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Archive for Sunday, May 5, 2002

DEET, Permanone effective on pests

May 5, 2002

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By now, I figured, outdoor sports enthusiasts would know how to protect themselves from biting insects, particularly ticks and chiggers.

It's been at least a decade since Permanone spray became available on the retail market, and it's been touted by a variety of magazines and newspaper stories.

When I mentioned Permanone in Louisiana a couple of weeks back, veteran turkey hunters looked at me like I was talking about using a Star Trek force field to keep pesky bugs at bay.

In a sense, Permanone is a chemical force field. Since I started using this product, I have not found a single tick imbedded in my skin, nor have I suffered a single chigger bite.

That's a pretty strong statement for someone who spends several days each spring hunting turkeys by walking through weeds and brush and sitting on the ground with his back against a tree. Particularly someone like myself. I have a reputation as a bug magnet.

If you're trying to collect ticks and chiggers, you can't do a better job than turkey hunters. Ticks are bad business. They are vectors for Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Even if chiggers don't contribute to the spread of disease, they inflict aggravating, itchy bites.

Permethrin is the active ingredient in Permanone. Permethrin is an insecticide that actually kills insects on contact. Permanone's aerosol can includes multiple warnings that you should not apply this product directly to your skin.

Like the world's most effective insect repellent, DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide), Permanone trickled down from the military. Soldiers who fight in jungles need a long lasting protection against bugs.

Permanone is used to treat clothing. When I hunt spring turkeys, I take my hunting clothes into the garage, hang them up and spray them with enough Permanone to dampen the fabric. I treat my long-sleeve camo shirt, my camo pants, my socks and my boots.

Instructions on the can say to allow drying for at least two hours (four hours in humid conditions). I generally treat my hunting clothes one or two days before I plan to wear them.

The neat thing about Permanone is that it's resistant to laundering. The instructions claim residual protection that lasts a minimum of two weeks and maintains effectiveness through several machine washings.

While Permanone is not really intended as protection against mosquitoes, I have noticed that I don't suffer mosquito bites through material that's been treated. Exposed skin is a different problem that requires a different solution.

I've not found an insect repellent as effective against mosquitoes as DEET, which was discovered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1950s. Nobody really knows how DEET works, but Dr. Jonathan Day, a Florida entomologist, suspects the chemical confuses mosquitoes more than repels them.

Day says mosquitoes locate their prey through antennae receptors. DEET seems to confuse the receptors and creates a skeeter version of attention deficit disorder. Once mosquitoes come in contact with DEET in the laboratory, says Day, it takes them about an hour to shake the hangover and regain their receptors.

DEET-based repellents come in a variety of strengths. Since the repellents must be applied to human skin, formulas with less than 10 percent DEET are recommended for children.

Plentiful rainfall will make mosquitoes particularly annoying this spring. Hikers, bird watchers and other nature lovers can protect themselves by wearing drab-colored clothing treated with Permanone and by treating their bare skin with DEET.

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