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Department of Zoology


A new insect repellent which helps people give termites, cockroaches and other pests the slip has been unveiled by the Department's Insect Biomechanics Group.

They have developed a cheap, durable, non-toxic and environmentally safe coating that causes the creatures to behave like "someone with wet feet in the shower". It is hoped the development could thwart the threat of pests responsible for billions of pounds worth of damage to homes, crops and people's health each year. A university spokesman said: "Insects are capable of clinging to almost any natural and artificial substrate by using an emulsion with properties similar to custard or ketchup. They secrete this fluid from pads located on the bottom of their feet. "When studying insect pads in detail, the zoologists discovered that the special surface coating changes the properties of this fluid. As a consequence, the adhesive secretion turns into a lubricant and the insects start slipping, like someone with wet feet in the shower." Jan-Henning Dirks, who designed the coating with Christofer Clemente and Walter Federle, said: "We first came across these surface properties quite by accident, but soon we realised that this could actually be something really useful." Video footage shows insects successfully climbing a glass rod to reach an apple slice. But they fell when it was coated with the repellent. 

Click here to see the video

A paper by will appear in the November 6th issue of the scientific journal Journal of the Royal Society: Interface.