The Sciences

When the Cat's Away, the Mosquitoes Will Play

By Fenella SaundersDec 1, 2001 6:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

The most potent mosquito repellent in your house might be tucked away in the cat's toy mouse. Insect toxicologists Joel Coats of Iowa State University and Chris Peterson of the U.S. Forest Service study catnip, and their previous studies had confirmed folklore that catnip repels some insects. So the researchers decided to see what else it could do. They coated a paper disk with catnip's essential oil and placed the disk at the end of a glass cylinder containing about 20 mosquitoes. A solution containing just one tenth of 1 percent of catnip oil repelled more than half the mosquitoes. DEET, the most common chemical repellent in bug sprays, is ineffective at such low concentrations.

Coats doesn't know why catnip works, but he suspects the oil will prove useful on clothes or bed netting. Given some concerns about DEET's safety, says Coats, "I think people are ready for alternatives." Next, he and Peterson plan to see if the Osage orange, an inedible fruit that repels cockroaches, works on mosquitoes.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.