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


Date of this Version


Document Type



Published in J. Agric. Food Chem. (2010) 58, 12320–12326. DOI:10.1021/jf102811k


Stable flies, Stomoxys calcitrans (L.), are one of the most serious livestock pests, which cause significant economic loss in the cattle industry. Current practices for managing stable flies are limited to costly sanitation techniques and unsustainable insecticide applications. The present study reports the initial efforts using catnip essential oil as a spatial repellent and the results of field trials using a wax-based formulation to repel stable flies in the cattle feedlot. Electroantennograms showed that catnip oil and its ingredient compounds elicit significant antennal responses from both sexes of stable flies. Catnip oil and ZE- and EZ-nepetalactone showed repellent activity in a single cage olfactormeter study. No behavioral activity was observed from another ingredient compound, caryophyllene. A laboratory dispersal bioassay also showed that stable flies avoided areas treated with catnip oil. Using a solid phase microextraction (SPME) method, the atmospheric concentration of catnip active ingredient compounds (nepetalactones) absorbed by SPME fiber in treated areas was detected at 4 times higher than those in control areas. Application of wax-based catnip pellets in cattle feedlots resulted in >99% repellency of stable flies in treated areas, compared with that in nontreated areas. However, the repellent efficacy of the formulation only lasted 3 h. This is the first study demonstrating the potential application of a plant-based repellent formulation that may be used as an alternative method against stable flies.