A group of scientists wanted to find the most effective mosquito repellents. So they tested 10 different substances, including campout standbys like DEET, as well as a random choice: Victoria's Secret perfume Bombshell. Turns out the perfume is almost as good as DEET.
The work was done at New Mexico State's Molecular Vector Physiology Lab, where researcher Stacy Rodriguez included perfume in the research partly to dispel a myth about flowery perfume. In a statement, she said:
There was some previous literature that said fruity, floral scents attracted mosquitoes, and to not wear those. It was interesting to see that the mosquitoes weren't actually attracted to the person that was wearing the Victoria's Secret perfume — they were repelled by it.
Rodriguez and her colleagues describe their experiments this week in The Journal of Insect Science.
To test the repellents, they put two different species of mosquitoes in a holding chamber at the bottom of a Y-shaped tube (see below). One prong of the Y led to a researcher's untreated hand. The other prong led to a hand that had been coated with one of the repellents. When the mosquitoes were unleashed from their cage, they could choose to fly toward the treated or untreated hands.
Obviously, if a lot of mosquitoes flew toward the treated hand, the repellent wasn't actually repelling anything. So the researchers counted how many mosquitoes picked the hands with treatments on them, and measured this "attraction" accordingly. They also took measurements over time, to see which repellent was still working after several hours.
Repellents that contained DEET were the most effective, and the more DEET they contained the longer they lasted. Below, you can see a table showing the percentage of the mosquitoes that were attracted to the treated hands (to give you a sense of proportion, about 61% were attracted to the untreated hand, the control).
You can see that people wearing one of those "natural alternative" mosquito skin patches made with vitamin B actually attracted more mosquitoes than the control, which is kind of hilarious.
The big surprise, as Rodriguez noted, was the Victoria's Secret perfume, Bombshell. You can see that it's almost as effective as the DEET-laced repellents (attracting only 17% of mosquitoes), and stays effective for 120 minutes.
So if you want to keep mosquitoes away, wear DEET — or really fruity, flowery perfume like Bombshell.
Read the full article in the Journal of Insect Science.