There’s a reason that the noun “bug” is frequently used as a verb to describe something that is really annoying. Bugs can really bug us.
So how do we bug-proof our inviting decks and patios so we can take advantage of summer days and evenings unmolested by mosquitoes and yellowjackets?
The non-profit product testing organization Consumer Reports has evaluated the various methods for repelling insects and concluded that the go-to weapon — DEET — may be worse than the enemy threat itself.
“People have a misconception that because a product is on the market, it must be perfectly safe. But the truth is, there are risks associated with DEET,” said Trish Calvo, the deputy content editor for food at Consumer Reports, which accepts no advertising and pays for all the products it rates.
It’s not a notable problem if applications are limited and it is applied correctly. But long-term exposure or exposure by products containing high concentrations of DEET can lead to seizures, slurred speech, coma, and other side effects, she added.
Given that it is a registered pesticide, it may be better to take a lighter approach before bringing out the toxic artillery. Consumer’s recommends using DEET only as a last resort and in as low a concentration as possible, like 15 percent and never more than 30 percent.
High concentrations of up to 98 percent touted in some products provide no more protection and greater risk of harm, Calvo said.
You should also avoid those clip-on devices that attach to your waistband and use a fan to circulate a repellent around you like a cloud.
“The active ingredient is metofluthrin, that causes nervous system risks,” said Calvo.
“And our tests over the years have found they don’t work very well over bugs anyway. Why take the risk when it’s not as effective as you want it to be?”