Guide to Bug Repellents

Posted by  Monday, March 10 2014 6:00 am
expert

As nice as it is to walk in the woods in early spring, it does not take long with the rising spring temperatures for ticks, black flies and mosquitoes to start hatching. In fact in most midwest states, ticks can be found as early as March and April.

BugRepellents UltrathonHandsFree
If you do decide to use bug repellent, carefully read and follow all label directions before applying the repellent.

Available on the market are a wide variety of products that claim to keep pesky biting bugs away for hours on end, but differ in the way they intend to do this. The most popular products in years past have been repellents that used a powerful chemical called DEET to thwart insects, while more health conscious organic repellents have come to the forefront using combinations of citrus extracts and botanical oils to keep bugs at bay. Taking into account the respected ease of application, solution type, safety and efficacy of each of these different products will best help you to decide what bug repellent will be ideal for you and your time spent outdoors.

Repellent Consistencies, Ease of Application

While bug repellents come in a wide variety of flashy varieties, more or less all of the bug dopes come in one of three general solution types: lotions, oils, aerosols or electronics. Lotions are probably the easiest of all the different repellents to apply to the skin. Regrettably for all of you out there who are not mindful enough to remember to cover all your exposed areas, it can lead to a bothersome afternoon of bugs biting until you find all unaltered locations. Lotions are the best choice for youngsters because they go on slow and carefully making it easy to avoid caution areas like the eyes and mouth. Unfortunately, most lotion repellents are not water resistant. This means that if you are going to be in or around water then the chance of washing your protection away is good.

Oil repellents are normally applied to the skin by some type of spray pump. These pumps are great for covering hard to reach spots and getting to areas that you might normally forget, like the tips of ears. Caution needs to be used with these types of spray applicators because targeting one specific area to protect is not easy. Many people, especially children, spray repellents into their faces ultimately irritating eyes and ruining their day. Oil repellents are great for lasting through wet conditions but can be a little troublesome to remove at the end of the day.

Aerosol sprays are the last group of repellents available on the market. These repellents are the hardest for most to apply, because individuals are not able to accurately see the areas they are covering with repellent. Aerosols go on light and quickly but much like the spray applicators caution needs to be used when applying these repellents to ones face. For one reason or another aerosols sprays seem to not last as long as the other types of repellents, making reapplying the repellent every few hours a necessity. Additionally; aerosol spray waste more per use than any of the other bug products making their working life short in comparison and expensive to use overall.

Electronic bug repellents are small electrical devices that run on batteries. These devices are designed to be worn on the body, while others are stand-alone models. The companies that make electronic insect repellents claim that these devices emit a low-level frequency that immediately stops insects from biting and stinging. The devices often have multiple frequencies that let you adjust the waves, to find the right fit for your insect problem.

Safety and Efficacy

BugRepellents SawyerPermethrinPremium
Permethrin, used on clothing, is a chemical that kills ticks and insects that come in contact with treated material.

Chemical Considerations: DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is a very powerful insect repellant that is incorporated in many commercial bug sprays. This chemical is found in widely ranging concentrations in these products from as low as 5 percent or as high as 100 percent. Basically speaking, the higher the concentration of DEET used in the repellent the better the protection is from pesky critters. Moreover, as concentrations of DEET increase in the repellent you choose, so does the risk of negative health side-effects. A good rule of thumb to follow when using DEET products is to always use the lowest concentration that you think will provide the protection you need.

DEET products have been used commercially as insect repellants for many years. These repellents provide the best results out off all repellents available in keeping bugs from biting and for the duration they are able to keep the critters away. In a few cases each year products that use DEET as there active ingredient produced negative health effects. Most commonly skin reactions and eye irritation are seen in individuals who use DEET at concentrations of 50 percent or greater. In the past a few recorded reports of central nervous system problems have been noted in children that ranged from confusion and disorientation to seizures and coma.

Permethrin is another chemical insect-repellant available but is used primarily for clothing, not on skin. Permethrin is a chemical that kills ticks and insects that come in contact with treated material. Permethrin products can cause eye irritation and skin reactions when they come into contact with these surfaces. Permethrin is effective for two weeks or more if the clothing is not washed or soaked during your outdoor adventures.

Botanical Considerations: Insect repellent products containing natural botanical oils such as oil of geranium, cedar, lemongrass, soy or citronella, are making big waves to the repellent market.

These botanical oils alone do not have the same efficacy as DEET but when combined with other key ingredients they make excellent repellents. Furthermore botanical oils can not compare with DEET when taking into account the duration of protection. Due to the recent emergence of the products to the market and the regulation boundaries these products fall into, most have not been tested for their potential to cause short-or long-term health effects.

As far as the electronic systems are concerned, there is no current research that says the low-level frequencies emitted by these devices do any harm to humans.

Planning for the Outdoors

Type Use
DEET Skin
Permethrin Clothes
Botanical Skin, Outdoors
Electronics Body, Outdoors

If you are considering using a certain type of bug repellent, consider a combination of ideas, including where you intend on being; how long you think you will be there; how bad the bugs are; and if those bugs could possibly carry disease. Every situation is different and the amount of protection you will need to stay bug bite free needs to be evaluated.

Are you going out for a light walk in the woods or camping in the national forest camping for a week? The longer you are planning on staying in the outdoors the better protection you will need. For camping, 30 or 40 percent DEET repellents in combination with electronic bug repellents and clothing treated with Permethrin will help keep you free from bugs.

If you are just out for an afternoon walk, then an insect repellent, with DEET in low concentrations such as 5 or 10 percent or botanical repellents, will provide sufficient protection from mosquito bites for up to four hours. If you plan on being in areas that carry viruses like West Nile or deer ticks that could possibly transmit Lyme Disease, then extra precautions are needed.

If you do decide to use bug repellent, carefully read and follow all label directions before applying the repellent. On the labels, you will find all the pertinent information about how to apply the repellent, whether it can be applied to skin and/or clothing, instructions for children, hazards to humans, and first aid. Taking the time to better understand what type of repellent you will be actually using and how each of the repellent differ will better serve you in making your adventures in the woods bug free and more enjoyable.

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Last modified on Wednesday, April 23 2014 2:53 pm
Jason Akl
expert

Jason Akl is a writer, commercial fly tyer and guide with 15 years in the industry. Professionally, he's been a seasonal guide and fly tier that ties commercially and teaches tying classes to both adults and children. Most of his flies make their homes in fly shops in the northern Midwest but some have found their way as far as Europe. As a freelance writer, he's had many written pieces appear in both Canadian and American publications, as well as numerous global websites. When not on the bench or behind the computer, he spends time working with companies such as Daiichi Hooks, Monic Fly Lines or Gatti rods as part of their pro-staff doing product testing pieces and seminars.

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