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Fight the bite with mosquito repellents

Summer is in full swing with the heat, humidity, and summer rains. Although we are happy to welcome the rain, the mosquitoes that accompany the rainy season are usually unwelcomed visitors. Container mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, are the culprits that bother people during the day while they are enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. This mosquito species is active during daytime hours and are aggressive biters. Protecting yourself from mosquito bites is important as they can vector diseases such as Zika, Malaria, West Nile fever, and Dengue Fever . One interesting fact- the female mosquito is the only one that bites.  She requires protein from the blood to  development her eggs. Both female and male mosquitoes actually feed on plant nectar.

Recommended Active Ingredients for Mosquito Repellents

To help protect us from unrelenting mosquitoes and their thirst for blood, scientists have worked hard to find, mimic, or create compounds that are both safe and effective in repelling mosquitoes.  Although there may be some home-made mixtures of plants and essential oils that offer temporary relief from mosquitoes, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. These repellents include the active ingredients DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-methane-diol, and 2-undecanone. All of these repellents have been laboratory and field tested. They have been found to be safe for use and effective at preventing bites when label instructions are followed.

The percentage of active ingredient is important when deciding which product to purchase. If you are spending a weekend backpacking through a state park you may want to consider using DEET or picaridin, but if you are pulling weeds in your backyard you may be comfortable using one of the other active ingredients.

The table below lists EPA approved active ingredients and their recommended percentages:

Active Ingredient Recommended Percentage (%) Duration of Effectiveness
DEET 7% to 30% 8 to 10+ hours
Picaridin 20%, but 5%-10% adequate if reapplied Up to 8 hours
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus 30% Up to 6 hours
IR-3535 10% to 20% 4 to 8 hours
2-undercanone 7% Up to 5 hours
Important information regarding insect repellents:
  • The active ingredient and the percentage in the formulation will be listed directly on the on the front or the back of the container
  • Repellents should be applied to exposed skin or onto clothing, but not under clothing
  • Insect repellents are not recommended for children younger than 2 months old
  • Some mosquito repellents also protect against ticks, noseeums, and/or flies
  • Always read the label prior to use and if applying on children, be sure to check the product is age-appropriate
Alternatives to using mosquito repellents

For those looking for an alternative to mosquito repellents, wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats, and boots can effectively create a physical barrier between your skin and the mosquitoes. The clothing needs to be tightly woven and light colored to be effective. Permethrin-treated clothing can also be utilized in preventing mosquito bites. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills and repels mosquitoes and is the only pesticide approved by the EPA for these uses. Clothing can be purchased pre-treated or clothes can be treated using EPA-registered products purchased separately.

Limiting your exposure during the times of the day when mosquitoes are most active is another method to reduce bites. The state of Florida has mosquitoes that are active at all hours of the day. There are mosquitoes that are active only during daylight hours, mosquitoes that prefer to be out only during sunrise and/or sunset, and those that are active for a few hours after midnight. No matter what time of the day, enjoy your time outdoors by being aware and be prepared to fight the bite by using EPA approved repellents and wearing protective clothing.

To report a mosquito issue in your area, call 941-861-5000.

Special thanks to Taylor Greenan, Community Outreach Specialist with Sarasota County Mosquito Management Services for her assistance in creating this blog.

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