Farmers usually rely on insecticides to kill pests. But new research looked at how natural compounds could be applied to crops instead.
Anandasankar Ray is an entomology professor at UC Riverside.
He says butyl anthranilate - found in many fruits - kept fruit flies away from blueberries.
"Our goal was to try and find safe, affordable chemicals that are pleasant-smelling that could be used to repel harmful insects from fruits and crops," he says.
A 10 percent solution successfully kept bugs from landing on, or laying eggs on the berries. The chemical is edible and it smells like grapes. Ray believes there are many natural compounds that have the potential to replace insecticides.
"It is approved by the FDA for addition to food," he says. "So, you can imagine this repellant is edible itself."
Ray is also testing other naturally-occurring chemicals that people could use as bug spray. He hopes to find non-toxic compounds to keep blood-sucking insects like mosquitos and bed bugs at bay.