Insect repellents mediate species-specific olfactory behaviours in mosquitoes

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4 Scopus citations


Background: The species-specific mode of action for DEET and many other mosquito repellents is often unclear. Confusion may arise for many reasons. First, the response of a single mosquito species is often used to represent all mosquito species. Second, behavioural studies usually test the effect of repellents on mosquito attraction towards human odorants, rather than their direct repulsive effect on mosquitoes. Third, the mosquito sensory neuron responses towards repellents are often not directly examined. Methods: A close proximity response assay was used to test the direct repulsive effect of six mosquito repellents on Anopheles coluzzii, Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus mosquitoes. Additionally, the behavioural assay and calcium imaging recordings of antennae were used to test the response of An. coluzzii mosquitoes towards two human odorants (1-octen-3-ol and benzaldehyde) at different concentrations, and mixtures of the repellents lemongrass oil and p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) with DEET. Results: Anopheles coluzzii mosquitoes were repelled by lemongrass oil and PMD, while Ae. aegypti and Cx. quinquefasciatus mosquitoes were repelled by lemongrass oil, PMD, eugenol, and DEET. In addition, high concentrations of 1-octen-3-ol and benzaldehyde were repellent, and activated more olfactory receptor neurons on the An. coluzzii antennae than lower concentrations. Finally, changes in olfactory responses to repellent mixtures reflected changes in repulsive behaviours. Conclusions: The findings described here suggest that different species of mosquitoes have different behavioural responses to repellents. The data further suggest that high-odour concentrations may recruit repellent-sensing neurons, or generally excite many olfactory neurons, yielding repellent behavioural responses. Finally, DEET can decrease the neuronal and behavioural response of An. coluzzii mosquitoes towards PMD but not towards lemongrass oil. Overall, these studies can help inform mosquito repellent choice by species, guide decisions on effective repellent blends, and could ultimately identify the olfactory neurons and receptors in mosquitoes that mediate repellency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number127
JournalMalaria journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 30 2020


  • Behaviour
  • Calcium imaging
  • Human odorants
  • Masking
  • Olfaction
  • Olfactory neurons
  • Q-system
  • Spatial repellents

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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