Ticks and mosquitos are more than a nuisance in the summer. They can cause disease and infections, and brown-tail moths, abundant in the Brunswick area, cause skin rashes.
These days, in an effort to ward off flying and crawling insects, baby boomers are in the forefront of demanding pest protection for themselves and their pets that is friendlier to the environment, according to a buyer for Royal River Natural Foods in Freeport.
“Oh, my gosh, I think that they are way ahead of the curve,” said Becky Foster, a boomer herself at 53. “They are more aware. They realize the Earth is in trouble, and we need to do better.”
Royal River is still bringing in more alternative choices to the traditional pesticides that contain harmful chemicals, Foster said. There is a more limited supply for animals, she said.
“People keep learning, and that’s the beauty of it,” she said.
Royal River’s natural pest protection comes mostly in pump sprays, Foster said. For animals, bathing products are available.
Foster said that neem oil, the product of an evergreen tree in India, is one such alternative treatment.
“Neem is an herb in many forms – soap or cream for humans, shampoo for dogs,” she said. “The only thing is, if it rains, it’s going to come off your pet. It’s for biting flies, and helps some with ticks.”
Many companies use neem in their products, she said.
Skeeter Skidaddler, produced by Gentle Breeze Farm in Windham, is also an effective bug repellant, Foster said. Frenchies’ Maine Woods Dog Dope of Portland is another.
Allen Pollock, owner of Gentle Breeze Farm and creator of Skeeter Skidaddler, said his product is enjoying solid growth since he invented it in 2007. He sells to between 120-130 retailers in Maine through his salesman, Harold Brown of Richmond, and is spreading his product through the North Atlantic states.
“I created the formula, and I produce it with my loving hands,” Pollock said.
Gentle Breeze Farm, which uses the website tremblingleaf.com, also offers a wipe, which is made at a facility in Auburn.
Pollock said he was joining the former Lakes Region Farmers Market when he realized he needed a better solution to repelling insects.
“I’m allergic to insect bites,” Pollock said. “I had to come up with something because I looked at the products that were available, and they were either ineffective or toxic.”
Pollock put his creative instincts to work.
“My idea was, local bugs won’t know about plants from other parts of the world because it’s not in their experience,” he said.
He came up with a sunflower oil-based product that contains no water, so the small bottle of Skeeter Skidaddler contains a concentrate, and is a better buy than meets the eye, he said. It also contains cinnamon, cedar wood, lemon grass and eucalyptus – all from different parts of the world.
“It’s a concentrate. You don’t use much,” Pollock said.
He sold Skeeter Skidaddler for three years at the farmers market, then took the advice of a friend and went retail.
“It could be used for horses and other large animals, maybe under their ears,” he said. “Some dogs are allergic to cedar wood oil, so I created one for them called Furry Friend Friendly.
Pollock, 58, agrees with Foster that baby boomers look for eco-friendly solutions.
At the state level, Kate Colby, an epidemiologist with the Maine Center for Disease Control, makes presentations for municipalities on the symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of tick-borne infections such as Lyme Disease, and mosquito-borne infections such as West Nile.
“At Maine CDC, all the methods we talk about are safe because we are about personal protection,” Colby said. “We suggest (Environmental Protection Agency)-approved insect repellent. Most are good for ticks and mosquitoes. DEET is most common. We recommend Permethrin for clothing.”
Protection against ticks and mosquitoes is by no means limited to insect repellents. Colby says people can protect themselves by wearing light-colored clothing, which will make ticks more visible, and long pants, as well as long-sleeved shirts while walking through the woods, or tending to shrubs and gardens. Tuck your pant legs into your socks, she advises.
“Also, after you’ve been in the woods, shrubs or leaves, take your clothes off when you get in the house, and wash them or put them in a hot dryer,” Colby said.
Colby also advises doing daily tick checks after being out in the elements. Anyone who sees a tick on his or her body should remove it with tweezers, promptly wash with soap and apply an antibiotic, she said. People who have been bitten by a tick also should monitor themselves closely for symptoms of fever, chills, headache, fatigue and joint or muscle pain for a month, she said.
“With Lyme Disease, people often get a bulls-eye rash,” Colby said.
As for mosquitoes, their favorite time of day is at dawn and at dusk.
“It might be hard to do,” Colby said, “but try to avoid being out at dawn and dusk. If you are, use a repellent.”
Colby also recommends that people maintain closely cut lawns, to reduce mosquito habitat.
Larry Grard is a staff writer at Current Publishing.