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Soybean Insecticides Made From Fabric Softener Ingredient?

A few weeks ago I brought one of my vehicles into the shop for some routine maintenance and the mechanic showed me where a mouse had built a nesting area near the battery. He suggested I put a few moth balls under the hood and wipe the battery down with fabric softener to repel them for the winter.

I wasn’t quite sure his suggestions would do any good and (not having a handy supply of fabric softener or moth balls nearby) did nothing to deter future nest building under my aging vehicle’s hood. Now, however, I might reconsider my mechanic’s advice.

Last week, I read a press release about a study from Kansas State University (K-State) that “revealed scientific evidence that Bounce fabric softener dryer sheets either directly or indirectly repel adult fungus gnats under laboratory conditions.” The press release notes that linalool, a fragrant alcohol naturally found in some plants, is a major component of the dryer sheets, and “though it is toxic to several mite and insect pests, little is known of its ability to repel insects.”

According to K-State,“Raymond Cloyd, professor, K-State’s Department of Entomology, decided to pursue the study after hearing claims by two gardeners and a colleague that Bounce sheets repel insects. ‘Being a scientist, I didn’t just shrug it off,’ he says.”

Still, Cloyd reports that “it’s too early to foresee the effects this study may have on gardening or production practices, since [we] still don’t know the longevity of the repellency or how far away insects can be repelled.”

At this point, I really must give my regards to Professor Cloyd for taking a scientific look at the possibility that dryer sheets may have an effective component in them that can repel pests, rather than simply shrugging off the tip as a farfetched idea, which is exactly what I did with my mechanic’s tip. However, since reading about the K-State study, I have done a Web search on the topic and found hearsay evidence that fabric softener sheets also repel mice, voles, ants, gophers, skunks, deer and mosquitos, in addition to gnats. Unfortunately, I could find no science to back up these claims, except for the K-State gnat study.

Still, there’s potential for more studies, particularly for soybean protection. I figure that since linalool is “toxic to several mite and insect pests,” maybe another entomologist will take a look at the possibility of using this ingredient as a safe and natural insecticide for soybeans. Perhaps it would work especially well on spider mites or soybean aphids? In fact, maybe there are already people working on this, and we’ll read about their discoveries in the near future.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll get around to wiping down the batteries on my older vehicles with fabric softener dryer sheets before winter ends. If I do, I’ll keep you posted on any mouse, mouse-nest or mouse-drop sightings.

As always, I welcome your input on this or any topic related to soybean production and/or farm life. When writing, please let me know your name, where you farm or work, what your comment is and whether or not I have permission to use your comment in a future Soybean E-Digest newsletter.

You can contact me (John Pocock) at: Thanks for your readership.

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