While the use of topical insect repellents, particularly those containing synthetic active ingredients such as deet (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide), are a mainstay in personal protection strategies emphasized in public health messages, there is a growing demand in the community for alternative repellents, particularly those of botanical origin and thus deemed to be “natural.” This study evaluated the repellency of essential oils from 11 Australian native plants in 5% v/v formulations against Aedes aegypti, Culex quinquefasciatus, and Culex annulirostris under laboratory conditions. A blend of the top 3 performing oils was then compared with deet and a commercially available botanical insect repellent. All essential oils provided at least some protection against the 3 mosquito species, with the longest protection time (110 min) afforded by Prostanthera melissifolia against Cx. quinquefasciatus. Mean protection times against Ae. aegypti were substantially lower than those for the Culex spp. tested. Deet provided significantly longer protection against Ae. aegypti than both the 5% v/v blend of Leptospermum petersonii, Prostanthera melissifolia, and Melaleuca alternifolia (the 3 most effective oils) and the commercial botanical repellent. The results of this study indicate that these essential oils from Australian native plants offer limited protection against biting mosquitoes and that a blend of essential oils holds may offer commercial potential as a short-period repellent or under conditions of low mosquito abundance. However, it is important that public health messages continue to emphasize the greater effectiveness of deet-based repellents in areas with risks of mosquito-borne disease.
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Vol. 25 • No. 3