While venturing out for a walk with my dog yesterday evening, I made a big mistake. I did not apply insect repellent.
Actually, it was a huge mistake. Within minutes, it was a battle for blood: me trying to keep it and the mosquitoes trying to take it. The enjoyable part of the walk ended quite abruptly.
With the summer temperatures and the rainy season ramping up, mosquitoes are already out in full force. And they are relentless.
Mosquitoes commonly found in urban/developed locations—and which act as vectors for multiple diseases—come from the Aedes genus. They are what we call “container” or urban mosquitoes, since they thrive in areas where small amounts of standing water are found.
Female and male mosquitoes get their nourishment from plant nectar, but it is the female mosquito that bites. She requires protein from the blood to develop her eggs. The bite from the mosquito is not only annoying, it is the way disease is transmitted from the mosquito to people or animals.
Recommended active ingredients for mosquito repellents
To protect us from these 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 might be some homemade mixtures of plants and essential oils that offer temporary relief from mosquitoes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellents.
EPA-registered 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 repelling mosquitoes, when label instructions are followed.
Percentages matter when it come to insect repellents
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 might consider using DEET or picaridin (conventional chemicals). However, if you are pulling weeds in your backyard, you might be more comfortable using an active ingredient made from a natural material.
The table below lists EPA-approved active ingredients and their recommended percentages:
|Active Ingredient||Recommended Percentage||Duration of Effectiveness|
|Picaridin||20%, but 5-10% adequate if reapplied||Up to 8 hours|
|Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus||30%||Up to 6 hours|
|2-undercanone||7%||Up to 5 hours|
Important information regarding insect repellents and the label:
- The active ingredient and the percentage in the formulation will be listed directly on the front or 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, “no-see-ums,” and/or flies.
- Always read the product label prior to use.
- 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, proper clothing is key:
- Wearing long pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats, and closed-toe shoes can effectively create a physical barrier between your skin and the mosquitoes. Clothing needs to be tightly woven and light-colored to be effective.
- Permethrin-treated clothing gives an added boost to the clothes in helping prevent mosquito bites. Permethrin is an insecticide that kills and repels mosquitoes, and is the only EPA-approved pesticide 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.
Stay vigilant in protecting yourself from mosquito bites
No matter what time of the day, enjoy your time outdoors by being aware of and 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.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Prevent Mosquito Bites
- Florida Department of Health: Mosquitoes: General Information