Mosquito Repellents: Which one is best?

by By Patrick Linn, MS, MSHAPI Executive Director, Collier Mosquito Control District

One of the most common questions we hear from our public at the Collier Mosquito Control District is about mosquito repellents: Which one is best? It’s an easy one for us to answer: both the EPA and the CDC put the ingredient DEET at the top of the list when it comes to effectiveness. Read on for some excellent information provided by the American Mosquito Control Association’s Technical Advisor Daniel Markowski about this proven repellent:

“In 1957, DEET was registered by the EPA for general use without restriction on the amount or frequency of application. Its only registered use since that time has been as an insect repellent.

To date, the Agency has not identified any risks or concern to human health, non-target species, or the environment (US EPA 2014). This decision is based, in part, because since its initial registration in the 1950s, there have been only 46 case reports on DEET toxicity. Included are at least 25 cases with central nervous system symptoms, one with cardiovascular involvement, and 17 with utaneous/ allergic reactions. Reported central nervous system symptoms include lethargy, confusion, acute manic psychosis, headaches, ataxia, disorientation, acute encephalopathy, convulsions, tremors, and seizures (Katz et al. 2008).

It is important to note that most reported adverse incidents related to DEET use involve overuse or incorrect use of the product. That’s why it’s always important to read and follow usage guidelines. With proper application, the use of DEET remains the most effective and an extremely safe repellent for preventing mosquito and other arthropod bites.

Conversely, during a relatively small time frame from 2004 – 2016, there were nearly 650,000 cases of vector-borne disease in the United States (CDC 2018); and there are over 700,000 deaths each year globally attributed to vector-borne diseases.

In the 1980s, Bayer developed a novel synthetic piperidine called picaridin. It elicits practically no dermal or eye irritation. The repellent efficacy in some instances is as good as DEET, and it offers protection time equivalent to DEET (Van Roey et al. 2014).

There are certainly other repellents on the market, oil of lemon and eucalyptus most notably. But each new product has its own concerns, typically an inferior protection time, while attempting to overtake DEET as the repellent of choice.”

The public – especially parents – need to be educated about the advantages and disadvantages of all available repellent products and, as always, mindful to use them according to the manufacturer’s label.

Typically, the District offers public tours of our facilities to share more about our operations, but Hurricane Ian delivered nearly three feet of storm surge through our campus. All buildings are in a state of restoration and are not habitable, which is the primary reason the District is building a hangar at the Immokalee airport – to serve as a safe haven during storms to ensure uninterrupted service to our community. However, our Outreach team conducts presentations at group meetings. Please call our office at (239) 436-1000 to request a presentation or if we can provide more information.

NOTE: Excerpt reprinted with permission: From where I roam: DEET remains the gold standard for repelling medically important arthropods, Wing Beats magazine, Vol 33, No 4.

Want to know more about the science behind mosquito control? Looking for someone to speak to your group’s next meeting?

Visit the District’s website at or call 239.436.1000.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.