(CTN News) – Researchers examined different soaps to determine how they repel mosquitoes, concluding that coconut oil might be the magic scent for repelling these pesky insects.
As co-author and biologist Chloé Lahondère explained in a statement, “everyone smells differently, even after they have put soap on their skin; their physiological status, the way they live, what they eat, and where they go are all factors that affect the way they smell.”
There is no doubt that soap has a profound effect on the way we smell, not only by adding chemicals, but also by altering the way the compounds that we already naturally produce are emitted.
Virginia Tech University researchers analyzed the chemical odors that were emitted from four human participants before and after they washed themselves with four different brands of soap as a result of analyzing the chemical odors that they emitted.
The researchers also examined the odor profiles of the soaps, identifying four chemicals that are linked to mosquito attraction and three chemicals that are tied to mosquito repulsion.
Incredibly, it is remarkable that the same individual, who is extremely attractive to mosquitoes when they are not washed, can become even more attractive to by simply applying one soap, and then repellent or repulsive to mosquitoes by applying another soap,” said senior author and neuroethologist Clément Vinauger.
The four soap brands that were used in the experiment were Dial, Dove, Native, and Simple Truth.
Participants washed one arm with the soap, leaving the other untouched, and covering it up with a nylon sleeve while the first arm was washed with the soap. For each soap, the same process had to be repeated.
In order to determine whether the nylon sleeve would survive long-term exposure to diseases such as yellow fever, Zika, dengue fever, and Dengue Fever, researchers placed it in a mesh-covered cup with adult female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes after an hour.
As male mosquitoes feed exclusively on plant nectar, while female mosquitoes feed exclusively on blood after mating, the researchers used only that had recently mated.
Insects that prefer nectar may be confused by scents used in soap that are plant-derived or plant-mimicking.
The researchers found that for some volunteers, washing with Dove and Simple Truth increased their attractiveness, while Native soap tended to repel mosquitoes.
One of the chemicals associated with repulsion is a coconut-scented component of American bourbon.
“This confirms what previous studies have shown, which is that mosquitoes are not fond of coconut-scented products, so for the time being it is safest to use those products,” Vinauger explained.
With these mixtures, we were able to eliminate all the noise in the signal by only including those chemicals that the statistics indicated were important for repulsion or attraction,” he explained. If I wanted to reduce the attraction of mosquitoes, I would choose a coconut-scented soap.
What are mosquitoes attracted to?