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Catnip Oil Stops Termites in Their Tracks

What felines adore, termites abhor, study finds

TUESDAY, March 25, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Catnip may put the bite on termites, says new research.

While your cat may love catnip, laboratory tests found the oil derived from the catnip plant repels and kills termites.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and from Valencia Community College in Orlando, Fla. hope to develop a commercial anti-termite product from the catnip plant oil that will offer a less toxic alternative to the pesticides currently used to combat termites.

The study was presented March 25 at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans.

In their study, the researchers put catnip oil-treated sand into test tubes. Termites normally tunnel through sand in test tubes. But in this case, the termites were either stopped or killed by the catnip oil in the sand.

One problem with catnip oil is that it becomes ineffective after a couple of weeks. Termite-killing chemicals remain effective for years. The researchers hope to formulate essential ingredients in the catnip oil to remain effective much longer.

Termites cause an estimated $1 billion in damage each year in the United States. The aggressive Formosan subterranean termite -- found in at least 11 states -- infests about 30 percent of the live oak trees in New Orleans and costs home owners there about $300 million a year in damage.

More information

Here's some advice on how to protect your home against termites.

SOURCE: American Chemical Society, news release, March 25, 2003
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