The Best Insect Repellents: Debugging Your Summer

Protect yourself against biting insects, including flies, mosquitoes, gnats, midges, and ticks, by choosing the best insect repellents.

| July/August 1989


Hikers should be especially careful to take protective measures against biting insects such as ticks, which carry Lyme disease.


Nature writer Ann Zwinger has said that flies are the price we pay for summer. I would add mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, chiggers and biting midges to the bill. At one time or another, I've been driven from scenic campsites, lucrative fishing holes, vegetable gardens in need of tending and backyard barbecues by each of these little horrors.

And so, quite likely, have you.

This in spite of the fact that humanity began, thousands of years ago, slouching toward the development of defenses against our insect nemeses—including anointing one's body with urine or the juice of wild onions (Allium), smearing down with mud or bear grease, and building smudge fires and squatting in their choking, sooty smoke.

The trouble with these and other primitive tactics, aside from the fact that few of them worked, was that they tended to be more repellent to the users than to insects.

Only in the late 1940s did science finally devise an efficacious insect repellent, an oily liquid. But it would be a decade more before the advent of the Great Victory—the combination of effective chemical insect repellents and convenient aerosol sprays.

The aerosols were an instant commercial success. Never mind that their chlorofluorocarbon propellants were aiding the depletion of the earth's life-critical ozone layer—who knew beans about ozone back then? And never mind that they stained clothing, were oily and stunk. All of this we were willing to endure because we finally had a personal antibug weapon that worked. Most of the time. And it sure beat bear grease and smudge fires.

4/1/2007 6:10:40 PM

We need to Know what Lime dust would do to ticks and other yard pests if it would help or not.

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