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VERIFY: Can tea tree oil repel ticks?

A viewer said she's seen posts on Facebook claiming tea tree oil can repel ticks. Our Verify team talked to the experts.


Can tea tree oil repel ticks?


No, experts recommend EPA-recognized repellents, namely, containing DEET.


Michael Raupp- University of Maryland Professor- Department of Entomology

John Orr- Environmental Health Specialist with Disease Carrying Insects Program- Fairfax County Health Department

David Gaines- Virginia State Entomologist

Jennifer Barritt- Mosquito Control Biologist- City of Virginia Beach

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency- "Regulation of Skin- Applied Repellents," "Find the Repellent that is Right for You."


Juanita Easton, President of Loudon County's Humane Society, sent us this t(r)icky question: "I have been seeing posts on Facebook saying that a diluted mixture of tree oil is a good repellent for ticks. Is this true?"

Easton's team at the Humane Society sends volunteers in all kinds of tick-filled woodland to trap and rescue kittens. We took her question straight to the experts.

"We certainly don't recommend home remedies that aren't vetted," said Michael Raupp, a professor and entomologist at the University of Maryland. "I can't be in the business of recommending anecdotes. I'm not saying it doesn't work, but I'm highly skeptical."

"There's no scientific evidence [it works], Raupp said. "Animals give off heat, motion, CO2, lactic acid. That's what ticks respond to positively. What ticks respond to negatively, Lord only knows."

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Raupp, along with three other Verify experts, agree: use the tried and true EPA recommended repellents.

Tea tree oil might sound like a good option for people who prefer cleaner, less-processed options, but there are other EPA-endorsed natural options.

"Picardin is synthetically produced to resemble an essential oil in black pepper. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is derived from the eucalyptus tree," Virginia State Entomologist David Gaines said. "Both of these products are more natural alternatives that are effective and less offensive than DEET."

RELATED: 12 reasons to take ticks seriously

Despite the smell, DEET is an effective, non-toxic repellent, which bug expert John Orr of Fairfax County Health Department calls, "The Gold Standard."

"The American Academy of Pediatrics says that it's fine for children two months of age and older so this is something that is safe to use," Orr said.

When we asked the environmental health specialist about tea tree oil as a tick repellent he responded by saying there are a lot of things people recommend [on social media] that probably are not very effective.

So, we can Verify that no, tea tree oil isn't recommended to repel ticks.


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