A while back I wrote an article about insect repellents, in which I mostly discussed DEET and citronella. It is still tick season and the news media has been rife with articles about these horrible little ticks that can cause a debilitating, permanent allergy to red meat, so I figured to do a follow-up/update.
In review (from the previous article), There are a couple of tried and true insect repellents, and they each have plusses and minuses
- DEET – Diethyltoluamide is pretty much the gold standard for mosquito repellency, but it is a powerful solvent that can disfigure or destroy plastic and some synthetic clothes.
- Citronella – is a widely used natural (plant-based) mosquito repellent that has been used for a long time, but its efficacy might be doubtful.
After I published that, a buddy of mine reminded me that I’d focussed too much on mosquitoes and left off two of the most popular and effective repellents that work better than DEET for ticks – picaridin and pyrethrum.
Consumer Reports has done tests and re-tests that showed that Picaridin is at least as effective as DEET, and it does not dissolve plastics.
[Picaridin]-based products, first used in Europe in 2001, have been evaluated by Consumer Reports in 2016 as among the most effective insect repellents when used at a 20% concentration. [Picaridin]was earlier reported to be effective by Consumer Reports (7% solution) and the Australian Army (20% solution). Consumer Reports retests in 2006 gave as result that a 7% solution of [Picaridin] offered little or no protection against Aedes mosquitoes (vector of dengue fever) and a protection time of about 2.5 hours against Culex (vector of West Nile virus), while a 15% solution was good for about one hour against Aedes and 4.8 hours against Culex. (from Wikipedia)
A.K.A. pyrethrum, permethrin is an insecticide (not a repellent) that will actually sicken and kill many types of crawlies exposed to it. It is a natural (plant-based) product made from chrysanthemum flowers and it has been shown to be safe (for centuries) for direct human contact (lotions or sprays).
The coolest thing about Permethrin is that you can spray it directly onto your hiking clothes (pants, gaiters, socks, etc…) and it can make your clothes deadly to ticks for weeks or even months!
This clothing application has made Permethrin the go-to bug juice for hikers all over the world.