New research in the United States reveals that compounds derived from coconut oil are better than DEET at repelling blood-sucking insects. DEET is the common name of a synthetic repellent developed by the US Army in 1946 and has been considered as the gold standard in insect repellents for a long time.
However, increasing regulations and growing public health concerns about synthetic repellents and insecticides like DEET have sparked interest in developing plant-based repellents that are more effective and longer lasting.Scientists of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have identified specific coconut oil fatty acids that have strong repellency and long-lasting effectiveness against multiple insects – mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies and bed bugs that can transmit diseases to humans and animals.
The team of scientists led by entomologist Junwei Zhu with the ARS unit in Lincoln, Nebraska, found that the coconut oil compounds were effective against biting flies and bed bugs for two weeks and had lasting repellency against ticks for at least one week in laboratory tests.
Coconut oil itself is not a repellent, Zhu emphasized. However, the coconut oil-derived free fatty acid mixture lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid as well as their corresponding methyl esters provides strong repellency against blood-sucking insects. By encapsulating coconut fatty acids into a starch-based formula, field trials showed that this all-natural formula could provide protection to cattle against stable flies for up to 96 hours or four days. DEET, on the other hand, was only 50 percent effective against stable flies.
The coconut oil-derived compounds offer longer-lasting protection than any other known natural repellent against blood-feeding insects, according to Zhu. ARS has filed a patent application tor this new technology and is working with commercial companies to develop repellent formulas from coconut oil fatty acids. (ARS News)