Bug spray: Best products, what to avoid and more to know this mosquito season

Mosquitoes tend to strike most in shaded, bushy areas, and near standing water, at dusk and dawn from June through October.
Mosquitoes tend to strike most in shaded, bushy areas, and near standing water, at dusk and dawn from June through October. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

While summer in NYC does mean rooftop fun, lounging in the park and adventures on the water, West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes (among other pests) are most active this time of year.

They tend to strike most in shaded, bushy areas, and near standing water, at dusk and dawn from June through October. And while staying inside or covering yourself in unbearable layers of clothing would most likely do the trick, we want you to get outside and enjoy the city in that crop top you’ve been waiting all winter to wear. But first, here’s what you need to know.




There are four repellants typically used on the skin, the New York State Department of Health says.

1. DEET (Label may say N-diethyl-m-toluamide): The most effective and long-lasting insect repellant, DEET repels mosquitoes and ticks, and comes in sprays, lotions and creams. But pay close attention to the concentration, the DOH warns. While a 25 to 35 percent concentration is usually adequate, repellants go as high as 100 percent. The higher the concentration, the longer it lasts, but the more potent it is, as well. Choose a lower concentration and apply more often. And never spray directly on children’s faces– put it on your hands, and then apply to the face.

2. Picaridin (Label may say KBR 3023): This colorless, odorless ingredient is a common one in repellants, and it’s more effective at repelling mosquitoes than ticks. It has been reported to cause less irritation than DEET.

3. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (Label may say OLE): Derived from eucalyptus trees, OLE is believed to be about as effective as lower level DEET concentrations. It has a cooling effect and a scent similar to menthol.

4. IR3535: This active ingredient, used in some popular Avon Skin-So-Soft products, has been used in the U.S. since 1999. It posesses almost all of the benefits of DEET with fewer side-effects, but eye irritation has been reported.




Citronella is another common option, but is not proven to be extremely effective, the DOH says, adding that it’s the smoke from citronella torches and candles that is likely keeping insects away.

Commonly believed fixes, such as lemon dish soap, dryer sheets and apps that make dragonfly sounds, are not effective at repelling insects, the DOH says.




Permethrin, for use on clothing, not skin, kills insects that come in contact with it. Clothing is sold with insect repellant built-in, and these usually last for about 70 washes.




To avoid chemicals on the skin, try placing an oscillating fan near you, when possible. This will get rid of that attractive human smell, and literally blow insects away.

Machines fueled with propane tanks are also very effective, though less practical, the DOH says. They attract mosquitoes, but then trap them. Bug zappers have the same effect.




Do not apply repellents under your clothing. Instead, cover exposed skin and/or outside of clothing.

Do not use repellents over cuts or rashes.

Do not over-apply. Heavy application does not make it work better.

Do not skip the shower. After heading inside, wash repellant off of skin with soap and water as soon as possible.




The DOH does recommend using both bug repellant and sunscreen when outdoors. Apply sunscreen first. Sunscreen will need to be reapplied more often than bug repellant.

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