Insects Lose It

DEET does a pretty good job of preventing mosquitos from adding picnickers to their lunch menu. But, how does it work? It turns out that DEET doesn’t actually repel insects, it just jams their olfactory radar so they can’t use it to find you. Ordinarily, the nasty little bloodsuckers look for a gradient of lactic acid (from sweat) or carbon dioxide (from our breath) and follow it upwind to a warm body. When DEET is in the air, they can only buzz around randomly with no clue that food is around.

Science, 14 March 2008, p. 1471.
Hiding From Biting Insects in Plain Scent.

by John Blinke

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