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Natural Alternatives to DEET and Picaridin Mosquito Repellents

Natural Alternatives to DEET and Picaridin Mosquito Repellents

DEET is one of the most popular insect repellents in the world. It has been estimated 30% of Americans use it every year and the results of many studies suggest it is safe to use. However, DEET (diethyltoluamide) is a chemical, and many people do not like the idea of placing poisonous chemical compounds onto their skin. There is also some concern that DEET may no be 100% safe for everyone.


In 1998, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported 14 to 46 cases of seizure, including 4 deaths, that may have been caused by DEET. After stating, “It does appear that some cases are likely related to DEET toxicity.” Experts at the EPA went on to speculate the seizure rate is only likely to be one per 100 million users. That’s all well and good unless you or a loved one happen to be unlucky enough to be that “one”, so there is a lot to be said for trying to repel mosquito and other insects by using natural products and ingredients instead of DEET or other chemicals.

On the other hand, Picaridin not only kills mosquitos, temporarily comforting consumers but also kills predators like salamanders that control the populations of mosquitos, hence permanently increase the number of mosquitos in the habitat. What a clever idea! Spray Picaridin bug spray to get rid of bugs, then go back to the store and buy more since the number of mosquitos will increase.

By harming mosquito predators, picaridin may help mosquitoes survive

“Insect repellents containing picaridin can be lethal to salamanders. So reports a new study published today in Biology Letters that investigated how exposure to two common insect repellents influenced the survival of aquatic salamander and mosquito larvae. 

Insect repellents are a defense against mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and West Nile virus. Salamanders provide natural mosquito control. During their aquatic juvenile phase, they forage on mosquito larvae, keeping populations of these nuisance insects in check.”

Emma Rosi, a freshwater ecologist at Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and a co-author on the paper explains, “Use of insect repellents is on the rise globally. Chemicals in repellents enter aquatic ecosystems through sewage effluent and are now common in surface waters. We set out to understand the impact of repellent pollution on both larval mosquitoes and the larval salamanders that prey on them.”

Natural Ingredients That Can Make Mosquitoes Bug Off

The results of a study conducted in 2004 suggest showed cinnamon oil to be very effective for killing the larvae of the yellow fever mosquito. At the time it was speculated cinnamon may have the potential to repel adult mosquitoes. Further studies were promised and there has been no news since. The fact that cinnamon is a good mosquito killer is useful because it gives it value as a safe insecticide. For keeping the mosquitoes away, compounds that contain catnip may be a far superior option. In 2001, the American Chemical Society conducted a study that showed catnip is a better mosquito repellent than DEET. A study carried out in Australia shows lemon eucalyptus also has a lot to offer as a natural mosquito repellent. The researchers discovered a mixture of 32% lemon eucalyptus oil could provide 95% protection from mosquitoes for three hours.

Some More Ways to Ensure the Mosquitoes Stay Away

Although buying or making insect repellent sprays that contain natural ingredients is a good way to protect against mosquito bites without resorting the use of nature-destroying chemical compounds, like DEET and Picaridin, there are some other steps that are worth trying as well.

Like many species of insect, mosquitoes are most active during the hours around dusk and dawn. So staying inside during the hours of maximum activity is a good way to avoid becoming an unwilling lunch date. Wearing socks and shoes instead of going barefoot in sandals is also a wise precaution, as is the use of trousers, instead of shorts, and long-sleeved shirts in preference to T-shirts.

Concluding Thoughts

Although the risks involved with the use of DEET and Picaridin appear too so small it is generally accepted as safe (for humans, not for other species), there are other ways to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. A few simple changes in clothing choice can help cover exposed skin, and several natural aromatic ingredients have the ability to act as an effective repellent. So although spraying on DEET will probably continue to remain a popular choice for keeping mosquitoes away, it is not the only way. Other options are available.