To keep mosquitoes at bay, all it may take is a bit of planting.
New research finds that sweetgrass, a meadow grass native to northern climates, contains chemicals that work as well as DEET in fending off the blood-sucking insects.
Charles Cantrell and his team at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Guelph and the University of Mississippi, put the plant's oil to the test.
Best Ways to Repel Insects
First they extracted the oil from the sweetgrass using steam distillation. Then they filled vials of a red-colored, human blood-like solution and covered the vials with thin membranes – mimicking human skin. Each vial's membrane was coated with one of three substances - the sweetgrass oil, sweetgrass extracts taken without steam distillation, DEET, and a control of ethanol.
Then they offered up the vials to the mosquitoes - and counted how many mosquitoes went for each vial.
"Then you take the mosquitoes and squish them on some paper," Cantrell explained in a press release. "If they have the blood mimic in them, you see it right there on the paper."