Mosquitoes and ticks are more than just annoying pests. They can transmit serious, life-altering diseases. Your best defense? Preventing bites in the first place. Here’s what can help.

When and where

  • Mosquitoes are typically active around dusk and dawn. Some also bite at night.

  • Tick season is April through September, though ticks can be active any time temperatures are above freezing.

  • Hiking? Stay in the middle of the path, away from tall grasses and bushes, where ticks like to hang out.

Tick checks

cartoon tweezers pulling a tick of skin
Jorge Bach - CSPI.
  • After coming inside, throw your clothes in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes.

  • Check for ticks in your belly button, under your arms, in and around your ears, between your legs, behind your knees, and around your waist. Do your best (or ask someone) to check in your hair.

  • If you find an attached tick, use tweezers to grab it as close to your skin’s surface as you can. Using even pressure, pull the tick straight out (avoid twisting). Clean the area with soap and water.


  • Cover as much of yourself as you can with loose-fitting long-sleeve shirts and pants. Mosquitoes can bite through clothing, but it’s harder to reach your skin if your clothes fit loosely.

  • Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks so that bugs have less access to your skin.

  • Treat your clothing, boots, socks, and gear (like tents) with 0.5 percent permethrin, an insecticide that kills bugs on contact. Or you can buy pretreated clothing and gear.

Bug-proof your yard

  • Make your yard unattractive to ticks. Keep your grass mowed and clear out leaf piles. Create a barrier with wood chips or gravel between wooded areas or bushes and your lawn.
cartoon person mowing their yard
Jorge Bach - CSPI.

  • Every week, turn over, cover, or empty and scrub anything with standing untreated water to get rid of mosquito breeding grounds. (Why scrub? Some mosquito eggs can stick to a container for months.)

  • In one study, citronella candles, mosquito-repellent wristbands, and sonic devices didn’t deter mosquitoes. However, a “fogger” that uses a fan to emit the EPA-registered pesticide metofluthrin did.

Bug repellent: what to use

cartoon bug spray spraying onto hand
Jorge Bach - CSPI.
  • Look for a repellent with EPA-registered ingredients like DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus, which have been reviewed for safety and effectiveness against mosquitoes, ticks, or both. Find the right repellent for you here.

  • The EPA doesn’t review “natural” repellents (usually made with essential oils). Consumer Reports tests have found that natural repellents offer little protection.

  • DEET is the gold standard bug repellent and is far safer than most people think. Downsides: You may find its odor unpleasant, and it can break down synthetic materials.

  • Higher percentage active ingredients typically offer longer protection, not more protection. Most repellents with 15 to 30 percent DEET will protect you for 5 to 8 hours.

Bug repellent: how to use

  • Apply bug repellent to all exposed areas of skin. (Don’t apply it under clothing.)

  • Don’t spray bug repellent directly on your face. Spray it into your hands first, then rub it onto your face.

  • Skip products that combine sun­screen and bug spray. Sunscreens need to be reapplied more often than bug sprays.