Spring is tick season. According to the Illinois Department of Health we see the highest infestation rates in April, May, and June. The mild winter has made it worse. Due to the lack of die off, which normally occurs in winter, we’re seeing an increase in tick activity. In particular the black leg tick, deer tick, and the brown tick are more abundant this year. The deer tick is especially worrisome as they carry the dreaded lime disease.
So what can we do? As in most things prevention is the best path to follow. Contrary to popular belief the well-known DEET is not a good tick repellant. DEET works well as a mosquito repellant but falls short when tested on ticks. A far better choice is permethrin. Permethrin is a synthetic and more potent derivative of the pyrethroids found in the chrysanthemum plant. Developed in the mid 70’s it is hands down the best preventative for ticks I have found.
I have used permethrin since the early 80’s and rarely do I find a tick on me. They are nasty little beasties and I do all I can to prevent them. Apply permethrin to your clothing, not your skin. Just spry it on areas of your clothes, that a tick would likely cross to get on you. Socks, shoes, gaiters, pant cuffs, shirt sleeves, shirt necks, and hats. I also set up my tent and spray around any opening. Permethrin will not damage the material or reduce the fire retardancy. It has a smell when it is initially sprayed but once it dries you will not detect its presence. If a tick comes in contact, with the permethrin, it will be killed.
Permethrin has several characteristic that make it appealing to use. First it lasts for several weeks and up to six washings. So, you will only need to apply it two or three times in a season. This makes it really convenient for that extended camping trip. Second it is just sprayed on and let it dry. It doesn’t get much easier.
Unfortunately, it also has a couple of warning, but if used properly, they pose no threat. It is not recommended to spray it directly on the skin as it will cross tissue barriers. While it poses little threat to most mammals it is potentially fatal to cats. However, once dry these issues go away. So, wash your hands after spraying, and hang your sprayed clothes in an area away from your pets until completely dry. Usually it is just a couple of hours but I hang mine over night.
Permethrin is available in several brand names. Repel, sawyer, and cutter all make their own brand of permethrin. For years I bought a plain labeled no name green aerosol from Walmart that proved very effective. We sell Repels Outdoor and Gear spray. I find the .75% and above works efficiently. So, go outdoors well prepared to face the tick season with permethrin treated clothes and keep the beasties away.