Does Bug Spray Work on Fleas and Ticks?


Hand holding bug spray with text "Does Bug Spray Work On Fleas and Ticks?"

Bug spray – the ultimate defense against mosquitoes and pests among them. Of course, we know many bug spray types work to deter mosquitoes effectively, but do they work on other insects such as fleas and ticks?

DEET-based bug spray will help deter fleas and ticks by interfering with the neurons that allow the insects to smell their surroundings. DEET, one of the most effective ingredients in bug spray for repelling fleas and ticks, will only deter the insects and is not intended to be a contact insecticide.

If you’re wondering just what the heck DEET is and why it sounds weird to say out loud, look no further! We’ll breakdown just what DEET is, why it works, and what DEET-based bug sprays you should use to deter fleas and ticks.

Why Does “DEET” Repel Fleas and Ticks?

Ah yes, DEET. Or maybe I should call it by its full name, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide.

Let’s stick with DEET.

One of the most common and useful ingredient-based of most all quality insect repellents, DEET is a yellow-colored oil found in most bug spray that is intended to be applied to the skin to “confuse” the scent receptors of various types of insects.

In our case, it works to deter fleas and ticks.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA believes that normal use of DEET doesn’t present a health concern to the general population with proper use.

Of course, proper use depends on the specific instructions of each DEET-based product.

When a DEET bug spray is appropriately applied to the skin, it can effectively ward off both fleas and ticks (and other listed insects) because the insects will not recognize your scent.

Basically, if they can’t find you, they can’t bite you!

New research suggests that mosquitoes actually sense DEET through their legs, so it doesn’t take effect until they even land on you. After landing, they then fly away. However, more research will need to be conducted over the next few years in order to see how DEET works on fleas and ticks.

Regardless, DEET can play a great line of defense in deterring fleas and ticks.

Best Types of DEET Spray for Fleas and Ticks

As mentioned, we want DEET-based bug sprays here. As a consumer, I always appreciate it when the product designers and marketing team CLEARLY list the benefits of using it.

So when looking for a bug spray that repels specifically fleas and ticks, I want to see the aerosol can actually say “repels fleas, ticks, etc.,”

Repel Sportsmen Max Aerosol Insect Repellent is an excellent choice in this regard. They can list fleas and ticks on the label, giving a little more peace of mind than just listing one or the other or saying a general insect category.

Another option that also fits our criteria of being very transparent about what insects their DEET-based spray repels is OFF! Deep Woods Insect and Mosquito Repellent. You’ll notice on the back of the can that OFF! clearly lists both fleas and ticks as insects that they aim to repel.

It’s also got a lemon scent, so there’s that too.

Next up is Cutter HG-86647 Insect Repellent. At 40% DEET levels, this backwood-designed aerosol helps to deter fleas and ticks, and other biting insects. It’s a good option if you’re looking for a single can.

While OFF! is most definitely the most recognizable on this list, all three are a reasonable option due to their transparency about what their product repels.

Yes, many DEET aerosol bug sprays repel the same things, but you’re looking for the POM (peace of mind) factor where the product is clearly and effectively stating what it does.

If you have a flea or tick problem and need an exterminator, you can contact our nationwide partner network of pest control professionals. We’ll connect you to an exterminator in your zip code area in seconds, for free.

Making DEET Bug Spray More Repellent Against Fleas and Ticks

While the bug spray should go a long way in helping you deter fleas and ticks, it should also be considered a second line of defense.

Naturally, you don’t want to go walking in tall grass with shorts on if you’re trying to repel both fleas and ticks.

Starting with fleas, you may only think of them as getting on your pet, but have you ever thought about where your pet picked them up?

Close up of flea on skin

Fleas tend to live in more shady areas of your yard and rubble. So if you have debris lying around, extra equipment that hasn’t been maintained, or something like a woodpile, you’re inviting a breeding ground for fleas and other critters.

The best thing to do is eliminate these areas by cleaning them up, and you can use your DEET spray while doing it. However, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing some sort of protection in these areas, preferably pants and some sort of long sleeve shirt.

The DEET will confuse their scent receptors, and in the oft chance that the spray wasn’t applied thoroughly enough, the long sleeves should prevent the insects from latching onto you.

Next up, ticks.

Close up of tick on blade of grass

Ticks notoriously live in high grass areas. Anything past your shins, and it’s fair game that you’ll get a tick to latch onto you. Contrary to popular belief, one of the most common places that ticks latch on are your thighs, but they can even be found, making it up to your arms and under your armpits.

That’s why it’s essential when you go anywhere that’s deeply wooded or are working in an unmaintained area with tall grass or many crevices such as a woodpile that you’re covered up.

DEET bug spray will be all the more effective if you just keep covered up.

More than likely, the insects won’t try to bite you with the proper application of DEET. In the oft chance that they do, your long-sleeved and legged clothing should block the remainder of fleas or ticks that try to get through.

Cover up and spray up!

What Other Insects Does DEET Bug Spray Repel?

DEET-based bug spray doesn’t just repel fleas and ticks. Most famously, it’s been touted as a wonderful mosquito repellent.

While it most definitely varies from product to product; generally, DEET bug sprays repel the following insects:

  • Mosquitoes
  • Chiggers
  • Biting flies (black flies, horseflies, gnats, and others)
  • Ticks
  • Fleas

When you’re looking for a bug spray or any kind of insect repellent, make sure that you feel like you trust the brand. Look for high reviews and proper descriptions that explain how the product works.

More specifically, look to precisely WHAT kind of insects the DEET spray repels and make sure that it’s clearly listed on the product.

It’s that trust factor that will give you more peace of mind, rather than getting a product that just lists general categories.

Of course, many other quality DEET-based bug sprays weren’t mentioned above. Do your research and go with a brand that you feel comfortable with, and make sure to wear long sleeves.

Last time we’ll mention this, if you need a pest control pro, contact our nationwide partner network of exterminators. We’ll connect you to an exterminator in your area in seconds.

Non-DEET Bug Sprays That Repel Fleas and Ticks

Many non-DEET bug sprays on the market focus on using the products on your pet to keep them flea and tick-free, while others focus on being a contact insecticide.

A contact insecticide is one that eliminates on contact, rather than one that repels and only keeps bugs away like DEET.

While your primary goal may have been to repel fleas and ticks while on a hike or out in the woods, it could also be that you want to get them off your property.

If you have experience using a contact spray, an ideal product to rid your property of fleas and ticks is Vet’s Best Flea and Tick Yard and Kennel Spray.

It’s designed not only to get rid of fleas and ticks but also their larvae and eggs as well. Additionally, Vet’s Best claims that the product uses 100% natural oils formulated from plants.

The spray’s container attaches right to your hose for super simple application.

One natural bug repellent that isn’t a spray and contains no DEET but STILL aims to repel fleas and ticks is SALLYEANDER No-Bite-Me Natural Bug Repellent & Anti Itch Cream.

It comes in a compact travel-sized tin and is excellent for direct application and throwing the container in your backpack when hiking.

Happy insect-repelling!

References

Anderson, J. F., & Magnarelli, L. A. (2008). Biology of ticks. Infectious disease clinics of North America, 22(2), 195-215.

Carroll, J. F., Klun, J. A., & Debboun, M. (2005). Repellency of deet and SS220 applied to skin involves olfactory sensing by two species of ticks. Medical and Veterinary Entomology, 19(1), 101-106.

Dennis, E. J., Goldman, O. V., & Vosshall, L. B. (2019). Aedes aegypti mosquitoes use their legs to sense DEET on contact. Current Biology, 29(9), 1551-1556.

Due, C., Fox, W., Medlock, J. M., Pietzsch, M., & Logan, J. G. (2013). Tick bite prevention and tick removal. Bmj, 347.

Koehler, P. G., & Oi, F. M. (1999). Fleas. University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS.

Nicholson, W. L., Sonenshine, D. E., Noden, B. H., & Brown, R. N. (2019). Ticks (Ixodida). In Medical and veterinary entomology (pp. 603-672). Academic Press.

Salafsky, B., He, Y. X., Li, J., Shibuya, T., & Ramaswamy, K. (2000). study on the efficacy of a new long-acting formulation of N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET) for the prevention of tick attachment. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, 62(2), 169-172.

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