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Peoria scientists find new way to keep bugs away

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 12:45 AM CDT
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PEORIA (Heart of Illinois ABC) - This time of year, bug spray is a necessity for anyone heading outside.

A team of scientists at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria have found a new way to keep the bugs away.

“I work on extracting oils with supercritical CO2, or liquid CO2, and then once we get the oil we look for ways to use the oil,” said Fred Eller, research chemist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Peoria.

Eller extracted pure cedarwood oil and took it to Dr. Lina Weiler. She tested the oil on four types of ticks: Blacklegged, American Dog, Deer, and Long Star ticks.

“The repellency of cedarwood oil for about an hour is actually comparable to the repellency of DEET itself,” Dr. Weiler said.

She also found ticks would even die from contact with the oil. It worked, so she tested it on other insects.

“We now see that it’s effective and that it works on ticks. We also tried working it out with mosquito larvae and adults, and yes they have reactivity,” Dr. Weiler said.

It’s not just about killing the bugs. Cedarwood oil smells good. It’s natural and harmless to humans.

Cedarwood oil
Cedarwood oil(25 News/Heart of Illinois ABC)

Eller explained what’s next with this experiment.

“We’re looking at other insects that we can kill, and hopefully somebody will pick this up and have this as a commercial product that people can use to kill or repel insects,” Eller said.

Cedarwood oil is comparable to DEET, another chemical commonly used to bug spray. However, consumers are not likely to see the product on store shelves anytime soon. The next step is to do a larger-scale experiment, then hopefully make it available on future camping trips.

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