Does Bug Spray Work On Ticks?

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Here is the short answer: Yes, bug spray works on ticks. If you want to know more about how all this works, here is the detailed answer, why and how does bug spray work on ticks?

We’re talking about “bug spray for people” here, not household bug spray such as Raid or similar, these work on ticks as well but they are not intended to be sprayed onto the skin as a repellent.

Insect repellents and bug spray are available in all forms of pump sprays, aerosols, lotions, and towelettes. Repeated laboratory tests have proven their comprehensive protection and effectiveness in repelling insects and ticks when applied to exposed skin as directed.

Why Does Bug Spray Work On Ticks as well?

Insects, often colloquially referred to simply as bugs, refer to gnats, flies, fleas, mosquitoes, and anything else that crawls with six legs and antennae. But ticks don’t belong to this class of creatures at all. Ticks are arachnids like spiders, they have eight legs and no antenna.

Nevertheless, bug sprays also work on ticks because insects and arachnids have a similar metabolism. Ticks also interpret the environment using identical cues as insects. They carry dozens of chemical receptors that detect potential hosts’ exhalation, body heat, and scent!

Certain substances can effectively block this wide array of receptors. As a result, these blood-sucking critters won’t find you while you’re enjoying the outdoors. This is why bug sprays also work on ticks.

How many types of insect repellents and pesticides are there?

There are innumerable biocides, but they all consist of some core bioactive substance, which are either synthetically manufactured by humans or of natural origin, i.e. obtained from plant extracts.

Following are the five proven active ingredients. The Environmental Protection Agency, Center of Disease Control, and health practitioners around the world recommend them as the first line of defense against vector-borne diseases.


DEET is by far the most consistent, versatile, and effective insect and arthropod repellent. It offers superior protection against ticks so that it has become a benchmark for competing chemicals. You should look out for 20-30% concentration that’ll cover you for eight hours maximum.


Recently, prolonged exposure to DEET has been associated with rashness and skin irritation. Thus, it’s facing stricter regulations in Canada and the EU. Picaridin is another body-worn topical repellent and a suitable alternative. It offers about the same level of security with lower risks and greasiness.


IR3535 derives from a naturally occurring amino acid. Although it’s not as popular as DEET or picaridin, its topical use has shown effective repellency during assessments. This colorless, odorless, and biodegradable molecule is very well tolerated and has hardly any side effects. It is effective against biting insects and ticks that can’t stand its smell.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Oil of the lemon eucalyptus tree makes an exceptional repellent against black-legged ticks, the carrier of Lyme disease. Sometimes, the essential oil is traded with its chemical name – PMD. It has a somewhat DEET-like efficacy. But it doesn’t last as long.


Permethrin is not a repellent but a pesticide. It’s an unforgiving agent that renders ticks and bugs dead at contact. Permethrin is non-toxic to mammals and widely used as an agricultural chemical to get rid of crop pests. Experts suggest wearing treated clothes along with repellent as a twofold security measure.

What is the best tick repellent?

DEET-based bug sprays are known to provide excellent protection. First developed by the US Army, it has earned the trust of millions since the 1950s. Its repellency is 97% effective against mosquitoes. And it ranges between 85-90% in the case of ticks.

An EPA-certified DEET formula with above 20% concentration is the hands-down best option!

Otherwise, you might favor picaridin for its odorless and non-greasy texture. The compound was a German pharmaceutical brand’s innovation that penetrated American markets in 2005. If you’re wary of synthetic drugs, natural alternatives are also suitable for ordinary conditions.

Are bug sprays safe to use?

Insect repellents for personal topical use are adequately tested before receiving regulatory approval. This is especially true for chemically synthesized insect repellents which have to go through rigorous testing and approval programs.

As long as the bug repellents are used correctly, which means you always follow the recommended instructions regarding the kind of application, dosage, and frequency of use then you can be assured that the product is safe, and showing no adverse effects.

But that doesn’t mean that unwanted side effects are completely excluded. After all, everything that works and shows the desired effect must have something in it that works. In the case of particularly sensitive people, these active ingredients can cause skin irritation and hypersensitivity reactions, including in rare cases allergic reactions which may even require medical treatment.

But most undesirable side effects arise from incorrect use not according to the instructions. For example, most bug repellent may cause eye irritation if applied too close to the eyes or when it gets in the eye.

Always read instructions and us accordingly. Keep repellents and pesticides away from children. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend bug repellents for young kids aged below two months.

How are synthetic and natural repellents different?

Natural insect repellents are manufactured with plant-based elements – citronella, eucalyptus, geranium, and cedar, are some of the essential oils used, just to name a few.

While most, if not all synthetic compounds are put to rigorous safety and effectiveness testing by the EPA. Many natural compounds are not deemed risky and thus exempted from such procedures. It doesn’t convey accurate information, like the species of biting and stinging insects they will repel.

Ticks rely on leg-mounted sensors to detect metabolic products and CO2 to detect a victim. The strong odor of essential oils disrupts the olfactory sense of biting parasites for a while. However, these essential oil compounds are very volatile and require regular reapplication. Synthetic repellents containing DEET or Picaridin are effective much longer because they do not evaporate as quickly.

Are pre-treated clothes worth buying?

Permethrin-impregnated garment thwarts invading pests. And they remain efficient for up to 70 rounds of laundry. As ticks latch on your foot and crawl higher, the insecticidal punch will mitigate the shortcomings of repellent.

In one study involving 150 outdoor workers and spanning over 18 months, a double-blind test was conducted to gauge the efficacy of treated uniforms. The results attest to their long-lasting effect.

Nonetheless, commercially available pieces are expensive. You can treat your regular clothing, footwear, and gears with a diluted solution. But you’ll need to repeat this practice more often in doing so!

How to protect pets from ticks and fleas?

Your furry friends are more prone to arthropod-borne infestations. The long-haired, playful puppies and kittens offer plenty of hiding space. Therefore, you need to treat pets to protect them from parasitic infestations and tick bites.

Do not use tick repellents intended for humans on your pets. Many of these agents are not tolerated by animals.

There are plenty of oral and topical medications on the market. You can pick chews, shampoos, collars, bandanas, and various clothing and battle-ready accessories.

Treatments that suit dogs might be toxic to cats, such as permethrin. Make sure to consult your vet prior to kicking off a regimen. It’ll help you choose a fitting tick and flea control for dogs and tick repellents for cats.

So Does Bug Spray Work On Ticks?

Applying insect repellents and pesticides is a good precaution to keep ticks at bay. But remember, even though bug spray work on ticks too, it does not ensure complete protection. Hence, inspect your body along with clothing, equipment, and pets for ticks after a trip to sunny outdoors.