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Protecting yourself from pesky bugs

July 1, 2016
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Making a living or simply playing outdoors in sub-tropical Southwest Florida, one has to be concerned now more than ever about illness-bearing, biting bugs, especially ones carrying the Zika or West Nile viruses.

Bug covered clients near madness often in a dark cloud of no-see-ums look at me in amazement asking, how can you stand it? Medita-tion, I reply.

After years in Florida, even fire ants don't really sting me too badly anymore but I am concerned about the newest bug-borne threat and how best to protect myself and those in the boat asking for advice.

Obviously covering up is step one in summer bug protection. When it's really bad, especially at night, I'll be sporting long pants and shirt, scarf, socks, gloves, cotton ear plugs and buff. Summer snook fishing at night on the river you might find me wearing a very stylish net headpiece.

Local headlines: Angler dressed as beekeeper dies of heat stroke!

For shirts, I've never did like the typical "Columbia style" caped back fishing shirts introduced years ago. That material always stuck to me like a wet suit making me hotter. Instead I've always preferred a cheap, long-sleeved, light cotton shirt that breathes, wicks away moisture and dries quickly in the wind.

The trend these past few years has been to the long-sleeved tee-style fishing shirt with the pricier ones treated with sun inhibitors as well as bug repellants.

How well do these bug shirts work and do the impregnated chemicals break down or are they absorbed in us when its 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity and your shirt becomes a second skin?

Manufactures and the EPA say no. (The current chemical is called permethrin, which is a synthetic form of chrysanthemums). The EPA also in the same breath says that it's "a probable human carcinogen if you consume it and one study linked it to Parkinson's disease" Great, don't eat your shirt.

Judge yourself, but I also think these newest hi-tech, hi-dollar, long-sleeve, tee-style fishing shirts are hot as blazes, too, and tight clothes are simply easier for bugs to bite through. Give me cotton shirts and, as a last resort, some bug spray.

How well some of these outdoor shirts work repelling biting mosquitoes was recently studied by Consumer Reports and published this month.

Permethrin impregnated or treated fiber uniforms have been in use by the military since the early '90s. Civilian clothing treated this way has been available since 2003 but nothing seems to beat DEET for sheer stay-away and killing power.

Shirts from LL Bean and Ex Officio manufactured with permethrin and one plain cotton shirt treated with DEET was tested in an "arm in the mosquito cage" test - each shirt washed 25 times before hand. (Manufacturers state the chemical lasts 70 washes)

The LL Bean shirt fared best and both P treated shirts killed the mosquitoes in the cage (in the 5-minute test) but, not before they could bite the subjects.

The DEET sprayed cotton shirt prevented all mosquitoes from landing resulting in zero bites.

Finally, manufactures state that these shirts work best in conjunction with applied topical repellants.

So what's the take away from these bug repellant fabric tests?

If these shirts are rendered chemically useless after 70 washes, then living and working in Florida I would need to buy 2 or 3 or more per year for advertised bug protection.

They need to be used along with bug spray and are very expensive.

The winner is the cheap cotton shirt, apply DEET, stay cooler and save money. Eight to 10 bucks per shirt at Wal-Mart.

The top three highly recommended topically applied mosquito repellant brands tested by Consumer Reports are - Sawyer Picaridin, Ben's 30% DEET Tick and Insect Wilderness Formula Spray, and Repel's Lemon Eucalyptus.

When covering up for bugs, drink lots of water.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or, or



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