Skeeters are out and they’re hungry

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included. 

Normally, we can expect to see swarms of spring mosquitoes around the middle of May. Up until last night, our cool weather had pretty much kept these blood thirsty little buggers at bay around my house, but last night when I was watering the vegetable garden just before dusk I got hammered by a swarm of them. The cool weather was great while it lasted, but now it’s time to get the repellent out.

Most of the repellents we buy at the store have DEET as the active ingredient. The EPA has recently approved another active ingredient called Picaridin for use in the United States. Picaridin is a colorless, nearly odorless liquid active ingredient that is used as an insect repellant against biting flies, mosquitoes, chiggers and ticks. Picaridin products have been sold in Europe and Australia for several years before being introduced to the U.S. market in 2005. Products contain a range of five to 20 percent of the active ingredient.

The EPA recommends the following precautions when using insect repellents:

  • Apply repellents only to exposed skin or clothing (as directed on the product label.) Do not use repellents under clothing.
  • Never use repellents over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
  • Do not apply to eyes or mouth, and apply sparingly around ears. When using sprays, do not spray directly on face — spray on hands first and then apply to face.
  • Do not allow children to handle the product. When using on children, apply to your own hands first and then put it on the child. You may not want to apply to children’s hands.
  •  Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin or clothing. Heavy application and saturation are generally unnecessary for effectiveness. If biting insects do not respond to a thin film of repellent, then apply a bit more.

After returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water or bathe. This is particularly important when repellents are used repeatedly in a day or on consecutive days. Also, wash treated clothing before wearing it again. (This precaution may vary with different repellents — check the product label.)

If you or your children get a rash or other bad reaction from an insect repellent, stop using the repellent, wash the repellent off with mild soap and water, and call a local poison control center for further guidance. If you go to a doctor because of the repellent, take the repellent with you to show the doctor.
For more on the active ingredients in insect repellents see the EPA web site at:

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