Bite Back - Tips to Avoid Bug Bites this Summer - U of I Extension

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Bite Back - Tips to Avoid Bug Bites this Summer

This article was originally published on June 28, 2017 and expired on August 1, 2017. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Summer is here and with summer comes cookouts, hiking, or just sitting out on your porch enjoying the warm summer days.  However, with all of these activities, uninvited guests always seem to show up to make things miserable.  They buzz, bug, and bite, forcing you to take up interpretive dance to keep them away or they just force you inside.  If we are to believe all the hype we see in advertisements, there are many choices to make your life outside much better.  Some are common sense and others border on the almost unbelievable.  Here are a few tips to keep those annoying biting bugs away from you this summer.

  1. Keep them out of the party.  Excluding biting bugs all together is the most effective way to keep your blood inside your body not theirs.  Screened in porches or four season rooms are very simple ways to keep those bugs away from you.  Check your screens periodically to make sure that there are no holes and patch them when you find them.  Even a small hole in a screen can let in those party crashers.
  2. Take their breeding grounds away.  Make sure there is no standing water to serve as breeding grounds for mosquitos.  After rainfall, check any objects that could hold water and dump them out if possible.
  3. Cover exposed skin.  Wearing clothes that cover as much skin as you are comfortable with really helps with avoiding those bug bites.  Spraying your clothes with an insect repellent with DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OEL), Para-Menthane-Diol (PMD), or IR3535 adds an extra layer of protection.
  4. Use insect repellents.  These products are easy to find and can provide great protection.  DEET at above 20% or any of the other products listed above come recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).  One thing to keep in mind is that though all of these products work well against mosquitoes they are significantly less effective in protecting from ticks and other biting insects.  Keep in mind that the higher concentration of DEET, the longer the protection - up to 50%.  Do not apply insect repellents to skin that will be covered with clothes. 
  5. Do not be fooled by the hype.  There are so many products on the market that claim to keep insects away but many of them do not work.  You can buy electromagnetic and supersonic devices but there is no evidence to show that they work.  Bug zappers actually attract biting insects and tend to kill beneficial insects without killing a significant number of biting insects.  Carbon Dioxide traps are effective but there is a great deal of upkeep involved with them and the jury is still out on whether they play a role in reducing biting insect populations.  They also tend to attract beneficial insects and trap them as well.  Fogging a yard is effective for a short period; these treatments require contact with the insects to kill them and the products used breakdown very quickly.  Because insect populations fluctuate from day to day, the effectiveness of these treatments is very difficult to gauge and are less effective than most people would hope.

Insects can crash a party but hopefully, these tips help to keep your good times rolling. If you have any questions about Natural Resources please contact Jason Haupt ( 

Source: Jason Haupt, Extension Educator, Energy and Environmental Stewardship,

Pull date: August 1, 2017