U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



J Chem Ecol (2011) 37:348–359; DOI 10.1007/s10886-011-9922-7


Some birds and mammals roll on or wipe themselves with the fruits or leaves of Citrus spp. or other Rutaceae. These anointing behaviors, as with anointing in general, are thought to function in the topical acquisition of chemicals that deter consumers, including hematophagous arthropods. We measured avoidance and other responses by nymphal lone star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) and adult female yellow fever mosquitoes (Aedes aegypti) to lemon peel exudate and to 24 volatile monoterpenes (racemates and isomers), including hydrocarbons, alcohols, aldehydes, acetates, ketones, and oxides, present in citrus fruits and leaves in order to examine their potential as arthropod deterrents. Ticks allowed to crawl up vertically suspended paper strips onto a chemically treated zone avoided the peel exudate and geraniol, citronellol, citral, carveol, geranyl acetate, α-terpineol, citronellyl acetate, and carvone. Ticks confined in chemically treated paper packets subsequently were impaired in climbing and other behaviors following exposure to the peel exudate and, of the compounds tested, most impaired to carveol. Mosquitoes confined in chambers with chemically treated feeding membranes landed and fed less, and flew more, when exposed to the peel exudate than to controls, and when exposed to aldehydes, oxides, or alcohols versus most hydrocarbons or controls. However, attraction by mosquitoes in an olfactometer was not inhibited by either lemon peel exudate or most of the compounds we tested. Our results support the notion that anointing by vertebrates with citrus-derived chemicals deters ticks. We suggest that some topically applied compounds are converted into more potent arthropod deterrents when oxidized on the integument of anointed animals.