Before heading out to enjoy time outdoors in Maine this summer, you may want to double check to make sure you’ve got your insect repellent handy.
State officials have already predicted a busy summer tourist season. Unfortunately, it’s also shaping up to be a banner season for stinging, biting and buzzing insects.
More than 1,000 species of insects call Maine home, and at the height of the so-called summer bug season, it can seem that every one of them is determined to make your life miserable with bites that range from mildly annoying to causing severe allergic reactions.
Among the most common biting insects in Maine are blackflies, mosquitoes, deer flies, moose flies and different varieties of ticks. For people with specific allergies, bees can also pose a threat.
Keeping biting and stinging insects off your skin or from buzzing around your head can be a challenge. While there is no silver bullet that works with 100 percent effectiveness on every pest, there are some tried and true products — commonly called “bug dope” in Maine — that can prevent insect bites, or at least treat any you do experience.
The best all-around insect repellents that can be applied directly to your skin include some percentage of the chemical diethyltoluamide — commonly called DEET — or the chemical picaridin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Both are approved by and registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The more DEET or picaridin a product contains, the longer it will last between applications.
You should select a product with the lowest concentration that will protect you for the time you plan to be outdoors, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. A product with 23 percent DEET will keep bugs off of you for an average of five hours. Products with less than five percent DEET are good for about 90 minutes.
DEET-containing insect repellents include Ben’s, Jungle Juice, Repel 100 and Deep Woods Off. Repellents with picaridin include Picaridin Insect Repellent, Ranger Ready, Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard and Off.
Non-chemical repellents containing lemon eucalyptus provide similar levels of protection as low concentrations of DEET, according to the EPA. Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus include Murphy’s Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, Slay, Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus and Off Botanical.
There are also insect repellents made here in Maine including Frenchie’s Natural, Flick the Tick and Be Gone Bug Spray & Repellent.
When it comes to ticks, a product that contains 20 to 30 percent DEET can help repel them.
Another way to keep ticks and other bugs from latching on is treating your clothes with permethrin or purchasing clothing and other products such as bed nets and camping gear that contain it.
Permethrin-treated clothing repels and kills ticks, mosquitoes and other arthropods and retains this effect after repeated laundering, according to the Maine CDC.
“Permethrin is a highly effective repellent against ticks,” said Griffin Dill, manager of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension tick lab. “Though not for use on skin, treating clothing, shoes and gear with permethrin provides excellent protection from ticks and other biting pests.”
The Maine company Dog Not Gone has a line of permethrin-treated clothing for adults, children and pets.
Dill recommends that anyone who spends a lot of time outdoors gardening or doing yard work dedicate a specific set of clothes and shoes to these activities and periodically treat them with permethrin.
“This provides relatively long-term protection and can take some of the forgetfulness out of repellent use,” he said. “Periodically treating shoes and socks during the summer months is also a good way of minimizing exposure to nymphal blacklegged — deer — ticks.”
With any insect repellent, the Maine CDC reminds people to read the label and follow all application instructions for that product.