Sunday, 22 May 2016

War on Bugs

bugsThe War on Bugs is a big deal in the semi-wilderness where most summer camps, cottages and camp-grounds reside.  Anyone who spends any time at all outdoors is constantly in search of some way to keep the bugs off. We’re all on the front lines, and people have tried everything and anything to deter the enemy - flies, bees, ticks, chiggers, and especially Mosquitoes. There are some pretty strange ideas out there, so here’s some researched facts to set the record straight.
            Insect Basics.
  • Mosquitoes are most active at Dawn or Dusk, try planning your outdoor activities when the bugs are least active.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, full length pants and closed shoes if you are outdoors when mosquitos are active or where ticks might be found.
  • If you are in an area where ticks might be found, you should also tuck your shirt into your pants and pull socks up over your pant legs. This will help keep ticks away from your bare skin.
  • Wear light-colored clothing, which will help reduce your overall attractiveness to mosquitos and allow you to see ticks more easily.
  • Don't wear scented deodorant, soaps or perfumes if you are in an area with a high bug population.
  • Yes they are attracted to Carbon Dioxide, but standing perfectly still and not brushing them away isn’t going to help.  They also use wind currents, odors and intuition to find you.  Swat away.
            More advanced defence.
Bug Jacket           Bug Nets, Jackets, Pants and Hats are relatively inexpensive and very effective, but they tend to be hot and butt ugly. The theory is that if the mosquito can’t get to your skin - they can’t bite you.  My opinion? Jeans, and a lightweight long sleeve shirt will do the job effectively in most cases (If you are fighting Black Flies, be sure to have the cuffs snugged).  A bug hat and a light pair of gloves would be a good addition in extreme cases.

            Going on the Offence.
            So the ideal weapon against bugs would be one that deterred mosquitoes, was non-toxic, not greasy, odor free, easy to apply, and only need to be applied once.  Many companies have been experimenting nonstop to find this holy grail of bug repellents. The biggest problem?  Too many variables.  Everyone has slightly different body chemistry, and every mosquito has a different favorite flavour.  Repellent that mixes well with your sweat and phermones may not work for the guy next door.  What might turn off the Mosquitoes in the Florida Everglades may not even phase the ones in northern BC.  
            Each repellent has an ‘active ingredient’ - that’s the stuff the repellent is based on that does all the actual repelling. The most common Active Ingredient bases, and their pros and cons are listed below:

            Deet (Muskol) 
Muskol            DEET, a registered pesticide, is short for N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide. It is the most proven active ingredient available.  It is approved by both the Canadian and US Military, and having been used by millions of people worldwide for 40 years, DEET has a remarkable safety profile. 
Deet is NOT Considered a possible Carcinogen, and is the recommended active ingredient in insect repellents - when properly applied.  Excessive exposure to Deet (levels only obtained by ingestion or injection) has been linked to problems with the central nervous system in test subjects, as well as problems with musculature co-ordination. These instances are so rare as to be virtually non-existent. Most recorded issues have arisen when DEET is accidentally sprayed into the eyes.
            Health Canada completed a review in 2001, which was also supported by the Canadian Paediatric Society.  Registered products containing DEET, when used as directed, are acceptable for use.
            Repellents containing DEET must be carefully applied because they can damage plastics (such as watch crystals and eyeglasses frames), rayon, spandex, other synthetic fabrics, leather, and painted or varnished surfaces. DEET does not damage natural fibers, such as cotton or wool, and has no effect on nylon. 
            The higher the DEET concentration in the repellent formula, the longer it provides protection.  More Saturation does not mean stronger protection, just longer. It’s kind of like Sunscreen in that regard. If the user is concerned about health effects, Deet based repellents can effectively be applied to clothing, but note that it only protects the surface to which it is applied.  Mosquitoes will land within 4 inches of a Deet treated area, though they will avoid the actual treated surface.
            Health Canada has approved the following concentrations for different age groups. Prolonged use should be avoided in children under the age of 12.
  • Up to 30% concentration of DEET for adults and children over 12 years of age. One application of 30% DEET should be effective for six hours against mosquitos.
  • Up to 10% concentration for children aged two to 12, applied up to three times daily. One application of 10% DEET should be effective for three hours against mosquitos.
  • Up to 10% concentration for children aged six months to two years, applied no more than once daily. One application of 10% DEET offers three hours of protection against mosquitos.
            Do not use personal insect repellents containing DEET on infants under six months of age. Use a mosquito net when the child is outdoors in a crib, playpen or stroller.
            Citronella (Druide)
Druide            In 2004, Health Canada completed a review of the available information on citronella-based personal insect repellents that are applied directly to the skin. There was a lack of safety data to support continued registration. However, since Health Canada did not identify any imminent health risks, citronella-based personal insect repellents will remain on the market.
            Registered products containing citronella protect people against mosquito bites from 30 minutes to two hours. To remain effective, Citronella based repellents need to be constantly refreshed.  They should be re-applied every 30-60 minutes.  As with most essential oils, these products should not be used on infants and toddlers.
Certain products containing citronella have a limit on the number of applications allowed per day. Read the product label before using.
            P-menthane 3,8-diol
            Products containing this active ingredient are registered in Canada. They provide up to 2 hours of protection against mosquitos and up to 5 hours of protection against blackflies, but should not be used on children under three years of age. These products can be applied up to two times per day.
            Soybean Oil
            Soybean oil, 2% blocker repellent is another personal insect repellent that provides protection for 3.5 hours against mosquitos and for up to 8 hours for blackflies. There are no age restrictions or limitations on frequency of use with these products.
            Sunscreen and Personal Insect Repellents
            Sunscreen and personal insect repellents can be used safely at the same time. Follow the instructions on the package for proper application of each product. Apply the sunscreen first, and follow with the insect repellent.
            Do not use/Does not work.
DOnt Use            Original Skin-so-Soft – It was never marketed as a repellent, but it is commonly believed to be highly effective.  It has been clinically proven to have almost zero effect at repelling mosquitos.
            The following products are not recommended by Health Canada for a variety of reasons. They are on this list for any number of reasons: they may not be very effective or long-lasting, and may have the potential to be harmful to human health.
  • Electronic or ultrasonic devices
  • Electrocuting devices, such as bug zappers
  • Wristbands, neckbands and ankle bands impregnated with repellents
  • Odor-baited mosquito traps
  • Citrosa houseplants
  • Vitamin B1 taken orally, or in liquid, cream or patch form.
  • Skin moisturizers and insect repellent-combination products are not approved for use by Health Canada. Use separate products simultaneously when required.                       
            Given the amount of information available (both good info and un-vetted rumors), it is understandable for anyone to be wary of anything that purports to banish insects for good.  The best solution to any problem – this one included - is usually the simplest.  Do your best to avoid heavily infested areas and wear the appropriate clothing.  Otherwise, whatever works best for you is the way to go.

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