Q. Someone recently inquired about mosquito repellent for a trip to Alaska. I can’t remember where I read that catnip proved better as a mosquito repellent than DEET.
I put this to the test last week while weeding until dark on four evenings. I didn’t get bit once. Usually when I’m out after dusk I get eaten alive, and each bite is the size of a quarter.
We grow catnip for various cats, the neighbors’ and ours. I wore long sleeves and pants, and rubbed 5 or 6 catnip leaves on my exposed skin and over my clothing, then gave the leaves to the cat waiting for catnip. I hope this helps someone else.
A. Scientists at Iowa State University have been studying catnip and have found that one of its ingredients, nepetalactone, appears to repel mosquitoes more effectively than DEET. They have not done “gold-standard” experiments, however, which require volunteers to stick their treated arms in cages full of hungry mosquitoes.
Nepetalactone has been used as an arthritis rub, but it is not yet available commercially for use as a repellent. Consequently, it would not be very practical for travel. For those like you who grow catnip in the yard, however, it may be a reasonable option.

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