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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - December 19, 2005

From: Greensboro, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Edible Plants, Medicinal Plants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Odor and flavor of oils in Mints as insect repellants
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I am trying to find information on "How does mint plants repel insects" It's for my grand daughter's science project. Any help will be appreciated. Thank you

ANSWER:

Most of the species of the Family Lamiaceae (Mint Family), when crushed, produce a strong minty odor, usually pleasant to human noses. The odor comes from volatile oils produced by the plants. Here are names for some of these compounds occurring in various species of the mint family: menthol, carvone, linalool, eucalyptol, borneol, estragol, camphor, and many more. Extracts of these compounds from various members of the mint family have been used by humans in cosmetics, to flavor food, for medicinal purposes, to stimulate their pets (catnip, Nepeta cataria) and as insecticides and fungicides. Many plants of the mint family are resistant to browsing by deer and other animal grazers because of the strong odor and flavor produced by the oils. These volatile oils from mint plants repel many insects, function to keep the insects from feeding, and in many cases, when extracted and used as a spray, can result in the death of insects in one or more of the their life stages: adults, larvae, or eggs.

 

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