Catnip may be ambrosia to cats, but for some creatures it's the opposite. Preliminary results now suggest that the oil in the herb rebuffs mosquitoes more effectively than the widely used repellent diethyl-m-toluamide, or DEET.
Chris Peterson and his colleagues from Iowa State University in Ames had previously found that catnip–a plant in the mint family–repels cockroaches (SN: 9/4/99, p. 158).
For each trial in the new mosquito experiment, Peterson placed 20 mosquitoes in the middle of a closed, 2-foot-long tube that he'd treated on one end with DEET, catnip oil, or one of the oil's two major chemical components.
The other end of the see-through tube received no treatment.