Mosquito Pests Are Becoming Resistant To DEET Repellent, But Experts State That More Effective Repellents Are Widely Available

Around 70 mosquito species have been documented in New York state, and some of these species are considered pests due to their habit of biting humans in urban and suburban areas during the spring, summer and fall seasons. Several mosquito species in New York inflict bites that cause local swelling and itchiness, but are otherwise harmless. These medically benign mosquitoes are merely nuisance pests that, at worst, can put a damper on the occasional picnic, or in very rare circumstances, inflict bites that trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Unfortunately, New York is also home to multiple disease-carrying mosquito pest species that can be found throughout the state.

The northern house mosquito (Culex pipiens) is the most prevalent mosquito pest species in New York, and it’s the primary vector of the West Nile virus. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) transmits both the West Nile virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). In order to avoid mosquito bites, international, federal and state public health authorities strongly urge people to apply mosquito repellent before spending time outdoors. The majority of medical experts and public health officials name DEET as the most effective mosquito repellent on the market, but recent research suggests that mosquito pests are growing resistant to this historically reliable chemical repellent.

Several studies have found that Aedes mosquito species are no longer being repelled by DEET because many populations around the world have evolved a genetic resistance to the chemical compound. This is not necessarily surprising considering that several mosquito pest species have developed a resistance to common insecticides in the past. Also, since DEET has been the most commonly used mosquito repellent since it was introduced to the market back in 1957, mosquitoes have had plenty of time to evolve a resistance to the compound. Luckily, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a few other repellents that are just as, or even more effective than DEET.

According to Dr. Dan Strickman, a leading researcher with the Global Health Program at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, repellent products that contain picaridin as the active ingredient are slightly more effective than those containing DEET. Picaridin effectively repels mosquitoes from a distance, while DEET only repels mosquitoes once they land on humans. In addition to picaridin, the CDC recommends mosquito repellent products that contain IR3535 as the active ingredient. Strickman claims that IR3535 will effectively repel mosquitoes, but not quite as effectively as picaridin and DEET. Another repellent recommended by the CDC, lemon eucalyptus oil, was found to repel mosquitoes just as effectively as DEET during a study conducted by researchers with New Mexico State University.

Do you buy mosquito repellent products?