WHILE RESEARCHERS continue making new insect repellants, DEET is still the material on the market to prevent mosquito bites, says John Hopkins, urban entomologist with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

A new chemical compound — SS220 — developed cooperatively by scientists with the USDA Agricultural Research Service and the U.S. Department of Defense — looks promising as the key active ingredient in new, safe insect repellents for U.S. military personnel and eventually for the general public.

“It will be a while, possible as long as several years, before this material is available to the public,” says Hopkins. “While the ARS/DOD research program is ongoing, DEET is still the best thing out there.”

The ARS has patented SS220, which is currently undergoing toxicology tests required for registration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

ARS has several specialized laboratories with expertise in studying biting insects such as mosquitoes, ticks and flies that can transmit diseases to humans.