceed. They smell strongly and can look pretty on a dark evening. Citronella is the best for repelling mosquitoes, although less effective against other bugs.

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Citronella has one other great benefit. You can use it after cooking to dispel unpleasant odors. 

Other candles scents that are great for deterring those unwanted bugs include lavender, peppermint, pine and marigold. There is more on all these and other natural insect repellents later in this article.

Candles are available from a large number of suppliers in a wide variety of scents. You can, of course, try your hand at making your own candles. Candle-making is a very popular pastime, with tutorial videos on YouTube as well as local classes. By doing it yourself, you can experiment with different scent combinations until you find one that suits you. If you come to enjoy candle-making, then why not create your own distinctive gifts for friends and family at holiday time?

Does incense repel spiders?

Don’t be too hard on spiders. They may want to scream if you see one, but they are your ally in tackling bugs. Spiders eat bugs, so they can help keep your bug population down.

There is only a problem if you get an infestation of spiders. This is most likely to happen in a quiet, undisturbed part of your house. Attics are popular with spiders, as are outbuildings. 

If you don’t want any of these places to look like a scene from Arachnaphobia then try using chestnut oil or peppermint oil. Some folk claim that both of these essential oils will deter spiders. Other oils do work, it seems, but remember that you are trying to deter them not kill them. 

Normal incense will have little effect on spiders. The scent given off by incense is not usually strong enough to worry them. Insect repellent incense sticks might have a more noticeable result. I shouldn’t attract them either but it’s important that you store your sticks properly so they don’t go bad!

Natural bug repellants. 

Here’s a list of the top natural bug repellents:

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If you need to keep your life free of mosquitoes, then citronella is the go-to scent. Use it as a body spray if you are out hiking or trail running, camping or fishing. At home, citronella candles will keep the flying nuisances away if you are outside in the evening. 

Mosquitoes are attracted by your body odor, even if you have had a shower! Citronella masks that odor, so they don’t realize you are there. It’s your body they are after, so keep them away with a strong smelling scent.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil has valuable active ingredients such as menthol, alcohol and terpene. The smell of these will deter most bugs, but menthol is particularly effective. 

Tea tree oil

Terpene occurs naturally in tea tree oil, and gives the oil great bug-repellent qualities. Tea tree oil can also be used to soothe insect bites.


Lavender is a brilliant herb. It can be grown easily and dried for use as a fragrance in the house. Lavender bags, filled with dried lavender will keep your drawers fresh and moth free. Bunches of dried lavender will drive insects away from your food storage area. Use it to help you sleep and sooth aching eyes. Lavender oil is also obtainable for use around the home.


Basil will keep away flies and mosquitoes. Plant in in your garden and pick bunches to keep in the house as a repellent. It is also possible to obtain basil oil that can be used to scent candles.

Neem oil

Neem has a particularly powerful, bitter aroma. The active ingredient is called azadirachtin and it is this which repels bugs. Neem oil has for centuries been used as a natural pesticide. Mixed with camphor oil, neem makes an excellent spray which can be used in a vaporizer.

Clove oil

The active ingredient in clove oil is eugenol, which is very effective at repelling a variety of bugs and flying insects. Clove oil has a range of properties including as an antiseptic. It also has antimicrobial and antifungal uses, and given the current health crisis, has antiviral properties too. 

Patchouli oil

Patchouli oil is a common ingredient in many commercial bug repellents. It is effective against fleas, ants, lice, mosquitoes and flies.

Geranium oil

The active ingredient in geranium oil is geraniol which makes the oil one of the most effective at repelling bugs, ants, flies, ticks, gnats, fleas and cockroaches. It is a safe oil to use, diluted of course, on dogs to combat fleas.


Mint is a real all-rounder. The list of bugs it drives away includes ants, moths, fleas, beetles of various kinds, aphids and mice are not fond of the smell of it either.

Bay leaves

Bay leaves do a good job of keeping cockroaches away. Some folk make up herb wreaths that can be used to deter various bugs. Basil is just one of several herbs that can be included. Basil, mint, lemon balm and dill should also be included, along with lavender, rosemary and thyme.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm has an important role to play in warding off mosquitoes. 


A necessary herb in the garden if you are plagued by aphids, spider mite and squash bugs.


Plant in your garden and protect your precious crops from carrot flies, cabbage loopers, slugs, and snails.


Like rosemary, thyme will keep away a range of bugs that might attack your garden crops. Use it to protect tomatoes, corn, and cabbages. 


Garlic is another brilliant crop to grow in your garden as it will help protect just about everything else from attack. Rabbits don’t like the smell of garlic, so are deterred from coming too close to your crops.


In answer to the initial question ‘does incense repel bugs’, then we have to say ‘no, it does not’. However, there are many natural repellents available as alternatives. Of these, there are a number of herbs that you can grow in your garden, plus other oils derived from plants that grow elsewhere. If you wish to deter insects from invading your home, try these natural products first. You will be pleasantly surprised at how helpful they can be. Make up some herb wreaths or herb posies and position them around your home. You will soon see a reduction in your bug problem.

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