Insect repellents containing picaridin can be lethal to salamanders, reports a new National Science Foundation-funded study. The study investigated how exposure to two common insect repellents influenced the survival of aquatic salamander and mosquito larvae. Insect repellents are a defense against mosquito bites and mosquito-borne diseases like dengue, chikungunya, Zika and West Nile virus. Salamanders provide natural mosquito control. During their aquatic juvenile phase, they forage on mosquito larvae, keeping populations of these nuisance insects in check. The paper is the first to suggest that environmentally realistic concentrations of picaridin-containing repellents in surface waters may increase the abundance of adult mosquitoes due to a decrease in predation pressure on mosquitoes at the larval stages. Future work is needed to explore the relationship among mosquito repellents, amphibians and other ecological factors in order to better assess the severity of repellents' impact in the wild.
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