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I would like to know the mode of action of mosquito repellent aerosols. Are these specific to mosquito or are other insects affected too?

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    $\begingroup$ Are you specifically interested in the aerosols. The sprays are sometimes insecticidal as well. $\endgroup$ – WYSIWYG Nov 12 '14 at 6:15
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The most common active ingredient in insect repellents is N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (other name: N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide; abbreviated DEET). It provides protection against mosquitoes and many other insects. After various interesting hypotheses, it is currently assumed that mosquitoes simply smell DEET directly and avoid it.[1]

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    $\begingroup$ Could you add some references to your answer? $\endgroup$ – ddiez Nov 11 '14 at 22:22
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Citronella oil is also used as an insect repellent and is seems effective on mosquitoes[1] and head lice[2] as well. Though I was not able to find information on the mode of action, just the effectiveness of citronella.

Wikipedia also says DEET is effective for fleas, ticks, and chiggers (though this lacks a references). Anecdotally, I know the Off brand of repellent is useful when the dogs get fleas to avoid getting all bitten up (Off contains DEET I believe).

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