A Review of Modern Bug Repellent Technology

Summertime means lots of sunshine, lots of beautiful days, and my personal favorite, lots of BBQ!

But it also means a lot more bugs.

Of course, we all know the various ways to rid ourselves of these unwanted guests, but what you may not know is that some of these are complete shams. For example, have you ever heard of those devices which emit a high-pitched sound that supposedly drives away mosquitoes? Well according to a study conducted by Cochane Researchers in 2007, they actually don’t. Equally as useless is the bug zapper. Apparently, bug zappers are not only terrible at eliminating biting insects, they’re actually better at attracting and killing bugs that are harmless, and in some cases, even beneficial to us!  That being said, more modern versions of the bug zappers now emit CO2 and/or contain octenol, which are thankfully better at specifically attracting mosquitoes. But if you do buy one, be careful and keep it away from the food, because bug zappers can fling insect remains (and the bacteria they contain) up to seven feet away!

Now, if you’ve ever had a backyard BBQ that extended past sundown, you probably also know that bugs seem to love lights. As it turns out, biting insects are really attracted to blue light. Unfortunately, this is a major problem for people who use LEDs or compact fluorescent bulbs at night to see (which is arguably a lot of people). While LED/fluorescent may look white, they’re simultaneously emitting light of every single color. In the case of LED lights, they specifically emit copious amounts of blue because of how they’re made; the basic LED area light is a blue LED coated with phosphor to create the white glow of a full color spectrum. Thankfully, I’ve got some good news for LED enthusiasts. Recently, Travis Longcore and his group of researchers at the University of Southern California were able to reduce the amount of bugs attracted to LED light by 20%, just by lowering the output of blue light using a color-tunable LED lamp. While such lamps are currently available on the market, they are still pretty expensive at this point in time.

At the end of the day though, the best way to keep biting insects away is by rubbing chemicals all over yourself. Specifically, DEET, IR3535, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or para-menthane-diol according to the CDC. But if rubbing chemicals onto your body is not quite your thing, than you can alternatively bask in a cloud of citronella oil. This is the naturally-occurring aromatic plant compound that is found in most bug repellent candles/tiki torches, and it has even been scientifically proven to work! Of course, there are always more “natural” methods for repelling insects, but very few have been scientifically verified to work.

So next time you go enjoy the outdoors this summer, make sure you don’t let those bugs bug you.  Sometimes chemicals are truly a man’s best friend!

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