DEET and other repellents for ticks


I’m just curious what precautions others take against ticks. I’m cautious about chemical repellents and insecticides, so usually, I try to decide what, if anything, to use, depending on the area in which I’m walking, but I thought I might see what iNatters recommend? Any tips regarding avoiding ticks?

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Hard to Love Species

I have tried numerous natural repellents and none have worked as well as DEET. I am concerned about the chemical but limit exposure and take precautions. In Delaware, ticks are bad this year so far and I suspect we will be inundated with mosquitoes as well. I wear long sleeves and pants and only use the spray if I am entering an area I know will be a problem. Once at home, I carefully check for ticks, wash my clothes and take a shower … not an expert, just my two cents…


DEET is good for mosquitoes but it hasn’t been very effective for me for ticks (which in my area are dog, black-legged/deer, and lone star). I spray my field clothes and boots throughout the year with permethrin. Long sleeves, long pants every day. Tall boots, tuck pants into socks, shirt into pants. It’s a good look. A square of duct tape to catch your haul throughout the day in really bad areas. Tick check before I get into the car, another tick check when I get home. I feel like sometimes they must climb up my ponytail, and it’s so hard to find them in long dark hair, so I try to remember to put that into a bun but it’s also hard to stuff under a sun hat…


Usually what I do too. I’ve already found one tick this year–before it bit, but it was in my hair, so it creeped me out. (I hate that.) That’s why I wanted to ask how others deal with them. I, too, am not a huge fan of chemical repellents, but if I’m in high grass or on a narrow wooded trail, I do use them. Sigh. I guess it comes with the territory.


I like the duct tape idea–hadn’t considered that. I’m going to add it to the things I take along with me. Thanks. I am trying to stop being self-conscious about what I look like when I walk, but I have to admit every time a well-attired jogger passes me, I feel a little fashion-challenged. Still, I’ll take that over ticks any day. :smile: I was thinking about some permethrin clothing, but I was a little worried about the permethrin itself.


Haven’t tried it myself, but I’ve heard sticky lint rollers can help (similar to duct tape)


i do sometimes use premetrol on field pants but honestly what i find most helpful is light colored pants and constant tick checks. I won’t get them all that way but most i do. That way you also really learn where the ticks are, which helps you calibrate your instincts for when to be most careful, or sometimes to avoid walking a route in a ‘ticky’ spot when there’s another option.

But i am not in as bad an area as some of you.

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Anyone participating in the tick exposure behavioral study via The TickApp?

You can tell an iNatter when they take a picture before removing a tick, and then philosophizes on whether the organism is “cultivated”.


I’m somewhat worried about tick-borne diseases but it’s the chiggers that really drive me nuts. I treat my field pants with permethrin once a year, springtime. I wash these only if they get really filthy (separately) and the treatment lasts until tick season ends. Professionally treated clothes are supposed to last longer but I’m happy self treating. No issues in the 3 years of using this method but, yeah, I’m wearing poison.


I must be lucky - I don’t get bothered by ticks, and tramp around in shorts (in the summer!). My dog had Lyme disease and anaplasmosis a couple of years ago, and where he goes I tend to go. Oddly he has anaplasmosis again, just diagnosed today. He’s been on anti tick meds for almost a month. The folks at the vet clinic were saying that they have been finding ticks at or below 0C, which is new. The official cutoff is 4C so they may be adapting to colder weather. It has not been a particularly warm spring here.
But I’d rather get bitten than wear any of that stinky stuff!


Permethrin treated clothing works wonders, plus constant checks. Also bring adhesive tape with you in case of seed ticks. I hardly get any ticks as long as I wear my Permethrin pants and socks. I only use professionally treated stuff so then I don’t have to breathe the poison myself.

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Thanks, I was wondering about the efficacy of professionally treated clothes. I’m sold on the adhesive tape–can’t think why I never heard that tip before, but it seems popular here. :)


Not bothered, I don’t get many, they rarely attach, and don’t itch much. I have friends & colleagues with lyme, spotted fever, & that red meat allergy. Some were serious illness. And if I can’t eat meat, what’s the point of eating?

Permethrin has no odor after it dries. Don’t get it on your skin when treating. It’s for clothes.

Anyone participating in the tick exposure behavioral study via The TickApp?

Some people also report that lemon eucalyptus oil works well for them. I don’t love the smell but it may be less toxic than deet.


Budding arachnologist here. Thought I would throw a little tick biology in here. A weird but neat thing about ticks is that they have organs on their front legs built to detect CO2. I wonder if there is a way we could make ourselves appear less like mammals too them by taping leaves to ourselves or generally appearing to the ticks to produce little CO2 using some other method.

Ideas anyone?


Hold your breath through dense brush? :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


My thoughts on ticks:

  1. Spray field wardrobe with permethrin (lasts multiple washings).
  2. Spray backpack and boots with permethrin.
  3. Use DEET liberally, often. Synthetic but safe; super effective.
  4. Wear light-colored clothing so you can better see ticks.
  5. Tuck pants into light-colored socks. It’s a good look.
  6. Tuck pants into taller boots.
  7. Wear shiny, smooth boots instead of rough neoprene ones.
  8. If fan of shorts, shave legs.
  9. Keep tick-remover tool, duct tape in backpack.
  10. Get naked (when home) and do a sector check.
  11. Send pics of attached ticks to TickEncounter for ID confirmation.
  12. Put attached ticks in freezer or EtOH in case doc wants later.
  13. Launder clothing immediately so ticks don’t wander off inside house.
  14. Take a long, relaxing, hot tub just in case larvae hiding.
  15. If you find strange red spot, mark perimeter, take pic, see doc.

yeah, they are sneaky ones. I use (when I’m being thoughtful and responsible, especially after a tick encounter the previous day or something) a kerchief or headband that I spray with DEET then tie my hair up and sometimes even throw another DEET-treated hat on top. My thinking is that even if they climb up a forgotten ponytail, the edges around the scalp they seem to love to inhabit will be inhospitable for them and I’ll achieve a slight measure of protection.

I too dislike using unnecessary harmful chemicals and don’t in other parts of my life with few exceptions. The area I live in is one of the most tick-infested and lyme-ridden in the world and because the essential oils approach hasn’t worked well for me (geraniol, eucalytpus, rosemary, whatever else!) I choose the hard stuff. I’m going to look into permethrin treatments for my clothing though since ticks have been bypassing the DEET if I don’t remember to reapply frequently enough. I have other health concerns and the consequences of Lyme would be disastrous for me (likely) plus, my very high sensitivity to bites from a number of insects means that if I want to go outside in season I have to be protected. I wish this wasn’t the case but it is. I also use all the clothing precautions others have mentioned too.

Also, my encouragement of predators of tick vectors and encouragement of predators of ticks themselves seems to be helping in tiny areas of the property.


For those who don’t know what DEET is: it’s the active ingredient in most bug-repellent sprays. It doesn’t harm insects (supposedly), just blocks their ability to smell humans (and apparently smells really bad).

It’s possible to buy DEET at a concentration of 75%, but it’s usually in bug-spray at concentrations of 10%-30%. It should say what the concentration is on the can, and it can be worthwhile to look for the brands with 30% DEET in the store if you know you’ll be outside a lot. 30% DEET seems to repel ticks well enough. (Your experience may vary, depending on the specific habitat you’re venturing into, and the species of ticks in your area.)

Beware: DEET in high concentrations can dissolve plastics. I’ve got a permanent set of fingerprints on my binoculars from a time I tried using 75% DEET. 30% DEET on your hands can cause plastic, varnish, nail polish, and a few other things to begin to dissolve a little bit at the surface, which ruins smooth finishes but usually won’t cause structural damage.

P.S.: I recently found some ticks before they found me, which made a neat observation:


ooh, which ones? Chickens? Opossums?