Insect Repellants-What Works/What Doesn’t

The bug season is upon us-particularly black flies. In addition, because of the heavy snow this past winter, tick season is going to be worse than usual. While no one enjoys the itch of a mosquito bite, some of these bugs carry diseases-Lyme Disease and West Nile Virus. Even if you don’t want to wear a bug repellant, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of being bitten.

What Works: In May, Consumer Reports  came out with a study that tested insect repellents. Interestingly, those made with milder, plantlike chemicals were found to not only be the most effective, they out performed products containing Deet, which was developed by the military and became available to the consumer in 1957.

Picaridin (20% concentration) is the main ingredient in Consumer Report’s top pick Sawyer Fisherman’s formula.  This is the synthetic version of piperine, the chemical that gives black pepper its kick. Unlike DEET, picaridin is odorless, non-greasy, and does not dissolve plastics or other synthetics.

Oil of lemon eucalyptus (30% concentration) also works well and is found in various products . There is now a synthetic version called PMD.

Non-Chemical Approaches that Work

• Staying inside from dusk to dawn

• Using a fan on patios to blow away the bugs. The closer you sit next to the fan, the more effective.

• Screens-keep the bugs outside

• Clothing: Wear long sleeve shirts, hats, socks, and tuck pant legs inside of boots, . Permethrin treated clothing and bed netting is also an option. Although highly toxic to insects, permethrin is not hazardous to mammals

• Bed nets

• Remove standing water sources. Change birdbaths, wading pools and pet's water bowl twice a week. Keep eaves troughs clean and well draining. Remove yard items that collect water.

• Keep your lawn mowed, remove leaves, and let in as much sun as you can. Consider fencing, to keep out deer and other animals that carry ticks.

Doesn’t Work

• Citronella candles

• Wristbands

•  “All-natural” products with geraniol, lemongrass, and rosemary oils

• Bug Zappers

• Skin So Soft