Death by Catnip

New Way to Get Rid of Termites

10-01-2003 // Laura Tangley

TRY THIS and your cat might end up on a bender: New studies show that oil derived from the catnip plant repels and kills termites—offering hope for a commercial product that would be less toxic than pesticides used to control the insects today. In laboratory tests, U.S. Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Peterson found that treating sand in test tubes with catnip oil prevented termites from tunneling through the substance as they normally would. At higher concentrations, it killed the insects—which cause more than $1 billion of damage nationwide each year. One disadvantage is that catnip oil breaks down quickly, while current pesticides persist and remain effective for several years. Another possible hitch: "It would probably drive your cats nuts," says Peterson.

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