Volunteers bravely expose their arms to 50 mosquitoes in tests for Consumer NZ.
Those looking to beat the mosquitoes this summer should reach for Deet-based insect repellents, new testing shows.
But the Consumer NZ survey of popular brands sold in New Zealand also found that less aggressive repellents can still provide long-lasting protection.
Seven brands were tested, with Consumer NZ recommending all but one as worth considering.
Each repellent was tested on volunteers, who placed their arms in a cage containing around 50 mosquitoes for a set number of exposures, depending on each product's claimed length of effectiveness.
At each exposure the number of mosquito "landings" and "probing of the skin" were counted.
The test showed that all Deet-based products performed well and lasted for four to six hours.
Rid Medicated Repellent Plus Antiseptic Spray was awarded the highest score overall.
N, N-Diethyl-metatoluamide, abbreviated as Deet, is a slightly yellow oil and the most common active ingredient in insect repellents.
While some consumers had safety fears about Deet products, Consumer NZ noted that such repellents had a long history of safe use when directions are followed.
However, for those who don't like how the oil smells and feels on their skin, two products that contain picaridin, a synthetic repellent, also came recommended - Aerogard Odourless Low Irritant and Off! Tropical Strength Insect Repellent Spray.
Worst performing was the Mosquito Band Anti-Insect Band, a wrist-band containing natural citronella oil. There was some protection, but within 15 minutes there was an average of 50 landings.
The product's manufacturer could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Consumer NZ editor David Naulls said the bands could be useful for a backyard barbecue, but alone would be unsuitable for other activities.
"If you are going out into the bush for a longish trek or you are going to areas where there are more serious diseases and the like, then these things won't work there, according to our test results.
"If you've got a heavy-duty use for these repellents then I think you should stick with the Deet or picaridin products," he said.
Consumer NZ noted the concentration of mosquitoes in the tests was unlikely to be encountered in the wild, and results should be treated as guidelines.
Beating the bugs
* Consumer NZ found all Deet and picaridin-based products performed well in testing.
* The most effective: Rid Medicated Repellent Plus Antiseptic Spray ($22). 16% Deet.
* Worst performer: Mosquito Band Anti-Insect Band ($9.95). Natural citronella oil.
* For the full list and test results: www.consumer.org.nz.