DEET and other repellents for ticks

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.


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?


Ha! Yes. to be honest I stopped allowing the neighbor chickens in the last year because I had some areas I planted and they would have destroyed it. They did a lot of eating for the years prior though. I don’t often get to see opossums but My general land stewardship hopefully makes this place hospitable to everyone. I love my snake friends (4 species so far) and they patrol in season for the little things that carry the ticks. Raptors love it here too.


I forgot to mention this since I had lost them and need to get a new pair, but short gaiters are really handy. While tucking pants into socks helps, seed ticks can still work their way through the socks. But also it can be annoying getting detritus stuck in my boots when I tuck pants into socks, so these have the double benefit of keeping other non-tick things from getting caught in there. You can treat them with permethrin for extra security.

I use these ones from REI though I have friends who use these ones which are specifically for ticks.


I’ve tried this. It’s sufficient for hiking around Florida where you run into more mosquitos than ticks. It’s great at repelling mosquitoes, but not ticks in my experience, especially compared to permethrin or deet.

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Good question, octobertraveler.

I admit that I have taken to using chemicals.

Picaridin seems to be comparable to DEET in its effectiveness against ticks and mosquitoes. Although both repellents help enormously, I have occasionally found a tick walking on my skin after spraying with DEET or rubbing in Picaridin. Picaridin is modeled on a plant-based compound and is generally thought to be safer than DEET, but it hasn’t been around as long.


JeremyHussell Your tick observation was worth looking at, but kueda has a truly amazing photo I remember from last year.

This year has NOT been as bad for dermacentor ticks in the SF Bay Area, but it is the black-legged ticks that carry disease here, and I have seen more of those than I did last year.

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I feel very lucky not to have to worry much about ticks where I live. They are present but rare, so far. Then again, I live in North Bay, Ontario and we just had 4 1/2 months of snow on the ground. Black flies, mosquitos and deer flies are rather common here though – and I suspect we will have a bad year for them with the amount of water we are getting this spring.

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Rubber mud or rain boots are a very effective alternative

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Luckily I haven’t had to deal with ticks at home yet. No deer around here and almost no rabbits. I do have at least a few regular opossums. I’ve heard they’re great for ticks because they groom themselves a lot and then eat the ticks before they reproduce.

Mosquitoes are my main nemesis. They really really like me and my body reacts pretty strongly to their bites. A single bite will itch intensely for well over a week even with very regular applications of calamine, hydro-cortisone, and antihistamine creams throughout the day everyday. Relief usually only comes once I’ve scratched to the point of bleeding, quite often doing it in my sleep.

I’m not a big fan of having to cover myself in noxious repellents and then having to change my clothes and take a shower when I come inside. One particularly bad skeeter day when I had to work outside I gave in and sprayed my clothes and all exposed skin with DEET. I thought it was working until I came inside and felt something most unpleasant. The little buggers had avoided the DEET by flying up my shorts and biting my bum through my underwear! I had nickel sized welts that were insanely itchy and got very irritated every time I sat down.

I’ve even tried one of those full body black mesh bug suits. That felt a bit stifling with the summer heat and humidity. Plus the mosquitoes would still bite through it on any area that got pulled tight against my skin when I moved around.

I looked at those Thermacell things for a while that are supposed to be a good mosquito repellent, but didn’t like all the warnings about how it’s toxic to other animals of all kinds. It vaporizes insecticides into the air around you! That can’t be good for anyone.

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