Insects, Spiders, Mice and More... Cercopia Moth University of Nebraska-Lincoln
University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
444 Cherrycreek Road, Lincoln, NE Email

August 5, 2004

How effective are DEET Repellents?
by Barb Ogg, PhD, Extension Educator

Repellent products containing DEET (diethyl toluamide) are highly effective against mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks and chiggers. Recent research suggests that DEET does not actually repel the insects. Instead, the DEET jams the blood-seeking insects’ antennae which is the organ these insects use to locate you.

Mosquitoes and other biting insects follow plumes of CO2, body odors and moisture gradients that humans give off as they breathe and sweat. As it gets close, the insect’s antennal sensory receptors are seeking the final airborne chemicals that will lead it to you.

But, as the insect gets close, the regions of the antenna that locate you become jammed by the DEET molecules. The insects cannot find you, even though you’re right in front of them. This explains why you may see mosquitoes near you, even after you have used a DEET repellent. They’ve tracked you down, but just can’t find you for the final dive.

DEET repellents are available in many formulations, not just aerosol sprays. Look for pump sprays, lotions, sticks, creams, gels and impregnated towelettes.

How effective are they? Using medical entomologists to test repellents, Consumer Reports reported results of a study in their May 2003 issue.

Product Mosquito Protection

  • 3M Ultrathon - 13 hours of Protection
  • Off! Deep Woods for Sportsmen - 13 hours of Protection
  • Muskol Ultra 6 hours - 8 hours of Protection
  • BugOut - 7 hours of Protection
  • Sawyer Controlled Release - 6 hours of Protection
  • Cutter Unscented - 5 hours of Protection
  • Off! Skintastic with Sunscreen SPF 30 - 4 hours of Protection
  • Cutter Skinsations - 2 hours of Protection
  • Avon Skin So-Soft Bug Guard/Sunblock - 1 hour of Protection (contains no DEET)

Ultrathon is the same product the US military uses. Ultrathon and Off! Deep Woods for Sportsmen had the same level of protection, but Off! Deep Woods has three times as much DEET (100 percent) than Ultrathon. Developed by 3M, Ultrathon contains a polymer, a molecule that keeps the repellent on the skin rather than being absorbed into the body or evaporated into the air.

In this study, repellents using plant oils (citronella, soybean, coconut and geranium) provided little protection.

Back to Insects, Spiders, Mice and MoreMore Mosquito and Insect Control Resources

Looking for information about a specific insect pest or your local wildlife? Visit here.


USE OF THE EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS: You may reproduce the Educational Resource Guides for educational purposes but not for sales purposes (unless otherwise indicated as a sales item--these items may not be reproduced). Videotapes are copyrighted and may not be reproduced. If you have questions about using any photographs or images, visit Credits for use. You're also welcome to link to "Insects, Spiders, Mice and More" from your website. Please credit: University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County (http://lancaster.unl.edu/enviro/pest/bug.htm)

About This Site line Weekly Features
Insects and Spider Educational Resources line Wildlife Educational Resources
Head Lice Resources You Can Trust line Identifying Your Pest line Credits

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County
444 Cherrycreek Road, Suite A, Lincoln Nebraska 68528-1507
Phone: 402-441-7180 | Web Site: http://lancaster.unl.edu

4-H & Youth | Agriculture & Acreage | Environment & Natural Resources | Family Living
Food: Safety, Nutrition & Cooking | Gardening | Home Environment |
Insects, Spiders, Mice & More | Nutrition Education Program | NEBLINE Newsletter

Parents, Teachers and Students: Consider the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County Confidentiality Statement

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension educational programs abide with the nondiscrimination policies of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the United States Department of Agriculture.
All Rights Reserved 1996-2004