Naked Scientists Podcast

Naked Scientists episode

Sat, 10th May 2008

Repelling Mosquitoes

A mosquito biting a finger (c) Ngari.norway @ wikipedia

Using nature's own tricks, we find out how to avoid mosquito bites, grow more crops and keep the weeds away in this week's Naked Scientists.  We find out why mosquitoes prefer some people to others, and how to use pheromones to turn an insect's sex-drive against it!  Also, why dentists could use plasma to cut down on drilling, why breast is best for bigger brains and why Popeye was right, spinach really does make you stronger.  Plus, in Kitchen Science, we brave a box of biting mozzies to see if insect repellent really does repel!

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In this edition of Naked Scientists

Full Transcript

  • 37:28 - Pheromone Traps - Using Sex as Bait

    Pheromones are chemicals used for communication - but can they be used to trap pests?

  • 43:44 - Ear Plugs and Internal Noise

    Iíve noticed that if I have earplugs or ear bud style headphones in my ears that chewing food sounds incredibly loud, but when my ears are unplugged itís much more quiet. Why is that?

  • 53:49 - Does Listerine repell mosquitoes?

    A particular brand of mouthwash, they say Listerine, is a mosquito repellent. Can you think of any basic chemistry, why that should be the case?

  • 56:37 - Do any plants repel Chiggers?

    Repelling mosquitoes is all well and good but a much greater problem for us is: Chiggers. Almost invisible, these larval forms of the harvest mite are the source of much pain and misery. The 1st you know, you've got them is a large, irritating blister which is maddening and sore...

  • 57:43 - Do you react more to mosquitoes as you age?

    When I was younger mosquito bites didn't seem to bother me so much. There was hardly an itch and not much swelling either. Now they itch strongly and swell up more. I wonder if the mosquito saliva has become more "poisonous" in the last years? Luckily I don't get bitten much.

  • 59:24 - Do women get bitten more than men?

    Do women get bitten more than men?



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The thing about the pheromons was interesting. When bees swarm, the queen emits quite a powerfull pheromone that is easy to smell. You can get a synthetic one so that you can get the bees into a box. I think it may be confused with some perfumes so the bees tend to land on these women that knock the top of their perfume bottle without realising it before they go for Sunday lunch. It's just unfortunate that the bees are downwind of them.

turnipsock, Mon, 12th May 2008

I am not sure if it went out on the program, but James was saying that the Garlic being a mosquito repellant is definitely an urban myth. I don't know if it affects how you react to them though. daveshorts, Wed, 14th May 2008

I was curious about that two as my friends daughter was on a course very similar to that...

I am not sure.. but I know her mom said that it helped her in the amount of infection she would get after scratching..etc.. she felt it helped and that the bites healed better.. at least that was my take on it.
I was not able to listen yesterday but it is there today so I am listening right now.. thanks Dave! Karen W., Wed, 14th May 2008

Just finished listening great show guys! Was very interesting! Karen W., Wed, 14th May 2008

I thought B12 was mentioned somewhere. I always have a low B12 count. I don't get that bothered by midges though even though we live in midge heaven. turnipsock, Wed, 14th May 2008

The explanation for pre-menstrual cravings made no sense whatsoever: at 28 days the body is getting ready to flush out the unfertilized egg, not preparing for pregnancy (unless the egg is fertilized, which is a whole other story.) My humble opinion is that cravings are culturally, not physically induced. Sunwarm, Thu, 15th May 2008

On the contrary.I would argue that in order to maximise the chances of pregnancy the body needs to ensure that it is vitamin and micronutrient replete BEFORE ovulation occurs so that there is ahighly receptive endometrium and healthy biochemical milieu to greet the released egg and support migrating sperm. This will increase the likelihood of successful fertilisation, migration and implantation (pregnancy).

Chris chris, Thu, 15th May 2008

Thank you for an excellent show!
When I recently listened to the show about repelling mosquitoes I recalled a story I heard some years ago when I took a course in diving medicine (towards becoming a divemaster) and since I think it's an interesting story...

The storyteller was our teacher. He was a medical doctor and had, as many medical students during their education, served extra at the emergency care. In his case Akademiska Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden. The northern part of the region around Uppsala (Uppland) and especially along the river of Dalalven, is notorious for mosquitoes. In some places the 'mosquito density'* is among the highest in the world (i.e. one doesn't want to be outside from dusk to dawn and if one has to one will surely keep the mouth shut if not wearing a protecting mask).
One early morning in late June, the emergency ward at Akademiska Hospital received an almost naked man who seemed conscious but he did not react when the nursing staff tried to contact him. He also seemed paralysed on one hand but had still some tense in his muscles. When they examined him they found small red dots all over his body and concluded that he most likely had been bitten by "numerous insects". They treated him to avoid an allergic chock and he eventually recovered after some time. When recovered, he told them that he had been walking home from a late party somewhere in the region near the river of Dalalven. It was a warm night and the guy had decided that, since it was warm enough, he could well take a nap at the side of the road. When he woke up he could not move... When people arrived and tried to talk to him he could not answer either. He was well aware of what people said to him but was unable to react. This guy would have needed an effective repellent!

Since a few years, they are trying to decrease the amount of mosquitoes around that area using "Bti", i.e. spreading the naturally occurring bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. I have been in the area and I understand why hey want to do that. It can be a hell for humans but it is a real paradise for birds...

Henrik Hansson

*In a 'standardised mosquito trap', researchers caught nearly 90.000 mosquitoes during one night. This was a world record (e.g. somewhere in Germany they have trapped 'only' up to 17.000 mosquitoes using the same method) henrik_hansson, Thu, 22nd May 2008

We try to keep the pond full of fish as they eat the mosquito larvae.

Also Garlic and vitamin B1( Thiamine)can be taken two ward them off and also you can add vitamin A and B complex to the garlic and b6 a few weeks ahead to kind of keep everything in balance. It can help keep mosquitoes at bay because it gives off an odor they can detect and goes some way to repel them.I believe that is the way they did it with an old friends daughter who had terrible reactions to mosquito bites! Karen W., Thu, 5th Nov 2009

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