Citrus Extract Offers Non-Toxic Bug Repellent

Mosquitos fly away from essential oil from citrus fruit


Image source from isox4 on flickr

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are working on an insect repellent made from citrus extract.  The all-natural chemical, called nootkatone, is typically found in grapefruit.  Marc Dolan, a CDC researcher, demonstrated how mosquitos flew away from nootkatone when it was rubbed onto his hand.  In another experiment, the inside of a jar was coated with the substance, and within about 15 seconds of introducing mosquitos, the insects were killed.

The chemical was also found to repel ticks, and the researchers believe it would be effective against other insects as well, like bed bugs and head lice.

Citrus-smelling alternative may replace man-made chemicals

The nootkatone represents an eco-friendly alternative to most insect repellents that are currently available which contain the man-made DEET chemical.  A repellent made from nootkatone would smell sweeter, producing a citrus odor, and would not feel as greasy when applied to the skin.

In addition, the essential oil is biodegradable, leaving less of an environmental impact.

“You don’t get a lot of soil contamination. We don’t see groundwater contamination. And we don’t have a high impact on other nontarget insects that may come into the sprayed area, such as bees and butterflies.”  Dolan said.

Many future options for citrus extract

Since nootkatone is a natural product, it can be integrated into soaps and sunscreens, thus eliminating the need to purchase repellent on its own.

In order to develop both a repellent and insecticide, the CDC has licensed out their patents on nootkatone to two different companies.

Currently, the process for extracting nootkatone is expensive, so alternative means to source the chemical are under consideration.  For instance, nootkatone could be derived from the waste created by citrus and forestry industries.

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