A Few Words About “Natural” Tick Repellents ...

Posted:  Thursday, August 9, 2018 - 6:00am
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A friend suggested that it’s our job here at Tick Me Off Maine® to educate folks on ticks, tick prevention, identification, Lyme disease, and all tick-borne illnesses.

Well ... we take umbrage with that!  We don’t try to educate people on the variety of illnesses, symptoms, or ANYTHING of a medical nature.  This is especially true regarding diseases related to ticks, as that particular landscape is ever-changing and complex.  And, well, we’re not doctors.  But we DO try to let folks know about natural alternatives to keep ticks at bay.

There are many plants and plant oils that repel ticks - rosemary, lemongrass, rose geranium, cedarwood oil - there’s quite a list, actually.  But ... did you know that many of them are not permissible to use in tick repellents in the state of Maine?  We don’t know why.  This winter, we’ll see if we can get to the bottom of that, and perhaps work to effect change there, but in the meantime, we follow the rules.

So what, you may ask, does the State have to do with natural tick repellents?  Everything.  A repellent MUST be registered with the Board of Pesticides Control ( Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry).  They serve as a system of checks and balances to ensure that products follow the guidelines.  Enforcing their policies, however, is another story.  But know that while you may reach for your Great-Aunt Edna’s Secret Bug Repellent recipe - and swear by it! - it can’t be sold unless it adheres to very specific, albeit sometimes limiting, guidelines.  

This year we’ve seen lots of tick repellents on the market.  We know for a fact that some of them have not been registered with the state.  (How do we know?  We check!  You can, too, by clicking here.)  No, we’re not throwing anyone under the bus - but clearly, if we’re finding them on store shelves, you are, too.  We applaud you going green - but urge you to use caution.

One such “repellent” we found on a shelf was in a small spray bottle, and the contents were separating, with a thick, gooey mystery ingredient floating on top.  A few ingredients were listed on the label, but the scary moniker “and others” was also listed!  The plastic bottle was feeling the effects of time, light, and/or contents, and was warping, with the substance inside soaking up whatever chemicals were seeping out of the plastic.  That’s just gross.

Speaking of spray repellents ... until we’ve found a way to spray our formula without it being a goopy, oily mess, we’ll stick with the solids.  If you see a tick or insect repellent with the main ingredient water, check to make sure they’ve also included some kind of preservative - probably synthetic.  Why?  Because water will begin to immediately attract bacteria; now think about spraying that bacteria all over your largest organ - your skin.  Yikes.

So let us tell you about Tick Me Off Maine®, if you’re still reading this far down:

Five ingredients.  Right there on the label. You recognize them.  They work.

Yes, there’s an expiration date.  Mandated by the State, because we are not using synthetic preservatives.  Hence the smaller quantities.  Plus, fresh is good, and we mix up our product daily.

Our packaging - recyclable tins or 100% biodegradable, food-grade cardboard tubes.  Yes, they’re more expensive than plastic.  But if you ask us, plastic is proving to be pretty costly to our earth and her waters.  Take a look on the internet, and you’ll see heartbreaking proof of this.

Community-minded?  Yes we are.  This year we’ve sponsored the Maine Association of Search and Rescue training conference weekend, a cause close to our hearts, as we volunteer for a local search and rescue team and have for years. We’ve also partnered with Maine Appalachian Trail Land Trust - the first business to do so! - donating cases of product for distribution on their weekend hikes, as well as donating a portion of all proceeds to them.  These folks take care of, acquire and protect land surrounding Maine’s portion (some say the BEST portion) of the A.T..  

And finally, let’s get clear on “tick season”.  Some of our retailers stop ordering in mid-August.  “Well,” they say, “tick season’s nearly over...”.

According to the Vermont Center for Disease Control and Prevention, all ticks need to survive is temperatures over 32ºF and leaf cover; all they need to THRIVE are hosts that don’t realize this.  Check out the chart below, from the Vermont Department of Health.  And mind you, Vermont comes in second to Maine in terms of tick-borne illnesses.

So that’s it for now, folks.  Be careful.  Don’t let cooler temperatures, should they ever arrive, falsely signal to you that you’re out of danger.  Protect yourselves.  Enjoy the rest of the beautiful Maine summer!



Tick Me Off Maine® is 100% of-the-earth tick repellent, registered by the EPA and the Maine and Vermont Board of Pesticides.  We may be reached at mary@tickmeoffmaine.com, or (207) 314-9613, or via our website: www.tickmeoffmaine.com.