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Mosquitoes Beginning To Ignore DEET Repellent 232

Copper Nikus writes "An article at the BBC makes a shocking claim about mosquitoes. It appears some individual insects in the wild have developed the ability to ignore the very popular DEET repellent after a first exposure. From the article: 'To investigate why this might be happening, the researchers attached electrodes to the insects' antenna. Dr Logan explained: "We were able to record the response of the receptors on the antenna to Deet, and what we found was the mosquitoes were no longer as sensitive to the chemical, so they weren't picking it up as well. "There is something about being exposed to the chemical that first time that changes their olfactory system - changes their sense of smell - and their ability to smell Deet, which makes it less effective."'"
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Mosquitoes Beginning To Ignore DEET Repellent

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  • Umm, yeah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Desler ( 1608317 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:38AM (#42975997)

    Yeah, it's called evolution.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:10AM (#42976213)

      you shut your devil whore mouth

    • by countach ( 534280 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:23AM (#42976285)

      I must be evolving too, because I can't smell my aftershave as much when I've got used to it.

    • The original article was insightful, it enlightened us to a new evolution taking place. This is just a snarky restatement without any added, and in fact far less, information.

      The article straight off says mosquitoes are evolving, and talks about the research as to in the mechanism that is changing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I would go so far as to even say GP is wrong. The article describes how experiments show the mosquito's olfactory system appears to loose sensitivity to DEET after the first exposure. There is no supporting evidence that conclusively points to this being due to evolutionary change. A more appropriate characterization is simply that the insect's nervous system is being down-regulated in responsiveness to this particular chemical. In other words, the mosquito adapts by learning to ignore some noxious gunk
        • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

          And by ignoring the smell of DEET, the mosquito is more likely to get herself a blood meal, and is thus more likely to reproduce. Whar evolution?

          • by tloh ( 451585 )

            I stand by my position that evidence for evolution-driven tolerance to DEET is very weak based on available evidence at this point. The experiment was carried out without any mention of a control group for comparison that would have not been subjected to any evolution driven selective pressure. There was *one* mention in the article of genetic changes influencing immunity to DEET under controlled laboratory conditions: ".......although it was not clear if there were any mosquitoes like this in the wild."

            • Let me put it another way. Would you consider a woman to be more fit for survival if she had a higher tolerance for the less flashy lifestyle of skilled, technically experienced nerds who can nonetheless retain employment in a bad economy with a competitive job market? Or is she choosing to be smart by using her brain to act maturely and override less important aversions for the sake of appreciating greater virtues? You are not born with it, it's learning that leads to adaptability. Ladies please don't be

            • Wow. Somebody hasn't been laid in way too long have they.

          • It would be evolution if they could show that the offspring completely ignored the DEET on its first exposure. Otherwise, I agree it looks like neural-plasticity.
        • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
          Except if you read the article: "Earlier research by the same team found that genetic changes to the same species of mosquito can make them immune to Deet, although it was not clear if there were any mosquitoes like this in the wild."
        • If they always had that ability then you are correct. However if that was the case then DEET would have never worked so well. They seemed to have evolved the ability to down-regulate their response to the chemical.

    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Except in Kansas, where it's the work of the Devil.
    • by jbengt ( 874751 )

      Yeah, it's called evolution.

      Except this article was about individual insects becoming tolerant of DEET after initial exposure, not about evolution of traits making the species resistant to DEET (which TFA mentions is also happening).

    • Maybe. But why?

      Are humans an important enough part of the average mosauito's diet to drive evolution? It isn't like all the wild animals out there are using mosquito spray. If mosquitos are evolving in response to our DEET usage then what does this tell us?

  • Next step? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:38AM (#42976001)

    Oh great, the next step is anyone with DEET gets swarmed by these little bastards. Think about it, once they learn it's not that bad, where else do they smell DEET but fresh blood sources?

  • I wish humanity was still subjected to evolutionary pressure, like these mosquitoes, that would drive gross human evolution. Right now, our species would no longer improve unless we use genetic engineering.
    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Do you believe humanity is at some sort of evolutionary dead end? Why do you think that humans are no longer evolving?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ArsonSmith ( 13997 )

        Because we have a warning label on every item that could possibly cause injury no matter how obvious. We have tech that will insure the genetically weak will continue to breed. We have governments that cradle and encourage the simple minded to be more so.

        Without genetic engineering we are doomed at our current rate of evolution.

        • Re:evolution (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Gordo_1 ( 256312 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:08AM (#42976527)

          What makes you think that our rightful genetic destiny must be toward smarter and smarter human beings? We may have reached a point where evolutionarily, we're already as smart as we're likely ever to get due to pressures that you nor I can completely comprehend. What we're starting to understand is that evolution proceeds in fits and starts and many dead ends toward a somewhat unpredictable concept of 'fittest'.

        • by Molochi ( 555357 )

          Maybe making stupid people more stupid is a good thing. Seemed to work for the Morlocks and Eloi.

        • As some economists often do, you're assuming that evolution leads to the survival of the best. It doesn't, it leads to the survival of the fittest. For instance, physically strong people who are very stupid but also very prolific might prove to be more successfull from an evolutionary standpoint than very intelligent individuals with a weak constitution who leave scarce or no offspring.
        • Re:evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 22, 2013 @03:02AM (#42976725)

          Actually, humans are continuing to evolve. Only the selective pressures are different.

          The traits that are now selected for are those that are suited for our human-altered world in which dangerous things have warning labels, not those traits that used to be wonderful 20,000 years ago on the savannah, but that's the whole point.

          Similarly, those who you call "genetically weak" aren't. They might have been were genetically weak on the savannah when your support group consisted of 20 uneducated protohumans, but in a world filled with medicine and technology, they are perfectly fine, and better adapted than some schmuck who puts all his energy into making powerful immune systems to destroy smallpox viruses and guinea worms that no longer exist.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sconeu ( 64226 )

        I'll bite. Because we can adapt our environment to us instead of the other way around. Because we can protect and allow the"weaker"* members of our species to propagate. These two factors mitigate against "survival of the fittest".

        * There is no judgement implied by in the term weaker.

      • It's worse than that. Our reproductive fitness is dropping rapidly.

        We increasingly need a lot of assistance in order to procreate.

        Every time someone uses fertility procedures to make a baby, that baby is very likely to have fertility problems.

        Male sperm counts have dropped by 95% since 1900. However some of this is probably due to false estrogens from oil based pesticides so it might clear up whenever we stop using them.

    • by v1 ( 525388 )

      but you have to consider, is genetic engineering the next step in the evolution... of evolution?

      It's like tools. Tools are an upgrade to evolution - you can improve your fitness without waiting for a generation and random chance. AND you can pass those beneficial 'traits" on to others to benefit from immediately.

      Genetic engineering has the same potential as tools, for rapid adaptation and improvement. It's faster and far less random than natural evolution.

    • The immensely salty, sugary, and fatty diet of Americans is going a long way towards your goal. What evolution would do over centuries, Kraft, General Foods, Purina, Pillsbury, Mars, Coca Cola, et al are doing in mere decades. Maybe they'll come up with a mosquito repellent version of Velveeta or Cocoa Puffs.

      • Re:evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:53AM (#42976437)

        There was a sci-fi short story in Analog years ago that involved human evolution an junk food. The plot involved people getting mysteriously ill, even dying. Epidemiologists linked it to eating healthy. They discovered that humans had evolved to use caramel coloring as an essential vitamin. Eliminating it from your diet was as dangerous as eliminating vitamin C.

        I think about that story every time I see caramel coloring listed as an ingredient in food.

    • Re:evolution (Score:4, Informative)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:19AM (#42977037)

      Interestingly, not so long ago I read about evolution in humans, and how that is actually speeding up currently.

      And that makes total sense to me, considering the huge changes we made to our environment over the past couple hundred years. Urbanisation, industrialisation - it requires different skills than farming.

      • Interestingly, not so long ago I read about evolution in humans, and how that is actually speeding up currently.

        And that makes total sense to me, considering the huge changes we made to our environment over the past couple hundred years. Urbanisation, industrialisation - it requires different skills than farming.

        I've heard the opposite argued. We evolved to adapt to our environment, but now we mostly modify our environment to suit us. Therefore, we have slowed down evolution.

        • Humans have been doing just that for thousands of years. Basically since we moved from hunter/gatherers to farmers. Now that change also did not go easy, fossil records show that humans actually got shorter (the explanation is that the diet became less varied and often less food overall even though supply was more reliable) before adapting and growing again. Farming of course included quite a learning curve.

          After that it went faster, and more radical. By now we have adapted our environment so much, that it

    • Oh gosh I guess all science and progress must come to a halt since our species is no longer improving. What did you think people were, a breed of dog or something? The accumulation of knowledge over the millennia is evolution, and a more potent form than genetic. It has allowed us to put men on the moon and peer deep into the basic structure of the universe. One simple mass produced hand held tool allows us to defeat any animal on earth, no matter how fast or strong.

      This "breed of human" genetic stupidity i

    • No, we are always evolving. But now we are evolving towards disease resistance and sluttiness.

  • by sv_libertarian ( 1317837 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:41AM (#42976021) Journal
    This only proves that the ways and will of God is ineffable. To even suggest it's evolution in action is blasphemy.
  • Any documented instance of mosquitoes ignoring DDT?

    • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @12:54AM (#42976117)

      sure, tons of evidence. dead mosquitoes ignore everything.

    • Funny that you ask, I just posted it in the thread above.

      Mass outdoor spraying of DDT was abandoned in poor countries subject to malaria, such as Sri Lanka, in the 1970s and 1980s, not because of government prohibitions, but because the DDT had lost its ability to kill the mosquitoes.[79]


  • I will be the first one to bow down to our mosquito overlords.

  • by Press2ToContinue ( 2424598 ) * on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:10AM (#42976211)

    Then charge the mosquitoes a license fee to evolve.

    That should stop them.

  • You know how it is... something becomes trendy or goes viral and then the hipsters are all like "that is so yesterday". Mosquitoes from Thailand started the "Ignore DEET, Just Say Phuket" meme after the press got all up in arms about how popular DEET has become with human partiers: [] [] []

  • by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @01:30AM (#42976321) Homepage

    I am truly "shock[ed]", no one could of ever predicted this completely unique adaptation.

  • by Beeftopia ( 1846720 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:06AM (#42976515)

    There's a device I've used with some success that works ONLY against bloodsuckers. It's called a "Mosquito Magnet" [].

    Mosquitoes are attracted to things with blood. They apparently track their food by warmth, exhaled carbon dioxide, and a few other chemicals. This devices emits warmth, carbon dioxide and a few other chemicals in an attractant. The device is quite sensitive though. I've placed a battery driven model outside, under a small wooden table, to protect it from the elements. It definitely captures mosquitoes but sometimes it makes a difference, sometimes it doesn't. Mine is 5 years old. Last year it was... eh. Not as dramatic as year 1. I need to get it serviced this year I suppose.

    Anyhoo, focusing on something like the mosquito's natural drives to attract them to a trap might be the Next Big Thing. Note that bug zappers don't attract mosquitos.

  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Friday February 22, 2013 @02:26AM (#42976609) Homepage

    Don't use the same chemicals too often as small insects adapt to it quite fast. Just ask weed growers how well their toxic miticides don't work on spider mites anymore. I bet the weed you're smoking has Avid, Floramite, Monitor, Forbid or othe rnasties on it as some are resorting to using them at WAY more potent mixes and past the residual time of the chemical.

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      It's not just weed. Way too many people think that if a certain dosage is called for, then it is better to double or quadruple it. When it comes to pesticides it is quite important to follow the directions including stopping well before harvest.

  • When i walked home from work the other day, I didn't notice a single mosquito.
    My conclusion is that they don't like certain environmental factors.

    The temperature was about 242 Kelvin

    So if we can keep the place cool, we won't have to worry.

  • As someone with the pleasure of living near mangroves (Brisbane Australia) I can attest to the relatively ineffective deterrence offered by common DEET-based repellents (

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      I feel your pain - try some ti-tree and lavender/rosemary-based repellants. Thursday Plantation offer some decent products.
      Where are you, BTW? Bayside Redlands, or Nudgee? I live in Maleny.

  • Nature is more intelligent than US Republicans, it doesn't ignore Darwin's findings ;)

  • I spent a couple of years in Maine recently and I can tell you DEET mostly just pissed them off. I grew up in Michigan and I've had a lot of experience over the years with Mosquitoes. The ones in Maine are more aggressive. If you walked in the woods with DEET on it was like wearing a coat of mosquitoes. They didn't like lighting but some did. I think it was akin to having Mace sprayed in your eyes while you ate. If you're hungry enough you tough it out. I can tell you black flies thought DEET was Channel #5
  • While mosquitoes are evolving to be smarter, humans keep spreading carcinogens on them to avoid a little itch.

    • by Xoltri ( 1052470 )
      You must live in an area without many mosquitoes. Spend a few minutes on a cool evening outside in Canada and you will sing a different tune, no doubt. Last year was an epic bad year for mosquitoes. I have a video of them literally coating the fence in my back yard. If it wasn't for DEET you can't be outside.

Evolution is a million line computer program falling into place by accident.