Friday, May 21, 2010

Mosquito repellent help

Pest management professionals are exposed to all sorts of health risks, including many of the same pests that afflict their customers. Mosquitoes and ticks are among the worst offenders.  Even if you're not in one of the parts of the state where you risk being eaten alive, we all can potentially be affected by West Nile virus and other mosquito- and tick-borne diseases.

A good mosquito repellent is an essential tool for the PMP. Mosquito repellents are without question one of the marvels of technology. Gone are the days of slathering smelly bear grease on your body to ward off the hungry hoardes. Using modern technology, a quick spray or small dab of cream and you can be protected effectively from the bites of mosquitoes, ticks and biting flies for hours.

It's both a blessing and a curse that there are literally hundreds of repellent products on the market. Choosing the best repellent can be confusing. For many years the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and most entomologists recommended DEET as the most reliable repellent for most pests. I still recommend DEET for most professionals heading out for a day's work, because one application of the right product can provide day-long protection.  But some of us don't care for the smell of many DEET formulations, and others report sensitivity to DEET.  Fortunately, in the past few years researchers have found acceptable alternatives.  Many of these products provide equal protection, although DEET appears to still be tops for length of protection.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Pesticide Information Center both recently posted a handy online tool to help you choose a repellent. The core of the calculator is a database that cross-references registered repellents against their expected hourly protection times against ticks and mosquitoes. Simply enter the pest you are concerned about, how long you need protection for, and (if you have one in mind) the active ingredient you are interested in. It then produces a download-able list of commercial repellents that meet your needs.

The calculator is relatively simple and, unfortunately, does not cover biting flies other than mosquitoes. I was also a little disappointed that it doesn’t give a reliability rating or provide references to the research on which the data is based (OK, I’m a skeptical scientist…you may not feel the need for this feature). What you will find if you use the calculator is that there are a number of acceptable alternatives to DEET that you may not be aware of–especially if you don’t need 10 hours of protection.

The EPA calculator can be found at
The NPIC calculator can be found at

Also, for lots more information about mosquitoes and mosquito control, don’t forget the Mosquito Safari website. This site is has lots of information about where to find and how to treat mosquitoes.

So next time you head out for accounts with mosquito activity, don’t forget the repellent. And be thankful for the many alternatives to bear grease.


JP McHale Pest Management said...

Another good idea is to put candles by your feet to help keep away mosquitoes when outside. Great article, DEET is very effective and should always be used.

Mike Merchant, PhD said...

One of the most common forms of household mosquito control in many parts of the world is the mosquito coil. The incense-like coil burns slowly, releasing low toxity insecticides, effectively killing mosquitoes in the home.

Danusia said...

A very informative piece. I totally agree, vector control is a very important issue on both the small scale and large scale, discussed here

Anonymous said...

for 3 years i have managed mosquitos, but am eaten alive [just on legs,ankles] by some sort of biting no-see-um. help! i have animals also----- cant enjoy being outside in summer-thanks jan webb

Mike Merchant, PhD said...

It's almost impossible to answer Jan's question without more information, but chiggers, sand flies, ceratopogonid flies and other possible culprits lurk out there. Unfortunately, DEET is not equally effective on all fly species. MGK Repellent 326 (Dipropyl isocinchomeronate), for example, is a repellent that improves the repellency of DEET for black flies, deer flies and other species of ticks and biting flies. Also an ingredient called MGK-264 may provide some enhanced repellency over DEET alone. I suggest trying some different products and see what works for you.

George said...

I like these idea. Any followup on how well they individually work?

I live in Florida and it's a constant problem. I really liked this website about mosquito control,

They review different mosquito control items, most of them are chemical free too - which is a big plus for me.