NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – Would you stick your arm in a cage filled with 150 hungry Southern House mosquitoes, which are the very that carry the West Nile virus? Thankfully you don’t have to, because researchers did just that to help the CBS 11 I-Team.
Summer is heating up and that means North Texans are headed into mosquito season. You’re probably starting to see supplies of lotions, potions, bracelets and sprays on store shelves. Many of the products claim to be insect repellants. So, the I-Team wanted to know which one really works the best. Researchers at Texas A & M University helped us put four products to the test.
Dr. Gabriel Hamer, a Clinical Assistant Professor with the Texas A&M University Department of Entomology, has spent the last eight years studying the West Nile virus in mosquitoes, birds and humans. To help the CBS 11 I-Team determine which products work the best, Dr. Hamer and his researchers had us bring four products to test.
Behind two large steal doors, we entered an area where mosquitoes breed. You could see trays of larvae swimming in water. Cages of adult Southern House mosquitoes sat nestled under lights inside glass cages.
Researchers carefully planned the project. For hours, they had established controls by counting the number of mosquitoes inside the cages and documenting their resting spots in relation to a white circular piece of filter paper.
The filter papers were then removed from the cages and used to simulate human skin. Researchers sprayed, rubbed and attached four products to four different papers and then stuck their arms inside the cages of swarming mosquitoes to put the papers back inside.
One of the products tested was Off, an insect repellant with 15-percent DEET. We also tried Bio UD, a new product, recently approved by the EPA. Dr. Hamer said it is made from tomato plants and recommended we try it. We tested Skin So Soft, a lotion by Avon. Many people have long-touted it as a mysterious mosquito repellant. And finally, a citronella-covered bracelet, like those typically seen on store shelves, was also put to the test.
Dr. Hamer and his staff taped the product-covered filter papers on one side of the glass cage, and then blew into a mesh covering on top of the cage to disturb the mosquitoes. The insects swarmed around the enclosure before settling. Once they did, Dr. Hamer and his team counted the number of mosquitoes that landed around the products and the number of mosquitoes that flew to the other side of the cage, trying to get as far away from the products as possible. The team ran the test 3x’s and then calculated percentages to compare to the controls. At one point, Dr. Hamer’s assistant Emily said, “You can definitely see the difference.”
So, which one product repelled the most mosquitoes?
“I would say the DEET and Bio UD had very similar levels of efficacy,” explained Dr. Hamer. In fact, with closer review Dr. Hamer said the Bio UD scored slightly better than the OFF, but the DEET spray was a very tight second.
“Both of these products, when applied to these filter paper, no mosquitoes landed on that paper and they even stayed quite a ways away from that filter paper.
Other tests found the mosquito band and Skin So Soft also repelled mosquitoes, but did not repel nearly as many as the other two products.
Avon’s brand public relations senior manager sent CBS 11 News a statement, saying, “The Skin So Soft moisturizing lotion used in this report is not intended to repel mosquitoes, is not sold for that purpose, and is not approved by the EPA as a repellent. Avon does offer several insect repellents, including Avon’s Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus line of products. These products are approved by the EPA for use as insect repellents, and they contain active ingredients that are effective deterrents against mosquitoes.”
When asked if the citronella-covered bracelet was a product Dr. Hamer would use on his own two-year old, he said, “I’d probably prefer alternative products.”
Dr. Hamer stressed that all four-products definitely proved to have some efficacy compared to the controls; however, he said the tests certainly divided the four-products into two-categories. The Bio UD and OFF appeared more effective based on immediate application, in comparison to the lotion and citronella band.
Texas A & M researchers said the trial with the CBS 11 I-Team could not determine how successful the products may be with longer exposure.
Last year, North Texas had the worst West Nile outbreak in the country. Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton County reported more than 400 human cases of the virus, resulting in 36 deaths.
Experts tell CBS 11 there is no way to predict what this year’s mosquito season will bring.
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