Do your catnip plants look like this?
Or do they look like this?
If your nip looks like the sad little plant above, you may have a nip-addicted cat at your house. Or you may have a human nip thief. This is a most serious situation. Why in the world would your humans be pilfering your nip? Did you know that catnip has uses other than turning you into a crazypants?
One of those uses can come in very handy this time of year. With summer just around the corner, insects will be on the increase, especially those dastardly mosquitos. Those little blood-sucking creatures have been in the news more than usual lately. Humans are talking and worrying about the mosquitos that spread the Zika virus finding their way into the U.S.
But what in the heck does that have to do with your beloved catnip?
Here’s a little history: Humans have a long tradition of planting catnip near a house or barn to repel mice and rats and to keep insects away. Research has shown that cockroaches and termites are repelled by catnip. And nip has been used where cats sleep to help keep fleas away.
Napeta cataria (catnip) has been shown to be 96 percent effective as a repellent of flies and mosquitos. The U.S. National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported that tests have found nip to be as effective as DEET. And recent research done at Iowa State Univerty showed catnip is ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.
So what is this DEET stuff?
N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, also called DEET (/diːt/) or diethyltoluamide, is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. It is a slightly yellow oil intended to be applied to the skin or clothing. It provides protection against mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, leeches and many biting insects. However, a 2013 study suggests that mosquitoes can at least temporarily overcome or adapt to the repellent effect of DEET after an initial exposure.
A little stealth on your part should help you keep an eye on both your humans and your plants. If you see your humans ravaging your nip, they may be planning on making their own mosquito repellent by boiling the stems, flowers and leaves in a pot of water. They will allow the water and plant mixture to steep until cool. The nip water will be put in a spray bottle and applied as needed.
If you don’t catch your humans in the act of thievery, you can test them to see if they have been pilfering your plants. Give them a sniff to see if they smell like your favorite plant. If so, you might want to encourage them to remove all standing water from your property and add some mosquito-repelling plants to your yard, such as marigolds, bee balm, citronella, lavender and lemongrass.
Good luck on preserving your catnip for your own personal use. If necessary, you can always hold it for ransom. It should be worth several thousand treats at least.
Purrs and paw-pats, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo aka Nipheads