New York State IPM Program

February 20, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on #Ticks. Avoid Them. Remove Them. Here’s How.

#Ticks. Avoid Them. Remove Them. Here’s How.

Winter weather doesn’t mean time to stop thinking about ticks.  Certainly not for the Don’t Get Ticked New York team here at the NYSIPM program.  Tick are active year round, and are out looking for hosts We’ve continued to provide resources and give talks around the state, and update our own resources. Visit the Don’t Get Ticked New York page.

Watch this video by Joellen Lampman and share this post!

 

and download your own tick posters:

Live in Tick Country? (gardener)

Live in Tick Country? (farmer)

Live in Tick Country? (hunter)

Live in Tick Country? (children)

Prepare for Summer Camp

How to Protect your Pets

Minimize Ticks in School Yards

Minimize Ticks in Your Yard

Clothing Treatments

Recognize Tick Habitats

Proper Use of Repellents

Monitor Ticks in School Yards

Monitor Ticks in Your Backyard

Ticks and tick-borne diseases have become a significant public health issue in New York, with different tick species and diseases currently present and spreading within the state and region.Visit the Don’t Get Ticked New York page.

 

January 31, 2019
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Have You Spotted Our New SLF Webpage?

Have You Spotted Our New SLF Webpage?

Here’s the latest on Spotted Lanternfly from Ryan Parker, Extension Aide at NYSIPM.

Adult Spotted Lanternfly, Photo Tim Weigle, NYSIPM

Concern over the invasive and destructive spotted lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) (SLF) generated many online resources by states researching new and active populations. Thought to have arrived in Berks County, PA, in 2012, this showy planthopper attacks more than seventy species of plants in the United States. New York State’s primary concern is outreach, monitoring, and proactively approving 2ee pesticide labels for control. Because live adults and nymphs (and egg masses) hitchhike from states with known populations, New York State has an external quarantine.

An external quarantine is a restriction of specific items that facilitate ‘hitchhiking’. In other words, if you’re traveling back from a state with an established population consider that your utility trailer, bicycle, tent canopy, or that swing set you bought in a yard sale might have SLF adults, nymphs, and egg masses tagging along. Any item that has been outside for a while needs to be checked before it crosses the border. Here’s the full list, downloadable, printable. 

Download, print and share to reduce the spread of Spotted Lanternfly

In an attempt to educate the public and limit the spread of this pest, New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYSIPM) has teamed up with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS), and New York State Agriculture and Markets (NYSDAM) to create the New York State Spotted Lanternfly Incident Command System (NYS SLF ICS).

Currently, NYSIPM’s primary SLF focus is outreach. We’ve created materials that help identify, monitor, and manage this pest. Along with the public departments listed above, we continue to remind NY residents how to report findings (spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov) and we provide educational materials LIKE OUR NEW WEBPAGE.  Besides our many resources (Powerpoint presentations, Spark videos, posters, photos and much more), and links to other state or government agency information, you’ll find a regularly updated incidence map showing county-by-county news of SLF sightings and populations across the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions.

Coming soon, two Moodle courses from NYSIPM and our Cornell CALS collaborators. One course provides general knowledge about SLF, while the other focuses on Tree of Heaven (Alianthus altissima), one of SLF’s preferred hosts. Both offer pesticide applicator credits.

Please use your social media to share the website https://nysipm.cornell.edu/environment/invasive-species-exotic-pests/spotted-lanternfly/ with family, co-workers, acquaintances, and friends. YOU can be an important factor in reducing the spread of this destructive insect pest.

If you have any comments, or concerns, feel free to email me at rkp56@cornell.edu.

December 26, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on 2018’s Best of NYS IPM

2018’s Best of NYS IPM

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

2018 has been quite the year and we have been busy blogging, tweeting, videoing, and Facebooking about it. Here’s a recap of some of our more popular 2018 offerings:

ThinkIPM – our catchall blog and a great way to keep a pulse on what’s happening in New York State IPM.

Our most popular blog post was actually a guest blog by Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County, Move Over, Medusa: Pretty? Poisonous! in the Caterpillar Clan. We’re big fans of his writing and this post on a venomous caterpillar caught a lot of your attention as well. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Are you safe now?

Ticks in February?

Ticks in the cold was also a popular topic. And relevant to now! Check out these two blog posts, Ticks don’t care what month it is and Ticks and the freezing weather. Hopefully they both convince you to keep up your daily tick checks.

While visiting our blog, you have also been checking out older posts. Our second most popular post viewed in 2018 was a 2014 post, Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?. There are a lot of budding scatologists out there.

Other IPM Blogs – Besides ThinkIPM, we have more dedicated blogs, and you don’t need to be a specialist to subscribe to them. Here are some of the more popular posts:

The Spotted Wing Drosophila blog has an obvious focus, but the post Spotted lanternfly found in two counties in NY captured the most views.

 

Biocontrol Bytes was begun at the end of 2018 and many of you have been enjoying the updates on the Creating habitat for beneficial insects project.

 

We saw a number of news reports about bed bugs in schools, so we wrote Bed bugs in schools aren’t going away in The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management blog. And you read it. We just wish the news reporters and commenters did too.

 

The 2017 NEWA Survey: IPM impact includes such gems as “93% agreed or strongly agreed that NEWA pest forecast information enhances IPM decision-making for their crops”.

 

Gypsy moths on Christmas trees? Check out the Tree Integrated Pest Management blog and see how it’s now a thing in the Gypsy Moth Caterpillars -Scout for them now post.

 

Facebook

When it comes to Facebook, video rules. Our most popular Facebook post was our claymation video, Life Cycle of the Blacklegged Tick (and Lyme Disease Prevention!). And, by the way, this claymation was part of a large Don’t Get Ticked NY campaign launched in 2018!

Our new Spotted Lanternfly video, Have YOU Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses was just posted, but it has already reached the number two spot. This invasive insect is getting a lot of attention and we need your help to keep track of it in New York.

 

Twitter

We’re not surprised that our most popular Tweet of 2018 was about spotted lanternfly. Follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest information.

 

 

 

Annual Report

This might be cheating, because it was just released and we have no data to show its popularity, but our 2017-2018 annual report is a 2019 calendar and everyone we have shown it to has been pretty excited.

Here’s a picture of the spotted lanternfly you have been hearing about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, as we raise our glasses to 2018 and look forward to 2019, include keeping up with NYS IPM Program amongst your resolutions.

Happy New Year!

December 10, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on Dreaming of a Local Christmas–post courtesy of Paul Hetzler

Dreaming of a Local Christmas–post courtesy of Paul Hetzler

We at the NYSIPM program are always informed and entertained by the writings of CCE St. Lawrence’s Paul Hetzler. We couldn’t pass this one up!

Even Santa Claus himself cannot grant a wish for a white Christmas—it is a coin toss whether the holiday will be snow-covered or green this year. A verdant landscape is not our Christmas ideal, but we can keep more greenbacks in the hands of local people, and keep our Christmas trees and other accents fresh and green for longer, when we buy local trees and wreaths.

Not only are Christmas trees a renewable resource, they boost the regional economy. Even if you don’t have the time to cut your own at a tree farm, do yourself a favor this year and purchase a natural tree from a local vendor. She or he can help you choose the best kind for your preference, and also let you know how fresh they are. Some trees at large retail outlets are cut weeks, if not months, before they show up at stores.

There is an additional reason to buy local in 2018: The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has announced a quarantine on out-of-state Christmas trees to prevent the spread of a devastating new insect pest. The spotted lanternfly (SLF) is a major pest of many tree species, as well as grapes and various other crops, but it is especially fond of sugar maples. First discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014, this tree-killing Asian bug has since spread into New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia. SLF females lay their camouflaged eggs on almost anything, and in 2017, egg masses were found on Christmas trees grown in New Jersey, prompting the quarantine.

Of all the memorable aromas of the holiday season, nothing evokes its spirit quite like the smell of a fresh-cut pine, spruce or fir tree, wreath or garland. Although the majority of American households where Christmas is observed have switched to artificial trees, about ten million families still bring home a real tree.

Every type of conifer has its own blend of sweet-smelling terpenols and esters that account for their “piney woods” perfume. Some people prefer the fragrance of a particular tree species, possibly one they had as a child. A natural Christmas tree is, among other things, a giant holiday potpourri. No chemistry lab can make a plastic tree smell like fresh pine, fir or spruce.

Photo by Brian Eshenaur

 

The origins of the Christmas tree are unclear, but evergreen trees, wreaths, and boughs were used by a number of ancient peoples, including the Egyptians, to symbolize eternal life. In sixteenth-century Germany, Martin Luther apparently helped kindle (so to speak) the custom of the indoor Christmas tree by bringing an evergreen into his house and decorating it with candles. For centuries afterward, Christmas trees were always brought into homes on 24 December, and not removed until after the Christian feast of Epiphany on 6 January.

In terms of crowd favorites, the firs—Douglas, balsam, and Fraser—are very popular, very aromatic evergreens. Grand and concolor fir smell great too. When kept in water, firs all have excellent needle retention. Pines also keep their needles well. While our native white pine is more fragrant than Scots (not Scotch; that’s for Santa) pine, the latter far outsells the former, possibly because the sturdy Scots can bear quite a load of decorations without its branches drooping. Not only do spruces have stout branches, they tend to have a strongly pyramidal shape. Spruces may not be quite as fragrant as firs or pines, but they’re great options for those who like short-needle trees.

The annual pilgrimage to choose a real tree together has been for many families, mine included, a cherished holiday tradition, a time to bond. You know, the customary thermos of hot chocolate; the ritual of the kids losing at least one mitten, and the time-honored squabble—I mean discussion—about which tree to cut. Good smells, and good memories.

For the best fragrance and needle retention, cut a one- to 2-inch “cookie” from the base before placing your tree in the stand, and fill the reservoir every two days. Research indicates products claiming to extend needle life don’t really work, so save your money. LED lights don’t dry out  needles as much as the old style did, and are easier on your electric bill too.

The NYSIPM Program thinks about Christmas Trees all year long. Here’s Betsy Lamb at Field Days. Photo by Brian Eshenaur

Visit www.christmastreesny.org/SearchFarm.php to find a nearby tree farm, and quarantine details can be found at www.agriculture.ny.gov/AD/release.asp?ReleaseID=3821 Information on the spotted lanternfly is posted at https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/113303.html

Whatever your traditions, may your family, friends, and evergreens all be well-hydrated, sweet-scented and a source of long-lasting memories this holiday season.

October 29, 2018
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Sorry, I Can’t Help You [grow that horribly invasive plant].

Sorry, I Can’t Help You [grow that horribly invasive plant].

Today’s post is from Matt Frye. FYI: (He didn’t just show up on our door talking ticks or rats! And we’re glad he escaped the vines to join our program.)

Kudzu is an invasive vine that was introduced from Japan to the United States in 1876. In its heyday, kudzu was planted extensively throughout the southeastern US, where it was touted for its ability to prevent soil erosion on embankments, restore soil nitrogen (it’s a legume), and provide high quality forage for livestock. Unfortunately, like many invasive organisms introduced outside of their native range, kudzu became a pest species due to its rapid growth rate and the ability to shade out existing vegetation.

Kudzu was planted extensively on slopes for erosion control.

Based on the detrimental effects of this plant and the cost of management, kudzu is listed as a noxious weed in several states. It has also been the subject of extensive research by the US Forest Service, including my graduate research at the University of Delaware, which examined the potential for biological control of kudzu using insect natural enemies.

Kudzu vines grow up trees, over bushes, and create a dense cover of foliage that kills other plants.

In 2014 I published a slide set describing my work and experience with kudzu: why it’s a pest, some of its ecological impacts, common misconceptions, how it was grown, and how it can be killed. Since publishing this document, I have received dozens of requests for more information about the plant. What do most people want to know? How to grow it! This has been for art installations, research on allelopathy, a test to determine if kudzu can grow in zero gravity (yes, kudzu literally will be sent to space), genetic studies and for use as wildlife forage.

The last request for information to grow kudzu in New York was most alarming, and led to communication with colleagues at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. As it turns out – there is a regulation (6 NYCRR Part 575) that prohibits the possession, transport, importation, sale, purchase, and introduction of kudzu and other prohibited and regulated invasive species in New York (thank goodness!). And while there is a loophole for permits to be issued, these are strictly for “research, education or other approved activities.”

Can I help you to manage the plant, and offer suggestions for what to do in spaces where kudzu has been cleared? You bet! Can I help you to grow the plant for research purposes? Sure. But if your interest in growing kudzu is for non-academic purposes –I can’t help you. Sorry (not sorry).

For more details about kudzu and its management:
New York Invasive Species Information: Kudzu
NYS DEC Stop the Invasion: Kudzu
Lessons Learned from Six Years of Kudzu Research

Matt Frye is our Community IPM Extension Area Educator, housed at 3 West Main Street, Suite 112, Elmsford, NY 10523

Matt provides education and conducts research on pests that occur in and around buildings where people live, work, learn and play. The focus of Matt’s program is to help people prevent issues with pests such as rodents, bed bugs, ticks, cockroaches, and indoor flies; or to provide management recommendations for existing problems.

September 13, 2018
by Karen English
Comments Off on Spotted Lanternfly Enters New York State

Spotted Lanternfly Enters New York State

It’s unfortunate that we must spread the news that living Spotted Lanternflies have been detected in New York State, but to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Here is the text of the press release published by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Agriculture and Markets:

DEC and DAM Announce Confirmed Finding of Spotted Lanternfly in Albany and Yates Counties

State Agencies Encourage Public to Report Findings of Invasive Pest

Red is ever a reminder to other critters: this might be toxic. (Photo Penn State)

The New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Agriculture and Markets (DAM) today confirmed that spotted lanternfly (SLF), an invasive pest from Asia, has been found in Albany and Yates counties. A single adult insect was discovered in a vehicle in the Capital District. In addition, a single adult insect was reported on a private Keuka Lake property in Penn Yan, Yates County.

“DEC and our partners at the Department of Agriculture and Markets are closely tracking the spotted lanternfly, a destructive invasive pest, as part of our ongoing efforts to prevent its establishment and spread in New York. This pest has the potential to severely impact our state’s agricultural and tourism industries,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “We are encouraging the public to send us information to bolster our efforts—they are our eyes on the ground.”

Following both reported cases, DEC and DAM immediately began extensive surveys throughout the area. At this time, no additional insects have been found. DEC and DAM urge New Yorkers to report potential sightings to spottedlanternfly@dec.ny.gov.

To read more, please follow this link: dec.ny.gov/press/114646.html

July 26, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Check 1.2.3.

Tick Check 1.2.3.

Just last week we posted a pretty good rundown on what to do about ticks—and how. So if you need a review, just call up “Tick, Tack, Toe the Line: Lyme Disease and What to Do” and carry on from there. Remember, the basic idea is no matter which life stage they’re at, know how to protect yourself. Because you can’t count on feeling them crawling on you.

And speaking of life cycles—OK, so the blacklegged tick’s larvae have finished, the nymphs are mostly dormant right now, and the adults have yet to strut their stuff. But that’s no reason to let down your guard. If you’ve been following our posts, you know that there’s a new tick in town (and if you’re following the news, another waiting in the wings.) Their life-cycles can be different. Be watchful!

So here’s what you do:

Two years. Yup. Ticks know how to make good use of their time.

Steer clear of hitchhikers. Ticks don’t survive long in most homes because of low humidity, but still—you’re safest if you put your clothes in a clothes dryer and run it on high heat for 20 minutes. The tumbling action of the dryer and the high heat kill ticks and similar critters.

Wear tick-killing clothing. Information on proper application of permethrin can be found on our post “Minimize tick risk while minimizing pesticide risk.” Also consider buying pretreated cloths or sending your outdoor socks, pants, and shirts for professional treatments.

(Permethrin is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. BTW, plants can’t run—that’s why many have evolved chemical means of protection. So say I went the DIY route, soaked some mums in oil, put the oil in a spray bottle, and spritzed my pants. But it failed to repel or kill ticks the ticks I bumped up against. Why? Mums come with a cocktail of natural chemicals inside those lovely flowers. And for permethrin and thus for repelling and killing ticks, I’d need to have the right chemicals in my brew—not to mention the know-how for making the stuff.)

Here’s your full-on tick check. Did we say to be thorough? Well, we’re saying it now.

Check for ticks. It bears repeating. Do a tick check at least once a day. Get to know the spots and bumps on your skin so you can recognize new ones. New ones that just happen to have legs.

Protect your pets. Just like people, pets can encounter ticks and acquire tick-borne disease. They can also bring ticks inside with them, which might expose you to ticks. So if your pet goes outdoors, it should have some protection against ticks. Ask your vet. And give it a tick check too—every day.

Remove ticks safely. Only one method has been officially evaluated for its ability to safely remove ticks — using sharp tweezers, grab a tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull up. Other methods could increase the risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. To learn more, see our post “It’s tick season. Put away the matches.

Swimming or bathing won’t kill ticks, whether attached or not.

Ticks have a different system of breathing than humans. You can immerse them in water for hours and they won’t croak. Besides, swimming or bathing might not be enough to remove an unattached tick crawling on your body. The best way to kill a tick? Remove it safely with pointy tweezers, then place in a jar of rubbing alcohol.

And there you have it. If we don’t see you at our statewide conference Breaking the Cycle: Integrated Management of Ticks and Mosquitoes on August 7 (9 AM at the Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave, White Plains, New York), we’ll have a video of the conference uploaded on our website soon after.

It’s not too late to register. Open to the public!

And, as always, we have more Tick Information on our DON’T GET TICKED NEW YORK homepage

 

 

 

 

 

July 12, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on It’s Invasive Species Week, and …

It’s Invasive Species Week, and …

We’re smack-dab in the middle of Invasive Species Week, and we’ve got info for you.

Are you a gardener? Take a look at our Alternatives to Ornamental Invasive Plants. We’ve got garden flowers. Vines. Trees. Shrubs. Aquatics—plants that like wet feet but will do fine in many gardens.

Like to walk in the woods? Our Landscape and Forest Pest webpage alerts you to emerging pests.

New York is a hotspot for invasive species. Curious about the State of the State (as it were)—where things stand here? Take a look at our 2017 conference and watch this video.

Or you could go to NYIS.INFO … your gateway to science-based information, innovative tools, news and events—all for coping with biological invaders in New York.

Granted—it’s not the cheeriest of weeks, but it’s best we be aware. It is, after all, in our collective self-interest.

June 19, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Trickery

Tick Trickery

Got ticks on your mind? Your questions. Our answers:

How common are tick-borne diseases — and who is at risk?

Lyme disease is the second most common infectious disease in the entire U.S. But over 96% of all cases come from only 14 states. Now that’s scary, because New York and the Northeast are at dead center for tick trickery.

What looks like spilled ink? That’s where most ticks hang out. (CDC)

Indeed, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the entire United States — and the second disease most commonly reported to the Centers of Disease Control, aka the CDC. (It comes right after chlamydia and before gonorrhea—both sexually transmitted diseases that could strike most anywhere.)

Each year, the CDC gets reports of about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease. But most likely that’s just a fraction of the number of cases. The CDC estimates that each year between 300,000 and 400,000 people are infected with the bacteria causing Lyme — and children ages 5 to 9 have the greatest risk. Parents, check your kids for ticks every day. Make it as mandatory as brushing teeth. “Oh, they were outside for only 10 minutes” or “Oh, but we live in a big city. How could there ticks possibly be here?” — trust us, these aren’t reasons to skip.

Those numbers on the left-hand side? It’s 5-9 year-old boys who most often run into the wrong side of a tick. (CDC)

No, you don’t have to be an outdoor adventurer to be exposed to disease. People can chance upon ticks in all sorts of places. Pushing a friend on the swings, gardening, picnicking at the park, taking a shortcut through a vacant lot, raking leaves—any perfectly normal activity could put you or your kids on the wrong side of a tick.

What diseases do ticks transmit?

Lyme disease is hardly the only pathogen ticks carry. They can also carry anaplasmosis, babesiosis, erhrlichiosis, Powassan virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Borrelia miyamotoi—a bacteria related to the agent of Lyme disease. (More info: Lyme Disease by the Numbers.)

Naturally, different kinds of ticks transmit different disease-causing pathogens — and the list of tick-borne pathogens continues to grow. Plus ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time. Example? The blacklegged tick  (aka the deer tick) can transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis all at once. Here’s the short list:

  • Blacklegged tick: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus
  • Lone star tick: ehrlichiosis, southern tick associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia
  • American dog tick: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia

Does every tick convey disease-causing pathogens?

No. Ticks don’t share a common destiny. Not every tick carries the pathogens that make us sick. Here in the Northeast, three ticks transmit pathogens—the blacklegged, lone star and American dog ticks.

Larval ticks, the stage that hatches from eggs with only six legs (nymphs and adults have eight legs), aren’t thought to play a major role in disease. But if larval ticks take their first blood meal from an infected animal, well—they’re infected too. Once they morph into nymphs, they can transmit whatever pathogens they took on.

Note: it’s possible that Powassan virus, carried by the blacklegged tick, can be transmitted from a female to her offspring — and that larval blacklegged ticks can transmit Borrelia miyamotoi, a type of relapsing disease. And what’s a relapsing disease? It’s when signs and symptoms of disease return after it seemed the disease was gone.

Blacklegged nymphs cause the most disease—partly because

  • they’re roughly the size of a poppy seed—not easy to see, and …
  • they’re active in spring when people aren’t thinking about ticks — though it’ll be summer before symptoms show.

Some nymphs and adults never acquire pathogens. Not every tick is infected. The rate of infection differs throughout the region. No common destiny there.

If I find a tick crawling on me, am I at risk for disease? And … how do they transmit disease?

Ticks transmit pathogens only while they’re attached and feeding. So no, a tick can’t infect you while it’s still looking for a place to feed. Once it’s fed, it’ll drop right off. That said:

  • if you find a tick crawling on you, don’t squish it
  • brushing ticks off your clothing is no guarantee they’ll stay off.

But if you keep a small vial of rubbing alcohol in your backpack or bag, you can quickly kill ticks by dropping them in. And that’s one less tick in your neck of the woods.

How do they make you sick? Ticks pick up pathogens from one organism (make that the mouse rummaging around under the shrubbery) and transmit them to another (make this one your kid). Here, not for the faint of heart, is how it works:

Larval ticks slide their mouthparts into the mouse — their soon-to-be host — and begin sucking blood. (Those mouthparts might seem a poor excuse for a head, but they get the job done.) At the same time, their saliva enters that mouse’s bloodstream — and yes, the saliva might be carrying pathogens. The time required for pathogens to pass from tick to host is variable. While viruses such as Powassan virus can be transferred within minutes, bacteria appear to take longer. (Just how long is open to debate, so we won’t get involved in that one.)

Need to remove a tick? Learn how here: Its tick season. Put away the matches.

We’ve got a couple of other posts in the pipeline, so we won’t return to this riveting topic until early or mid-July. But do stay tuned.

June 8, 2018
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Tick and Mosquito Repellent Safety—for You and Yours

Tick and Mosquito Repellent Safety—for You and Yours

You might have noticed that we’re having a bit of a crisis with ticks and mosquitoes. They bite, they suck, and they can transmit pathogens to us during their feeding. One of the many things that we can do to avoid ticks and mosquitoes is to use repellents. But there are two important ideas to consider before picking a product from the shelf:

  1. Not every product has been proven effective, and
  2. The safety of a product depends on how you use it.

Product Efficacy
More than ever, an old adage reigns true: buyer beware! When it comes to tick and mosquito repellents, there are a number of products that claim to be effective—but offer no evidence or data to support the claim. This is especially true of many “natural” products with essential-oil active ingredients. Why? Products with essential-oil active ingredients don’t have to pass a scientific review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and can go to market without demonstrating that they work. These products give users a false sense of security that they are protected against biting insects when they are not. Learn more about this topic from our Tick FAQ section, What natural products can I use to repel ticks? For details on what products work, see the Insect Repellent Buying Guide from Consumer Reports

A confusing mix: some of these products can be applied to skin, others should not under any circumstance contact skin while wet. Read the label before using any pesticide product.

Product Safety and Use Restrictions: The Label Is the Law
As a pest management educator, I’ve said a million times, “the label is the law.” This is literally true—all labels of EPA registered products read, “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”

Here is a critical distinction about the products you might see on a shelf:

  • Products with the active ingredient permethrin can actually kill ticks and mosquitoes. According to one label, “This product must not be applied to clothing while it is being worn. Under no circumstances should bare skin or clothing on the body be treated. In other words, if you’re going to use permethrin, you have to treat your clothing or gear before you intend to use it so the pesticide can dry. According to the label on one product, this may be two to four hours.
  • On the other hand, products with active ingredients DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 can be sprayed on clothing and skin to repel biting pests. These products work by masking the cues that make you smell tasty to mosquitoes and ticks. According to one label for these products, Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin… Do not use under clothing… Frequent reapplication and saturation is unnecessary for effectiveness.” 

We want you to enjoy the outdoors—and we want you to do it safely. Both types of products can be used to protect you, your friends, and families from the bite of blood-feeding organisms. To further protect health, always read and follow label instructions.

For more information:

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