Battling the bugs: Several options available to fend off mosquitoes and black flies
We’re in the heart – and heat – of summer and most of us are enjoying a variety of outdoor activities. However, people who are active outdoors during the summer face a dilemma when it comes to insects and insect repellents.
On one hand, insect bites are of great concern, especially now that the Zika virus has become a serious threat. But at the same time, controversy over the safety of insect repellents is bound to cause some people to wonder which is less dangerous or annoying, going outdoors without bite protection or going with it.
People have used and still use a variety of potions and smells to keep insects at bay. These include but are not limited to: smoke, Citronella, some Avon products and products containing the chemical N,N’, diethyl-meta-toluamide – commonly referred to as DEET.
Campers and others who spend time outdoors should carefully consider the hazards posed by insect bites and about DEET products and those repellents using alternative ingredients so they can make an informed decision about what is best for them. Personally, I’m never in the spring woods without my spray can of DEET, and I’ve found it to be highly effective in keeping the mosquitoes and blackflies from making a meal of me. For those who may be apprehensive about using DEET, here are some facts about the product to help you make up your mind.
DEET was developed by the U.S. government in 1951 after testing over 11,000 compounds for their effectiveness in repelling insects. DEET has been the major ingredient in nearly all insect repellents since then and no other substance has been found to be more effective in keeping biting insects at bay. According to the EPA, nearly 100 million Americans used DEET every year and, according to the agency, fewer than 10 reports of adverse side effects are received annually. Most of these reported side effects stem from repeated use on children, something which manufacturers strongly advise against.
Make no mistake, DEET is a chemical that can cause problems if applied excessively, especially to children, but then again the same can be said of aspirin. Manufacturers of insect repellent products containing DEET say when label directions are followed carefully, DEET poses no health problems. They base their statement by citing 22 studies conducted on the short and long-term health effects of DEET, which indicate no unreasonable adverse effects to people or the environment. According to the EPA, the benefits of mosquito repellency may far outweigh any risk from DEET exposure.
As a turkey hunter, I’ve found blackflies and mosquitoes can be a major problem on many warm, muggy May mornings. I personally use a repellent containing no less than 95 percent DEET and can attest to the effectiveness of the product.
Some people prefer using Citronella-based products because they are safe. Citronella not only repels bugs it’s often used as a flavoring agent in beverages, deserts, candy, baked goods and even breakfast cereal but it is not effective for repelling ticks. When choosing to use a DEET product, remember to keep it off the skin and apply it only to clothing.