How to Prevent Mosquito Bites and other Pests in the Outdoors

Prevent mosquito bitesWith the new scare of Zika Virus and the past scare of Chikungunya Virus there is a need to be concerned with how to prevent mosquito bites. Our outdoor activities are to be enjoyed by all but your families safety should always come first. In the world we live in today we can no longer explore the outdoors without planning and through thought first. These infectious viruses are not going away and you need to be prepared before it is too late!

What attracts mosquitoes to me?

Carbon dioxide is the most universally recognized mosquito attractant and draws mosquitoes from up to 35 meters. When female mosquitoes sense carbon dioxide they usually adopt a zigzagging flight path within the plume to locate its source. Once in the general vicinity of a potential host, other cues predominate, including body odors (sweat, lactic acid, etc.) and heat.

Odors produced by skin microflora also play a part in inducing the mosquito to land. Over 350 compounds have been isolated from odors produced by human skin. Either singly or in combination, many of these compounds may be attractants and many may be repellents.

Visual stimuli, such as movement, also factor into host-seeking. It can be safely stated that ingestion of garlic, vitamin B12 and other systemics has been proven in controlled laboratory studies to have no impact on mosquito biting. Conversely, eating bananas do not attract mosquitoes as the myth suggests, but wearing perfumes does.

People drinking beer have been shown to be more attractive to mosquitoes. Limburger cheese has also been found to be attractive. Scientists have theorized that this may explain the attractant some mosquitoes find for feet.

Two Mosquuito typesWhat Mosquito Types Carry Diseases?

The two mosquito types known to carry the disease,Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. If a homegrown mosquito bites an infected returning traveler it could pick up the virus and then pass it along to other people in the U.S.

What Sprays Prevent Mosquito Bites?

With all the sprays and chemicals on the market it can be hard to chose one that is right for your family. Diving into the vast variety that is on store shelves can be a tedious task to find something that works with your level of activity and the fine balance between chemical exposure. Below we will dive into the basic forms of mosquito repellants and some of the more popular and effective brands.

N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET)

N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (DEET) remains the standard by which all other repellents are judged. DEET was developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was registered for use by the general public in 1957. It is effective against mosquitoes, biting flies, chiggers, fleas, and ticks. Over 25 years of empirical testing of more than 20,000 other compounds has not resulted in another marketed chemical product with the duration of protection and broad-spectrum effectiveness of DEET although the recent additions of picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus are remarkably close in effectiveness to DEET.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that all family members over the age of two months can use DEET-based repellents with up to 30% concentration with confidence. DEET-based repellents have been around for more than 50 years but that hasn’t kept the folks who make these products from innovating with new fragrances, new formulations, new product types, and, best of all, products that feel nice when applied.

mosquito_repel_DEETThe DEET-based repellent fragrances are pleasant to use and range from fruity to woodsy neutral scents. Unscented products have a slight alcohol odor (there’s alcohol in the formulation) until they dry on the skin. Folks who tend to be allergic to fragrances should try the unscented products. Today’s products start out at a concentration of 5% (lasts 90 minutes or so) and range up to 100% (for approximately 10 hours of protection from bites). You will need to pick one that matches your activity.

For an outdoor family barbecue in the evenings, a 10% product is fine. It will help protect from bites for approximately 90 minutes to two hours. Products are available in aerosols, pump sprays, lotions, creams and even towelettes. These are individually packaged and are also sold in a handy plastic container that allows the towelettes to pop up one at a time.

There are water resistant and water repellent products. One brand uses a micro-encapsulation process that helps the DEET release over time after you have applied it. Another goes on dry from an aerosol can, just as powder antiperspirants do.

Most apparent repellency failures with DEET are due to misapplications, so care should be taken to apply it thoroughly (avoiding the eyes and mucous membranes) and to reapply when necessary. This is crucial to maintain the DEET vapor barrier above the skin. New polymerized 30% DEET cream formulations provide excellent protection not significantly exceeded by higher DEET concentrations. Physicians recommend that a formulation of no more than 10% DEET be used on children, but formulations of over 30% can be used in areas of high disease incidence if label directions are followed.

Picaridin By Bayer Corporation

In April of 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began recommending two new active ingredients as safe, effective repellents. The first of these is picaridin, a synthetic developed by Bayer Corporation in the 1980s. This repellent is the most widely used repellent in the world outside of the United States and is marketed as Cutter Advanced. Picaridin is odorless, has a pleasant feel and doesn’t plasticize like DEET. Studies have shown it to be as fully repellent to mosquitoes as DEET and can also be applied on infants as young as 2 months.

lemon-eucalyptus: Repel®

The other repellent, often the choice of those wanting a natural product, is oil of lemon-eucalyptus, sold as Repel®. Repel is a 40% formulation of naturally-derived eucalyptus and has a pleasant scent and feel without any plasticizing properties.

Metofluthrin: OFF

EPA has further registered 2 additional repellents, Metofluthrin, a spatial repellent, and a catnip formulation (not marketed as yet). Metofluthrin is currently sold as OFF! Clip-Ons, a battery-operated system that allows the metofluthrin to volatilize from a wicking substrate and utilizes the battery to blow the substance around the body, providing the protection. In the laboratory, metofluthrin both repels and kills flying insects. Catnip has been noted for years as possessing repellency against mosquitoes. However, only recently has its efficacy been demonstrated to the extent it could be registered by the EPA.

Mosquito coils and Therma-cell

Mosquito coils and Therma-cell devices can also provide some protection. Both utilize a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide that has repellent properties, but are most effective in situations of little wind, where the repellent mixture remains in place in the air column surrounding the body.

The Therma-cell is a favorite among hunters.  Another option may be to obtain and wear clothing impregnated with permethrin. Marketed under the name of Insect Shield, these clothing articles employ a process of impregnating permethrin into fabric that will retain its repellency through 70 washings. The Department of Defense utilizes this process to impregnate battle dress uniforms for the operational forces in order to protect the troops from arthropod-borne diseases overseas. This method is extremely effective at repelling all flying insects in addition to ticks and mites. The EPA has registered permethrin for this use and this method of repellency is endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Mosquito Repellant Recommendations

Mosquito-Repelling Clip-On Devices

Devices that clip to a belt or beach chair can repel mosquitoes by diffusing natural or chemical repellents in the air. Several studies that the best of the wearable devices can significantly reduce the number of mosquitoes that land on the skin or bite.

An international team of researchers and scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a study testing seven wearable repellent devices in the journal Acta Tropica. The best performers were clip-ons with small battery-operated fans that diffuse repellent in the air around the body.

The Off Clip-On

The Off Clip-On, an $8.99 device from S.C. Johnson & Son Inc., diffuses a chemical repellent called metofluthrin. The device reduced the number of times researchers counted night-biting mosquitoes, Culex pipiens, landing on or biting the legs of the subjects by 97%.

Terminix AllClear SideKick

ServiceMaster Co.’s $9.99 Terminix AllClear SideKick, which diffuses a botanical mixture including geranium, lemon grass, peppermint and cinnamon oils, reduced landing and biting by 94%.

ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent

The ThermaCELL MR-GJ Mosquito Repellent Personal Pest Control Appliance is a convenient, lightweight and odor-free way to repel bugs and other pests. Without greasy, sticky or oily sprays and lotions, the mosquito repellent appliance offers a silent, 15-foot by 15-foot “Zone of Protection”. Being Cordless, pocket-sized, portable and lightweight makes it perfect for outdoor activities such as hunting and camping. The ThermaCELL odor-free repellent contains the active ingredient, allethrin, which is a synthetic copy of the natural mosquito repellent found in chrysanthemum flowers.

Tips For Preventing Mosquito Bites

Zika Risk mapThere are a few points that we can take away to better protect ourselves and our families from biting insects in the outdoors. Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats will greatly reduce your exposure. Buying products with DEET, Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and Icaridin), Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) / PMD, or IR3535 as the active ingredients can also help prevent mosquito bites. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection, but may also increase your exposure.

It is important to always follow product directions and reapply insect repellent as directed. Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents) is the way that I have protected my family for years and the products from Sawyer work great. You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear, or treat them yourself. I recommend the latter with home treatments being more cost effective and longer lasting.

Stay and sleep in screened or air-conditioned rooms when camping in the wilderness will reduce your exposure to pests, although not always available a small fan to circulate the are can greatly reduce and prevent mosquito bites. Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors is a great way to reduce weight when backpack camping or in deer camp and the benefits speak for itself.

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Gregory Beckman

About the Author:

Hi, I am Gregory Beckman, as the main owner of Military Hunting and Fishing let me tell you a little bit more about myself. I am currently an active duty member in the United States Coast Guard. I have been privileged to traveling the world. My experiences have shaped the way that I see the world and my memories will stick with me for a lifetime. Although I may not live in the country, the country lives in me. Traveling the world I have had the chance to experience the wonders of nature in many different places, meeting many different people and tasting wild game that the normal person would not get to experience. Although these experiences have kept me away from home, it has instilled a deep passion of hunting and fishing in my blood. Thank you for joining our site, and I look forward to interacting and sharing stories of our hunting adventures. Gregory A. Beckman