A U.S. Department of Agriculture study finds that compounds derived from coconut oil are actually better than DEET at repelling biting bugs.
How effective is it?
Coconut Oil Compound
For over 60 years, DEET has been the standard when it comes to insect repellents because of its effectiveness and long-lasting effects. However, concern over the potentially harmful effects of synthetic insect repellents, particularly among infants and pregnant women, has prompted the search and development of plant-based or natural insect repellents.
In this matter, scientists from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service identified fatty acids derived from coconut oil that are highly effective in repelling biting insects. In fact, testing showed that it actually fared better than DEET.
Better Than DEET
Testing the coconut oil compound’s efficacy, the scientists found that it repelled bed bugs and biting flies for two weeks, and repelled ticks for at least one week. Further, it also proved highly effective in repelling mosquitoes when it was topically applied. Specifically, the coconut oil compound was found to be 90 percent effective in repelling Aedes aegypti, the mosquito responsible for spreading illnesses such as Zika virus.
The coconut oil compound’s performance against different bugs was also compared to that of DEET, and testing showed rather interesting results. When tested against bed bugs, DEET’s effectiveness lasted for three days, while the coconut oil compound lasted for approximately two weeks. Against stable flies, DEET was just 50 percent effective while coconut oil was over 95 percent effective. It even provided protection against stable flies for up to 96 days.
To be clear, the scientists are not saying that coconut oil itself is an insect repellent, but that its fatty acids lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid, and their methyl esters provide effective repellency against biting or blood-sucking bugs.
According to the scientists, the coconut oil compound they derived has longer-lasting protection against biting bugs than any other known natural repellent. It is also low-cost and is already being used in the cosmetic industry, and hence could be a safe insect repellent alternative.
The study is published in Scientific Reports.