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.
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 http://cfpub.epa.gov/oppref/insect/
The NPIC calculator can be found at http://npic.orst.edu/repel
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.