Which Mosquito Repellents Work (and Which Don’t May Not)?

There are many reasons for why the summer months are so popular. Warmer temperatures, longer days and no school are often the main reasons why people enjoy this time of year. Unfortunately, summer is also known for seemingly endless numbers of mosquitoes. In light of this ongoing problem, recent research has put several mosquito repellents to the test.

Testing in a Tunnel

This particular study was authored by a team from New Mexico State University (NMSU), and published in The Journal of Insect Science. The authors reviewed a total of eleven repellent products, a group consisting of five spray-on products, five wearable repellent devices and one candle. Each item was tested for its effectiveness in warding off the yellow fever mosquito. 

To gauge how well the products worked, the research team enlisted a group of volunteers, who were asked to try out both the repellent sprays and wearable devices. The volunteers were asked to refrain from bathing or using personal hygiene products prior to the study, as failing to do so would have made it difficult to accurately judge the repellents’ effectiveness. 

Strange as it may sound, testing was conducted within a low-speed wind tunnel on NMSU’s campus. The participants were asked to remain inside a Plexiglas enclosure, while cages filled with mosquitoes were placed at specific distances from each subject. These cages contained three sections; initially, anywhere from 50 to 125 female mosquitoes were sealed off in the middle section of the cage. 

The mosquitoes were then allowed to foam free inside the cage’s three sections for fifteen minutes. During this time, the insects were able to move into the section of the cage located closest to the subject.

Failing Grades

So what did this testing reveal? Well, for starters, you may want to rethink buying a mosquito-repelling bracelet. “None of the bracelets we tested caused any significant reduction in mosquito attraction,” stated Rodriguez in a University press release. “Although the active ingredients in some bracelets may be mosquito repellents, the concentrations released by the bracelets are most likely too low to have an effect. Based on our results, we concluded that these bracelets in general do not offer adequate protection from mosquito bites.” The study produced similar disappointing results for the citronella candle. 

The story was a bit different when repellents were analyzed. In short, a repellent’s effectiveness largely hinged on the presence of certain ingredients, known as DEET and Oil of Eucalyptus. Repellents that contained one of these substances were found to be better at warding off mosquitoes than their competition.

Related Stories


From snowstorms to increasingly short days, there are plenty of reasons to dislike winter. Likewise, evidence suggests that increased …


Both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are common health issues that affect the respiratory system. Despite this …