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Integrated Pest Management

NIFA Funds Lab to Develop Natural Pest Repellent

With the increasing public concern about insect-borne diseases such as West Nile virus and the use of artificial compounds in insect repellent, better insect control methods are needed. There are a number of effective repellents available, including those containing DEET, but some people are reluctant to use them because they contain artificial chemicals. Also, some commercial DEET-based repellents can be unsafe because their formulations can accidentally ignite when applied to clothing or skin. Consequently, there is need for a natural repellent which is as effective and safe as DEET repellants.

Dr. R. M. Roe, William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of entomology at North Carolina State University, has discovered a natural repellent from the tomato plant effective against a wide variety of pests including mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and agricultural insects. The commercial product, sold under the trade name BioBlock UD, has been shown to be as effective as DEET for mosquito control and more effective than DEET for tick control. Since the public may be more accepting of all natural BioBlock UD than current DEET-based products, they may use it more and therefore be better protected from insect- and tick-borne diseases.

The product is formulated as a water-based emulsion, is safe, and non-flammable. The repellent has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a biological and will be sold as all natural. EPA registration in the United States is scheduled for 2006.

In addition to the use of BioBlock UD as a repellent on humans, the material should have a number of other applications, including: in livestock and animal production; protection of dogs, cats, and horses; area-wide control of mosquitoes and flies around decks, swimming pools, and other outdoor areas; organic gardening; and the production of repellent cloths.

Funding for this project comes from the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service. Dr. Roe’s laboratory has also been almost continuously funded by NIFA since 1983, through programs like Hatch and National Research Initiative. His current NIFA NRI grant is to continue working on the Trypsin modulating oostatic factor (TMOF) chemistry which led to this discovery.

For more information contact Dr. R. Michael Roe.


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