We looked at the hard evidence to see if catnip or its derivatives were effective as a natural mosquito repellent and/or mosquito killer.
Summary of Scientific Research
There’s no denying that an active ingredient in Nepeta cataria or catnip drives felines large and small crazy with excitement. This ingredient known as nepetalactone is attractively odorous to felines in particular, making this member of the mint family a favorite of cat owners. But as it turns out, this same active ingredient, when distilled into an essential oil medium, can also prevent mosquitos from spotting you with their hypersensitive olfactory organs.
One study from 2010 reached this conclusion by testing the effects of catnip oil on a variety of flying insects. This study found that when applied in areas where flies and similar insects were heavily present, a wax made from catnip oil was able to repel around 99% of observed flies for around three hours (1). While this study did not exclusively test this formulation with mosquitoes, their conclusions point to a noteworthy result relevant to natural mosquito repellant researchers.
Though slightly older, research completed by Iowa State University’s Entomology Department in 2001 found that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were up to 10 times more sensitive to catnip compared to commercially available DEET (2,3). Though the exact formulation was not disclosed in this research, it does point to the conclusion that catnip is more effective on certain species of mosquitoes.
As it stands, some research exists that points to the effectiveness of catnip when it comes deterring mosquitoes around your home. Though contemporary research is lacking, the current body of knowledge on this topic so far points a moderately effective natural mosquito prevention option that comes with few side effects when put to use.
As far as choosing a plant-based mosquito repellant is concerned, catnip is certainly among the more utilitarian options. This plant’s mint-like leaves can be crushed up to extract their oils or dried for use in a tea. Perhaps best of all, cat owners can hold back a few sprigs to share with their feline friend at playtime.
Perhaps the only major drawback of growing catnip as your chosen natural mosquito repellant is its propensity to become a biological nuisance. Depending on the soil quality, drainage, and sunlight, catnip can really take root and become weed-like by chocking out neighboring plants. Those who plan to use this plant as a source of homemade catnip oil should be sure to isolate their crops from their main garden beds, accordingly.
Forms of Catnip and Where to Get it
- Catnip plants – As noted, catnip plants are fairly easy to grow and use as a continuous source of mosquito repelling oils. Due to its resilient nature, catnip is able to grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9 in any type of tolerant, well-drained soil. In areas with regular rain, catnip rarely needs extra watering, making them the low-maintenance natural mosquito repellant option of choice.
- Catnip plants can actually pull double duty before and after their leaves are harvested. As discussed, catnip sprigs (both leaves and stems) can be manually crushed up to create an oily substance that can be applied to the skin to keep some mosquitoes away.
- However, while still growing on the main bush, catnip leaves can be occasionally “agitated” manually in order to release some of their oils into the air. In this way, catnip can be a great special mosquito deterrent.
- If you’re planning on adding catnip to your home garden, you’ll likely find the best prices on seeds and starters online.
- Essential oils – Meanwhile, if you want to try out catnip oil without taking the time to grow the plant from scratch, you may consider purchasing a vial of this essential oil online. If used in this form, you should consider diluting this oil with water or another base oil in order to efficiently apply it to your skin.
1 – Junwei J. Zhu, Christopher A. Dunlap, Robert W. Behle, Dennis R. Berkebile, Brian Wienhold. (2010). Repellency of a wax-based catnip-oil formulation against stable flies. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58 (23): 12320–12326. 8 Nov 2010. doi:10.1021/jf102811k
2 – ABC.net.au. Catnip sends mozzies flying. 3 Sept. 2001.
3 – Elaine Zablocki. Catnip Fends Off Mosquitoes. 28 Aug. 2001.
Other Plants & Herbs as Mosquito Repellents
Checkout our analysis of other plants & herbs as natural mosquito repellents: