How New Gadgets Could Keep Mosquitoes at Bay

Adding more weapons to the fight against these deadly flying pests

  • A new mosquito repellent developed for the military works without electricity or skin contact. 
  • Researchers say the gadget can be attached to your clothes. 
  • It’s one of a growing number of new anti-mosquito technologies.
Closeup on a mosquito inside a test tube.

Karen Kasmauski / Getty Images

The whine of mosquitoes might soon be less irritating, thanks to a growing number of new devices. 

A contraption developed for the military with the help of the University of Florida researchers reportedly protects from mosquitoes. The gadget works for an extended period and requires no heat, electricity, or skin contact. According to World Health Organization estimates, mosquito-borne diseases kill some 725,000 people a year.

The newly created gadget "can be attached to various articles of clothing at various levels of the body," Daniel Kline, a USDA research entomologist and one of the device's creators, told Lifewire in an email interview. "For example, say a fisherman, golfer, or hiker is wearing a hat."

Mosquitoes No More?

The mosquito device uses the repellent transfluthrin, effectively preventing multiple species of mosquitoes from entering the testing site. Transfluthrin is an organic insecticide considered to be safe for humans and animals.

The gadget consists of a tube-shaped polypropylene plastic that is 2.5 centimeters long and holds two smaller tubes and cotton containing the repellent. The team attached 70 devices to the opening of a large military tent using a fishing line and nothing to a similar control tent. Caged mosquitos were released at various points along the tent's exterior, and almost all were killed or repelled within 24 hours.

"Our device eliminates the need for applying topical repellents and for insecticides that are sprayed across an open area, which can contaminate surrounding plants or bodies of water and have a negative impact on beneficial pollinators like bees and butterflies," Nagarajan Rajagopal, one of the device's inventors said in the news release. "This is versatile, portable, easily deployed, and doesn't require electricity or heat to activate the solution."

Gulshan Hajara Banu, the CEO & Founder at PestKeen, told Lifewire in an email that potential users of the new gadget should keep in mind that the results can vary depending on several factors, including the level of mosquito activity in a given area and the individual user's level of exposure. 

"It's important to note that it should still be used in conjunction with other protective measures, such as wearing long sleeves and pants and using mosquito nets, to ensure maximum protection," Banu added.

Kline said that the effectiveness of traditional chemical repellents depends on the user. He said that the device was developed with soldiers in mind. 

"Often deployed soldiers do not like to use the traditional topical skin repellents that are made available to them," he added. "Many do not like the smell or feel of these chemicals. Though available for them to use, compliance is an issue. Spatial repellents, we hope, will protect one or a group of deployed soldiers with minimal participation and compliance by them."  

Someone outside spraying mosquito repellant on their arm.

Zbynek Pospisil / Getty Images

Kline said his team has just begun evaluating the new device against ticks. "In this case, they are either attached to the bootlaces of our hiking boots or a cuff placed at the interface of our pants and boots," he added. 

More Help on the Way

Scientists from the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) recently developed another new type of wearable insect-repellent delivery device. Using a 3D printer, the active ingredient is first 'encapsulated' and formed into the desired shape, such as a ring, which can then be worn and releases an agent designed to repel mosquitoes for a long time.

The researchers developed their prototypes using IR3535, an insect repellent developed by MERCK. "Mosquito sprays containing IR3535 are very gentle on the skin and have been used worldwide for many years. That's why we've been using the agent for our experiments," said Professor René Androsch from the MLU in the news release. It is usually applied as a spray or lotion and offers several hours of protection. However, Androsch and his team are looking for ways to release the agent over a much longer period, such as by encapsulating it in a wearable ring or bracelet.

Ultimately, the choice of which anti-mosquito device to use will come down to individual preferences and needs, Banu said. "The University of Florida's device is certainly an exciting development in the field of anti-mosquito technology and has the potential to provide highly effective protection against mosquitos," she added.

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