Hate mosquitoes? This scent could help keep the pests away

Hate mosquitoes? This scent could help keep the pests away


You’ll go coconuts for this news.

A study published in the iScience journal Wednesday explored how different soaps repel mosquitoes, concluding that coconut could be the magic scent that keeps the pesky insects away.

“Everybody smells different, even after the application of soap; your physiological status, the way you live, what you eat, and the places you go all affect the way you smell,” co-author and biologist Chloé Lahondère explained in a statement.

“And soaps drastically change the way we smell, not only by adding chemicals, but also by causing variations in the emission of compounds that we are already naturally producing.”

Researchers at Virginia Tech University analyzed the chemical odors emitted by four human participants before and after they washed themselves with four brands of soap.

Mosquito on a stick.
Researchers found the insects are repelled by certain scents, depending on the person.
Abaca Press/INSTARimages

They also studied the odor profiles of the soaps, identifying four chemicals linked to mosquito attraction and three chemicals tied to repulsion.

“It’s remarkable that the same individual that is extremely attractive to mosquitoes when they are unwashed can be turned even more attractive to mosquitoes with one soap, and then become repellent or repulsive to mosquitoes with another soap,” senior author and neuroethologist Clément Vinauger said.

Dial, Dove, Native and Simple Truth were the four soap brands used in the experiments.

The participants washed one arm with the soap, and left the other untouched, covering it up with a nylon sleeve. The process was repeated for each soap.

After an hour, researchers put the nylon sleeve in a mesh-covered cup full of adult female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes — a species known to spread diseases like yellow fever, Zika and dengue.

The researchers only used mosquitoes that had recently mated, as male mosquitoes feed exclusively on plant nectar while females only feed on blood after mating.

Scientists suggested the scents used for soap that are plant-derived or plant-mimicking could confuse the nectar-loving insects.

Coconut cracked open with soap and oil in background.
One of the chemicals associated with repulsion is a coconut-scented key component in American bourbon.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Washing with Dove and Simple Truth increased the attractiveness of some of the volunteers, the researchers noted, while Native soap tended to repel mosquitoes.

One of the chemicals associated with repulsion is a coconut-scented key component in American bourbon.

“It confirms what past studies have found, that mosquitoes don’t like coconut-scented products, so our safest bet right now is to use those,” Vinauger said.

“With these mixtures, we eliminated all the noise in the signal by only including those chemicals that the statistics were telling us are important for attraction or repulsion,” he continued. “I would choose a coconut-scented soap if I wanted to reduce mosquito attraction.”

The team plans to test more soap varieties and more people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend covering up or using repellents registered with the Environmental Protection Agency such as DEET and oil of lemon eucalyptus to repel mosquitoes.

West Nile virus is the most common virus spread by mosquitoes in the US — and it can lead to death.

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