Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz. Bzzzzz. SMACK!! Mosquitos – maybe the most annoying pest to ever fly, are the always the ones that ruins my sleep. As usual, mosquito visited me during midnight and woke me up. The sound that mosquito emits right beside my ear disturbed my sleep. So I picked up bug repellent and sprayed it to myself. Bug repellent was very effective. Within few minutes, it nullified mosquitos, and I could go back to sleep peacefully. But then, I started to wonder what is bug repellent and how it works.
In order to understand how bug repellent works, I thought that it is important to understand how mosquitoes detect us as targets. Mosquitoes contains three different sensors: chemical sensors, visual sensors and heat sensors, which allow them to target their prays. Among those three sensors, mosquitoes largely rely on their chemical sensors. “Scientists have identified several proteins found in mosquitoes’ antennae and heads that latch on to chemical markers, or odorants, emitted from our skin.” (Knight) And mosquitoes use these proteins to detect carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which are the gases that mammals and birds emit as part of their normal breathing.
What is bug repellent? There are two different types of bug repellents: natural and synthetic bug repellent. Basic idea of each repellent can be deduced from its own names. Literally, natural repellent is from nature and synthetic repellent is a mixture of chemical substances. Although natural repellent is much more safe than synthetic repellent, people prefer to use synthetic repellent because it is much more effective and lasts longer than natural repellent. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends people to use repellent that contain active ingredients that the EPA approved their safety. Some examples of active ingredients are DEET, and Picaridin.
Then how does mosquito repellent actually work? When chemical substances i.e. DEET or Picaridin, from the repellent are sprayed on a surface of skin, those chemical substances prevent mosquitos’ bites by disturbing their ability to detect protected surface. So basically, mosquitos are no longer able to detect us using their chemical sensor. But bug repellent is effective for limited amount of time because repellent is not on the surface it is sprayed permanently.
What are the implications of knowing this? These days the most dangerous living organism is, with no surprise, mosquito. According to Illinois Department of Public Health, every year, “mosquitoes transmitting malaria kill 2 million to 3 million people and infect another 200 million or more.” (“Illinois Department of Department of Health”) Nearly half of world’s population is at risk for malaria. By developing the technology of getting away form mosquito bites, people can lower the risk of getting malaria. Although bug sprays or repellents are widely supplied to urban area, since the major areas, where people suffer from malaria, are not developed, people there do not have access to bug repellents. So it is important to find out natural repellents, which can be found naturally and is not harmful to children. Also, in the course of developing efficient bug repellents, just as other inventions came about accidentally, scientists may be able to invent malaria vaccination.
Word Count: 520
“Mosquitoes and Disease.” Illinois Department of Department of Health. Illinois Department of Department of Health, March 29, 2007 . Web. 7 Oct 2011. <http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcmosquitoes.htm>.
“Active Ingredients Found in Insect Repellents.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), September 10, 2009. Web. 7 Oct 2011. <http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/mosquitoes/ai_insectrp.htm>.
“Repellents are an important tool to assist people in protecting themselves from mosquito-borne diseases..” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, October 13, 2009. Web. 7 Oct 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/repellentupdates.htm>.
Freudenrich, Craig. “How Mosquitoes Work.” How Stuff Works. How Stuff Works, n.d. Web. 7 Oct 2011. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/life/zoology/insects-arachnids/mosquito.htm>.
Knight, Meredith. “Why do mosquitoes bite some people more than others?.” Scienceline. Scienceline, September 10, 2007. Web. 7 Oct 2011. <http://scienceline.org/2007/09/ask-knight-mosquitoes/>.