Summer may be long gone in the Western Hemisphere, but that’s no reason to let your guard down. Before you know it, the mosquitoes will be back, but this time, you can be prepared. Scientists tested the mosquito-repelling powers of 10 substances. Most of the results confirmed what we already know, but there was one big surprise: Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume makes a pretty decent bug spray.
The mosquito is more than just a pest. With its syringe-like proboscis and taste for blood, it’s the perfect carrier for deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, and West Nile virus. Some researchers are working fast to find cures for these conditions while others are trying to figure out how to keep the mosquitoes from biting in the first place.
That group includes Stacy Rodriguez, a research assistant at New Mexico State University’s Vector Physiology Lab. “Not all repellents are created equal—unfortunately they’re advertised as such,” Rodriguez said in a press release this week. “It’s important to let consumers know what’s actually effective.”
Rodriguez and her colleagues dropped mosquitoes into the tail of a Y-shaped tube to give them a choice between a naked human hand and a hand sprayed with a chemical compound. The study included two mosquito species, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, and 10 compounds, eight of which were commercially available mosquito repellents. The other two substances were fragrances: Avon’s Skin So Soft bath oil and Victoria’s Secret Bombshell perfume.
Unsurprisingly, the bug sprays with DEET were the most successful in keeping mosquitoes away. Sorry, moms: Avon's Skin So Soft Bug Guard was pretty much useless. A vitamin B1 patch, marketed as a “natural” alternative to bug spray, was not just ineffective—it actually attracted the little bloodsuckers.
And then there was Bombshell. Historically, studies have shown that floral and fruity scents attract mosquitoes, and bite-prone people were cautioned to stay away from perfume. But this perfume has both floral and fruity notes, and it kept mosquitoes away for more than two hours.
The two mosquito species responded differently to some of the compounds. A bug spray called EcoSmart stopped repelling Ae. aegypti after a half hour, but kept Ae. albopictus away for more than four hours. Both species, however, hated the Bombshell.
The research was published in the Journal of Insect Research.
Be forewarned if you’re going to attempt the perfume-as-bug-spray route: the researchers used a lot of perfume in this experiment. “Lower concentrations of the same fragrance might have different effects,” they wrote. So though the perfume will work as mosquito repellent, you may also run the risk of repelling everyone else around you with your fruity perfume cloud.