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Science

Scientist studying the sense of smell just discovered that beetroot peel is a cheap and sustainable way to trap mosquitoes

This cost effective alternative can help developing countries where the need to control mosquitoes is most needed. ”The neat thing here is that the part of the beetroot that would have gone to waste, now has its distinct use”, says Marcus Stensmyr.

18122019
Words: Johan Magnusson

In the Lund University scientist’s research, he found that female mosquitoes can be trapped with beetroot peel.

— Larval mosquitoes, for example baby mosquitoes, grow up in water puddles where they feed on microbes, he says. Many of these microbes produce a chemical called geosmin, which is attractive to female mosquitoes in search of somewhere to lay their eggs. Geosmin scented traps placed around the greater Miami area indeed also trapped large numbers of female mosquitoes. Geosmin is, however, both expensive and hard to obtain. Especially in developing countries where the need to control mosquitoes is most needed, thus we looked for a cost effective alternative. We decided to try beetroot peel, which also contains geosmin, as an alternative, and it worked great! Traps made from discarded PET bottles and filled with a mix of beetroot peel and water caught a great number of mosquitoes in Brazil, hinting at a cheap and sustainable way to control mosquitoes in low income areas. The neat thing here is that the part of the beetroot that would have gone to waste, now has its distinct use. The peel can be used to trap mosquitoes, and the pulp to make borscht!

How will you continue after presenting these results?

— Our aim was to develop a method for people in poor countries to make cheap and simple DIY traps for controlling mosquitoes in their backyard. Our next step will be to figure out how to make an optimized trap, and to verify that our little beetroot traps actually can affect mosquito populations, says Stensmyr, continuing,

— Now we are looking into natural mosquito repellents, trying to figure out the mechanism by which certain plants repel mosquitoes. Currently we are working on catnip, which apart from having a euphoric and mildly hallucinogenic effect on cats, is also a potent insect repellent.