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Experiment reveals which mosquito repellants actually work and which are useless

POSTED: July 26, 2017 9:00 a.m.
McKenna Park/

Some brands worked like magic, but others did absolutely nothing to stop mosquitos from swarming.

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Of course you want to avoid mosquito bites — they’re itchy and irritating, not to mention dangerous. Little kids especially are prone to itching these bumps too much which could cause infection. And, of course, mosquitoes are known to spread viruses.

But how do you know if the sprays, candles and bracelets you’re using actually work? If you’re like me, you’ve come in from outdoor summer nights frustrated with several mosquito bites even after using a mosquito repellant product.

A surprising experiment

To help out everyone who’d rather avoid pesky (and potentially dangerous) mosquito bites, Inside Edition carried out a simple yet brilliant experiment to test the effectiveness of different mosquito repellant products.

At the USDA mosquito and fly research unit in Gainesville Florida, three courageous volunteers teamed up with Dr. Ulrich Bernier. The volunteers, including Inside Edition producer Charles McLravy, were brave enough to put several mosquito repellant products to the test. Sticking their arms into glass cages full of hungry mosquitoes, they waited to see if the bugs would bite.

Some products were 100% effective at keeping away hungry bugs, but others were so ineffective we can’t believe they’re sold to the public.

They tested five main repellents: Deet, plant-based oils, wristbands, candles and a phone app.

Testing the sprays

Deet is a common active ingredient in many spray-on mosquito repellents. Inside Edition tested three different brand sprays: OFF, Cutter and Repel. After spraying their forearm down with one brand each, the volunteers offered their bare arm to a cage of buzzing mosquitoes. Despite exposing bare skin to a highly condensed swarm of bugs, no one using these three brands were bitten.

Next, the volunteers put a natural, plant-based repellent to the test. Using Repel’s deet-free Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, a volunteer again offered their arm to the swarming mosquitoes. The experimenters also found this product to keep skin 100% bite-free.

Testing bracelets, candles and apps

The experimenters then moved on to test anti-bug bracelets, which sound great if you want to avoid spraying yourself down with smelly spray. Though the bracelets claim to repel mosquitoes by emitting a plant-based ingredient called geraniol, the volunteers wound up with several bites while testing two different bracelet brands.

Next, they put citronella candles to the test. A camping and backyard table favorite, citronella candles are supposed to emit fumes that repel bugs.

The experimenters released 500 mosquitoes into an outdoor cage while holding the flaming candle, but as both men stood there getting eaten alive by hungry bugs, it seemed the candle didn’t live up to its claims at all.

Last of all, the volunteers tried out a phone app that claimed to repel mosquitos by emitting a high-pitched frequency. Dr. Bernier said he had his doubts before the experiment even began, and his doubts proved correct: the mosquitoes immediately swarmed and the poor volunteer came away with about a hundred bites all over his forearm.

Choose the right product

The experiment’s results were nothing short of surprising — some products claiming to repel bugs are complete phonies, while others making the same claims didn’t let a single bug bite happen.

Sta away from the repellants that completely failed, and protect yourself and your family this summer with the products that passed the test:

Off Familycare Insect Repellent Clean Feel 6 Oz (2 Pack)

Cutter Skinsations Insect Repellent (Pump Spray) (Twin Pack) (2 - 6 fl oz)

Repel Sportsmen Max Formula Insect Repellent Aerosol 40-Percent DEET Spray, Case Pack of 2

REPEL Lemon Eucalyptus Natural Insect Repellent with 4 oz Pump Spray, Twin Pack
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