The treat that cats can’t get enough of may serve a larger purpose than just keeping kitties (and their owners) entertained. According to a report published in the American Chemistry Society’s biweekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, catnip has proven 99 percent effective in repelling the bloodsucking flies that attack horses and cows. These flies cause $2 billion in annual losses to the cattle industry, the report states.
Stable flies not only inflict painful bites, they also transmit diseases. And cattle that are bothered by these bloodsuckers may produce less meat and milk, have trouble reproducing, and even develop fatal conditions. All traditional methods for controlling stable flies—heavy applications of powerful insecticides—have shown to be less than effective. So scientists turned to catnip oil, already known to repel more than a dozen families of insects, including house flies, mosquitoes, and cockroaches.
The researchers made pellets of catnip oil, soy, and paraffin wax and spread them in a cattle feedlot. Within minutes, the pellets shooed the flies away and repelled the flies for about three hours. Pellets without catnip oil had no effect. The scientists now are working on making the repellent last longer, which they say is the key to putting catnip to use in protecting livestock both in feedlots and pastures.