Scots researchers are looking for a mechanism to keep stinging midges (cousins to the mosquito) at bay, and they're searching for people whose body-odor naturally repels the stinging insects. Some Scottish marshes are so midge-infested in the high season that researchers were able to capture 500,000 bloodsuckers in a 2m^2 region in one night.
Researchers based at Aberdeen University in northeast Scotland plan to use custom-built software to scan odors given off by "midge magnets" — people who attract more midge bites than most. They will then compare those odors with the scents of people who naturally repel the insects, and use the findings to create the holy grail of the Scottish tourism industry: an effective bug spray.
The team of researchers, led by zoology professor Jenny Mordue, hopes their findings could also eventually have applications against more serious pests like malaria-carrying mosquitoes in Africa and Asia.
"I have been studying these insects for more than 12 years," said Mordue. "The main research ethic has been to find ways of controlling them without impacting on the environment. We can't spray large areas of the Highlands with insecticides. So we have to find other ways."