Are the floral smells of Victoria’s Secret fragrances needed for marsh field work?

I am oceanographer. My research occurs on big boats in the middle of big oceans. Of the list annoyances I must deal with most can be fixed with zip ties.  In my current role at Louisiana University Marine Consortium, surrounded by miles of beautiful coastal wetlands, I am beginning to add coastal science to my research program.  With this research in the marshes comes a whole new irritation.  Through the guidance of my colleagues, I found my salvation at Victoria’s Secret.

So where to start with the long list of insects in the Louisiana marshes with a life’s mission to remove my flesh and blood?  There is of course the state bird, the mosquito, of which 68 species reside in Louisiana.  Nearly 100 species of horse, sand, and dear flies exist in the state.  My personal favorite is the the car-sized yellow flies that prefer the soft parts of my neck.  Yep Louisiana is a regular biodiversity hotspot for flying, biting insects that want to destroy me.

Mosquitoes use the sense of smell for long range detection of hosts.  Two human sweat components, lactic acid and 1-octen-3-ol, act as strong mosquito attractants.  Which is just dandy when I’m outside in the hot Louisiana summer.  Carbon dioxide is another strong attractant for mosquitos.  Which is also great because I never exhale when I’m doing field work.

Of course I could use a DEET base product.  DEET is interesting chemical in that it does not suppress a mosquito’s ability to smell but rather mosquitos truly dislike the smell of DEET.  I also truly dislike the smell of DEET.

Enter in Amber Romance a special scent from Victoria’s Secret.  The dreamy body mist is a “warm and alluring blend of black cherry, crème anglaise, vanilla and sandalwood belonging to the Secret Garden collection.”  Amber Romance also proves to be an effective insect repellant.  A year ago, I was keyed into this part of the shared knowledge of scientists and educators working in wetlands.   And as someone who has worn the “alluring blend” of Amber Romance in the field, the chatter is true.

In 2015, a group of scientists put another Victoria’s Secret scent, Bombshell, to the test against DEET and DEET-free “natural” products.

Repellents with DEET as active ingredient had a prominent repellency effect over longer times and on both species. Repellents containing p-menthane-3,8-diol produced comparable results but for shorter time periods. Some of the DEET-free products containing citronella or geraniol did not have any significant repellency effect. Interestingly, the perfume we tested had a modest repellency effect early after application, and the vitamin B patch had no effect on either species.

Why Amber Romance and Bombshell, the latter with its fruity floral notes of purple passion fruit, Shangri-la peony, and vanilla orchid, are effective is still unknown.   As the researchers note, floral smells typically attract mosquitos.  While, DEET still preforms better for longer those sweet smells of Victoria’s Secret are hard to deny.  Perhaps Amber Romance needs a name change to reflect is insect repellant charm?  Marsh Spurn?

Dr. M (1767 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


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4 comments on “Are the floral smells of Victoria’s Secret fragrances needed for marsh field work?
  1. YES!!!!

    It was a 3-for-1 special the other day, and we’re beginning a big field push in the marsh this week.

    I seriously considered getting a few others for some blind trials. Will have to try Bombshell.

    Because, it ain’t marsh work unless you smell AMAZING!

  2. Amusingly, it came to my lab via a grad student whose now wife had been working on the Deepwater Horizon spill cleanup. She learned of it from the out of work oil derrick workers who swore by it and brought it back with her. Now it’s a Byrnes Lab favorite.

    We actually scoffed at it, when my grad student took us out to Sappelo. But one day in the field, and anywhere we had missed became a nat-eaten itch-zone. I forgot one arm, and the difference between the two was like something out of a biostats textbook dataset.

    #marshlife

  3. Note, we find it works best for gnats (no-see-ems, sandflies, etc), as we’re often out for a while, so the mosquito benefit is a bit less (we still use traditional repellent for that). And it definitely doesn’t work for greenheads. Boo.

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