Page last updated at 10:20 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 11:20 UK

New repellent foils cling-on bugs


Cambridge University has released a video showing the coating at work

A non-toxic insect repellent designed to make insects slip on almost any surface has been unveiled by scientists at Cambridge University.

The substance creates a coating that causes the creatures to behave like "someone with wet feet in the shower", a university spokesman said.

It is hoped the coating could restrict the movement of pests such as termites, cockroaches, ants and locusts.

Such pests can cause damage to homes, crops and people's health.

Secrete fluid

The 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."

Scientists believe the environmentally-friendly substance will have many uses, ranging from crop protection to pest-proof ventilation pipes, furniture and wellington boots, as well as insect-repellent food containers and baby bottles.

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