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> > Bug Sprays and DEET alternatives?

TimCatMay 26th, 2018, 4:51 pm
Alanson, MI

Posts: 121
So I've been laying on a lot of DEET lately at work and on the stream, and I'm a little concerned about the health risks involved. The black flies have been absolutely horrible this last week and my lemon-eucalyptus stuff doesn't really seem to stop them (it seems to work well for mosquitos though!). Hell... the DEET doesn't stop all of them either, even when using 50% solutions, but works way better. I still have quite a few welts right now. Would be nice to wear shorts to work, but I'm not giving them a larger buffet!

I'm ok with it for the time being, but I don't want to slather on the stuff every day for the next 2 weeks until the black flies subside. It would be nice to stop now if possible. I'm thinking that's a big "if".

Anybody have any successful results with DEET alternatives for black flies? I know the botanical alternatives work just fine for mosquitos, but they don't last very long, and that's ok with me.

I figured a lot of us on here are familiar with those little bastards and would ask.
"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
Jmd123May 27th, 2018, 3:28 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2581
Skin So Soft!!! By Avon...for decades they refused to acknowledge what a good blackfly repellent it made, saying it was for "soft skin"...well it will make your skin nice and soft but more important, keep it from getting welted up by blackflies! CVS used to (still does?) make a knock-off called 'Soft Skin Solution" that I found works just as well. So check out your local CVS Pharmacy - or get online and go to since I don't think they sell SSS in stores. Best of luck, it works for me. And, apparently, the US Marine Corps! I've heard they actually issue it.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
RleePMay 27th, 2018, 5:04 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
My understanding is that, at least for the DEET alternatives like Picaridin and oil of lemon eucalyptus, active ingredient concentrations in a lot of the off the shelf products is not sufficient to be effective. OLE products need to be 30% by volume and Picaridin should be 20%. Sometimes, this is the problem, especially with the more tenacious bugs like blackflies.

I had to abandon DEET a long time ago due to its appetite for plastics which made it potentially lethal to my behind the ear hearing aids. The first Picaridin products were maxed out by FDA/EPA regs at 7%, I think it was. At this concentration, they were slightly more effective than a rolled up newspaper. Then, they increased the legal Picaridin concentration to 20% and that was a lot better. We go up to La Verendrye Preserve in Quebec to fish, usually during prime blackfly season and 20% Picaridin worked pretty well, at least as well as any DEET products I've ever used or seen. I would add a $3.00 Wal-Mart head net during windless periods at the camp site and that was even better.

You might try 20% Picaridin and a head net. If it doesn't work, you're only out about $25.00 and even then, it still might work for everything else from ticks to skeeters, etc.
TimCatMay 27th, 2018, 5:55 am
Alanson, MI

Posts: 121
Interesting with the skin so soft. Unfortunately the closest CVS to me is about an hour and a half away.

I think Picaridin is in the other bottle of Off Botanicals spray I have, but it might be a low concentration mixed with other natural deterrents. I should probably get a net for fishing outings too. Thanks for the advice guys. I'm going to try straight picaridin and SSS out (if I can find some).

On another note... the black flies seemed to have infiltrated my life at a whole new level. My girlfriend and I moved up here because she just got a job as a Vet. She saw some circular irritations on our dog's belly this morning and thought... Ringworm. Initially we were pretty irritated by the idea of having to clean the entire house that we just cleaned and keep the dog under a strict regiment of treatment, isolating it to certain areas, the possibility of it spreading to us or the cat, and cleaning some more... She talked to her colleagues and they said something along the lines of, "we all thought the same thing our first season of working up here, but it's just black fly bites!" The first time in my life I've ever been relieved by a black fly bite, granted it was on my dog (poor guy).
"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
RleePMay 27th, 2018, 10:15 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
When you mentioned ringworm, I was reminded of an old Homer & Jethroe routine. This country music duo was hilarious if you liked that kind of humor. What a lot of folks never know was that Jethroe Burns was one of the 3 or 4 premier jazz mandolinists of his day. Look him up on YouTube some time. He could really make a mandolin smoke...


Homer: Hey Jethroe.. Let's go fishing!

Jethroe: OK! You got worms?

Homer: Yup, but I'm a' goin' anyway....!
Jmd123May 27th, 2018, 12:08 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2581
The Three Stooges once incorporated that line into a sketch...

Go for the SSS. I usually have to put it on fairly thick but it works, makes my skin softer unlike DEET (trust me, I wear plenty of that stuff!!), and won't melt your fly line (or hearing aids). It isn't as effective against mosquitos - DEET works for them but not on blackflies for me! I gotta have 'em both...and NOTHING works on deer flies.

Haven't needed it in the field yet. But this weekend the blood supply arrived to encourage them all to emerge...I am already stocked & have been carrying it for a week now. Listening to some intense thunder as I finish this...


P.S. A headnet is also very handy! Sometimes a physical barrier works best.
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
PartsmanMay 27th, 2018, 5:14 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 420
I stick with the deet, and spray shirt and hat and a bandana with permithin. Ticks seem to be really attracted to me and the pine river is the worst place for me for ticks. As a side note my vet told me Alcona and Shiawassee counties are two of the worst for ticks, and ticks are carrying some really bad stuff these days. I'm not taking any chances with these things!

StrmanglrMay 29th, 2018, 4:33 am
Posts: 156
Eucalyptus oil. Was over at a friend's house and sitting in the garage his wife gave me some of that to put on for mosquitos, to my surprise it worked great.

Which made me think of an old friend who recommended Vicks vapor rub. Always thought he was a little out there. So I never tried it. He told me an Native American told him about it, figure that out. Said it worked for mosquitos and black flies, a little dab on the back of your neck, idk.

I've always used 100% deet. Sprayed on a napkin, wiped on exposed areas, no problems.
RleePMay 29th, 2018, 10:01 am
NW PA - Pennsylvania's Glacial Pothole Wonderland

Posts: 398
When we were living in the Midwest, I had a PA friend come out and fish with me for a week. He had heard good things about Vicks as a repellant, so he wanted to try it.

He slopped it on all week and got the bejesus bit out of him. It never slowed the gnats or skeeters even a little bit. His breathing was remarkably clear though..
Jmd123May 29th, 2018, 6:03 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2581
I've tried repellents based on eucalyptus plus citronella. Used to be one called Green Ban that they claimed was tested in the "Australian rainforest". Okay fine, but what about a northern Michigan cedar swamp?? I'll put our skeeters up against anyone's! Well, Green Ban worked OK so long as I slathered it on HEAVY and about every 20 minutes or so. After that they started coming after me again. Oh, and don't EVER use it in Louisiana!! I drew in the damned horseflies in the bayou, must have smelled like some of their favorite flowers or something because suddenly my ex-wife and I were assaulted by Tabanids the size of cicadas!! They left us alone after we went and washed it beware of your "repellent" turning out to be an "attractant"!

As I said, DEET works on mosquitoes for me, and I won't go over 40% these days (used plenty of the 100% in my youth, it would melt the covers of my notebooks and take the paint off my pencils!). And SSS or knock-off does the job for blackflies (Simuliidae).

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
StrmanglrMay 31st, 2018, 6:13 pm
Posts: 156
I was wrong. Over at my friends, skeeters are savage rt now, especially w the storm last night

Frankincense Boswella essential oil. Reading the bottle.

Just put some on. Mosquitos...gone.
Jmd123June 1st, 2018, 4:40 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2581
"Frankincense Boswella essential oil. Reading the bottle.

Just put some on. Mosquitos...gone."

Reminds me of a friend who told me about a tick repellent, which I believe was rose geranium oil. He said a few drops in a spray bottle full of water will do the trick. He has a place in the deepest darkest U.P. which is infested with the little bloodsuckers, and typically a walk in the woods will cover him with a hundred or so (he says he has burned clothing rather than try to pick off all of the ticks!). After spritzing this stuff on, "You'll smell like a flower shop!", but he said he would pick up only one or two ticks with it on.

Another friend who cultivates medical marijuana uses all essential plant oils as insecticides for pests of that plant, namely spider mites and greenhouse whiteflies. Well, plants produce those oils for a reason!

I still have yet to put on a drop of repellent, they just haven't been that bad yet. Went to the field on Wednesday and took the class on a field trip yesterday, too breezy for skeeters I guess! I'm sure once I'm fishing I'll need it, when they start getting in my face that will be the last straw...

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TimCatJune 1st, 2018, 5:24 pm
Alanson, MI

Posts: 121
Hey that's a good point about plant oils... At work this week we use neem oil for a wide variety of pest pressure. I'm going to try it. The black flies are starting to subside, but the mosquitos are taking there place now. Ah well. That's to be expected
"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
IasgairJuly 11th, 2018, 7:01 pm

Posts: 148
Sawyer makes a good Picaridin bug spray. I prefer it due to it won't harm plastic fly lines. As for health concerns, I have not heard of any. I know in Europe, Picaridin is the choice of the majority.
PartsmanJuly 12th, 2018, 4:29 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 420
Im sticking with repel brand 40 % deet for a repellant and the permithin on my fishing shirt and bandanna and hat. At this time there is some concern about permithin as possible culprit in a fish kill on the N.B. of the ausable river. Permithin is toxic to fish, don't put it on your waders, don't apply it stream side, I always spray the shirt and hat im going to wear the day before I fish. So far only 1 tick this year and the skeeters leave me alone.

BobbyHeadJuly 30th, 2018, 2:47 am
Tampa, Florida

Posts: 7
Great recommendations! Thanks, guys!

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