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Do Mosquito Repellents Repel Flies?

Last Updated: 16.04.24


You might be surprised, but nearly any mosquito repellent can keep flies away too. You may use DEET, Picaridin, or even permethrin, if you do not own cats. You can even try a natural mosquito repellent and see the effect it has on the flies. This article will discuss the different types of repellents and how they can keep flies and other insects away.


Some info about repellents

Generally, repellents aren’t made to work only against one kind of insect, and they can keep different kinds of insects away. Most of the times these substances are developed so that people can keep mosquitoes at bay, because they are the most annoying and they also pose the greatest risk, as they can carry many viruses, including the very dangerous Zika Virus.

People that use repellents should be protected from mosquitoes and other similar insects, even in highly-infested areas. Most repellents are formulated so that you can use them on your bare skin, although some of them are better if you spray them on your clothes and equipment.

You can find repellents in the form of creams, sprays, solids and even liquid, so no matter your choice, you can still be protected. Each repellent contains an active substance, and the concentration of that substance varies from a product to another. Keep in mind that repellents don’t kill the insects, but they keep them away.

DEET and picaridin are some of the most used active ingredients in repellents, and they have some good parts and bad parts. They are highly effective against mosquitoes, flies, flees, chiggers, leeches, and ticks, but they can also be dangerous for humans, especially in large quantities.

Keep in mind that each product is effective for a certain amount of time. You can get active protection against mosquitoes and flies for anywhere between 90 minutes and 10 hours, and it depends on the concentration of the active ingredient found in the repellent, and the ingredient itself.

If you want something to kill insects, you need an insecticide. These are generally more toxic, but they are better if you have an infestation of insects and you want to get rid of them. Being used intensely in agriculture, insecticides have proven to be very effective against insects, increasing the production of food.

However, some of them are controversial, as they are proven to contaminate the food as well, becoming toxic to people. Insecticides can be repellent and non-repellent. Permethrin, which is intensely used in repellents is a repellent type of insecticide, meaning that it deters the insects, but it also kills them.




Developed in 1944 for the army and later released for the public, this ingredient was initially tested as a pesticide on farm fields and it proved to be very effective. It has thus been the standard in the industry for more than 50 years. It’s highly effective against mosquitoes, but it does great against flies and other insects as well.

This ingredient doesn’t kill the insects, but it makes them keep a distance from you if you use it. In its raw form, it comes in a slightly yellow oil and it’s meant to be applied on the skin or on your clothes. Due to how it looks it has been called “bug juice”, and it works in an interesting way. It “blinds” the insects, making them unable to sense humans and it works in reducing their desire to bite people. Mosquitoes especially really hate its smell.

You will see that most repellants using DEET have a certain concentration of the substance in them, ranging from 10% to almost 100%. For children, however, it is recommended that the concentration doesn’t go over 30%. Furthermore, infants under 2 months shouldn’t come in contact with the substance at all.

So although it is highly effective, it can also be dangerous. You only need a concentration of between 30% and 50% to keep insects away, but the higher the concentration, the more hours you can endure against the insects. With a concentration of 100%, you will avoid bites for almost 12 hours.


Icaridin (Picaridin)

Icaridin is the official name of this active ingredient, as recognized by the World Health Organization, but many product manufacturers use the term Picaridin, which is not accepted by the WHO.

Like DEET, this is a repellent that is able to keep many kinds of insects away, including mosquitoes, fleas, and flies. Unlike the aforementioned product, however, icaridin has no smell and no color.

Developed in Germany in 2005, this ingredient has been thoroughly tested and it’s safer than DEET. Many reports have found out that this ingredient is as effective as DEET, without producing the unwanted irritation often associated with that active ingredient.

This is an ingredient recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as it will offer you the barrier you need to keep yourself protected from diseases like the Zika Virus and the West Nile Virus. Used at a concentration of just 20%, this ingredient can keep you safe against all insects.

The downside, however, is that it doesn’t last as long as DEET. Depending on the insects you want to keep away, it can offer about 5 hours of protection.



Unlike the other 2 products presented beforehand, this one is not a repellent per se, but an insecticide. The difference between the two is that repellents only make the insects go away, while insecticides kill them as well.

Although insects will still avoid permethrin, they will get killed when coming in contact with it. So if you really want to get rid of mosquitoes, this ingredient is for you. You can find many products containing permethrin, and they are generally marketed as repellents.

However, you should keep in mind that, because it’s made to kill, it’s slightly more dangerous than the other products. It can be applied on the skin, but some of its adverse effects are that it can produce irritations and rash. Permethrin can be used by pregnant women, but it is dangerous for children under 2 months.

It is thus recommended that you mostly use permethrin products on your clothing, shoes, gear and on mosquito nets. This substance kills most insects and it also works well against ticks and other arthropods. If you do use it on your skin, you will have to wash it off thoroughly.

When used on clothes it remains active even after repeated washings. Anyway, always follow the instructions provided by the producer, if you want to feel completely safe and keep the insects away.



Natural repellents

There are some natural ingredients and repellents that you can use if you don’t want to run the risk of getting intoxicated by all those substances. One choice is the oil of citronella, which is an active ingredient in some repellents marketed as natural. It can also be fashioned into candles, torches, and coils that are burned and through the vapors they produce, they keep the insects away.

However, this is not as effective as the specially-designed products made for defeating insects. Furthermore, the products that burn the oil of citronella are only good in the house, where the wind can’t carry the fumes away.

There are some other natural options, like the oil of lemon eucalyptus. Often used in natural products, this has been proven to be one of the most effective natural ingredients against insects. This oil is recommended by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, as it’s almost as efficient as DEET while providing no adverse effects.

Soy-based active ingredients are also a good choice, and when the products containing them are highly-concentrated, they can prove very effective. However, one thing that these natural ingredients lack is the duration. If you use a natural oil or something similar, you will be protected against mosquitoes and flies, but only for a short duration, maybe for 2 hours.





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