Catnip used as Pest Repellent

vgkg(Z-7)August 20, 2001

Here's one I started this past Spring. I planted catnip in my squash & pumpkin rows/hills to see if it really does work to repel certain pests (SVB, Squash Bugs, Cuke Beetles, etc.).

Results so far:

Little damage from all 3 pests listed above. A few squash plants (zukes) were killed by SVBs but these plants were on the edge of the test plots. Squash Bugs & Cuke Beetles were around but not nearly as concentrated as last few years (just luck?).

My daily chore would be to crush some of the leaves on the catnip plants to make the pungent aroma ever more present in the plots. Also, I would pick some catnip and "rub" the crushed leaves on some of the exposed root/stems to make those areas even more "pungent".

No damage found on Pumpkin plants so far, but it is nearly impossible to get in there to see nowadaze, a real jungle out there.

Problems: In the beginning the catnip actually attracted Flea Beetles to the squash & pumpkin leaves causing quite a bit of noticable damage. This was very evident on the leaves nearest the catnip where the flea beetles would be concentrated. I have read on several "companion plant" sites where catnip repels flea beetles but this is not the case in my garden, no way!

Extra Bonus: Recently the catnip went into a full blooming period. The assorted bees (Bumble, Carpenter, various wasps, etc.) that were attacted to the pollen were also helpful in pollenating my pumpkins & squash too.

Future outlook: My squash plants are about exhausted now anyway and my pumpkin vines have extended well beyond any catnip effects (except for the original root/stem area). So this probably ends the experiment for this year. Once the pumpkins die back I'll examine and compare and pest damage (esp SVB) for it's proximate location along the vines.


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Hi Vgkg,

What variety of catnip did you try? I have a pink nepeta mussini that had no bug damage at all, it is a butterfly and bee magnet. I will give the catnip a try as I have had a bit of SVB damage on the jack be littles.

So far the only thing I've found to work in my garden against the SVB is a bucket of compost dumped over the plant crown. I manage to bury a few stems at the same time and these root and continue to make healthy new shoots.

Last week my jack be littles were nearly done in from PM which I finally got under control with a spray of milk and baking soda, but the SQB damage was already making the plants wilt. I dumped the compost on the crowns and their straggly stems and within a day the plants perked right up. Now there's new non-wilting healthy new growth. Hopefully they're revitalized.


    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 9:45AM
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Hi Trudi, to be honest I don't know which catnip variety I have. I first bought the seed many years ago (I believe a shelf pack of Burbee brand on their herb rack) and it has faithfully reseeded itself every year since then. Normally I let it grow where it starts but this year I transplanted about 10 seedlings into the squash & pumpkin hills. The flowers are a purplish color on med-long spikes. The aroma is very over powering from the crushed foliage, very strong indeed. Sounds like your compost dump idea works well too for the SVBs. vgkg

    Bookmark   August 20, 2001 at 11:26AM
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I never heard of catnip being such a good repellant! Will definitely try this next year, as I'm a great fan of mixing veggies and flowers/herbs. One plant that I've had good luck planting with cantelopes, another cucurbit, is nasturtiums. Last year, our pumpkins and squash were both hit very hard with SVBs and developed bacterial wilt. This year, I interplanted nasties with the cantelope and haven't seen one of the little striped *^$@#$*^##@'s! Not exactly scientific, but you bet I'll plant them again next year!


    Bookmark   August 21, 2001 at 9:17PM
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Hi Moon, the season is not over yet and I may have just been a little luckly so far this year with the catnip. I'm not 100% sure of what it repels yet but it's also a good attractant for the flea beetles as mentioned above. Also attracts certain benes like bees. Will need to perform some squash & pumpkin plant autopies in Oct.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2001 at 10:46PM
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The rose that is completely surrounded by catnip is not getting eaten by those pesky little green rolled-up caterpillars. Neither is the rose in the herb bed, which has catnip as well as oregano, thyme, etc. But the other two non-rugosa roses, which are not surrounded by herbs, are getting munched.

Are you sure that the catnip attracted the flea beetles to the squash, in that order? I had flea beetles all over the squashes this spring, and there wasn't any catnip around. Maybe flea beetles like catnip AND squash?

I also saw a pair of goldfinches sitting on the catnip one morning, having catnip seeds for breakfast.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2001 at 10:36AM
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I'm fairly certain about the catnip being attacked first and then speading to the squash & pumpkins both. Even the young catnip seedlings had the FBs & bite marks on them before the other crops were put in. The damage was quite vivid on my pumpkin leaves which was on the pumpkin leaves closest to the catnip. Also, my watermelon patch (where the catnip grows wild) showed the exact same FB damage where the melon leaves intermingled with the catnip. Once I saw this going on I immediately ripped out all the catnip in the melon patch. The damage was done but slacked off after that and the FBs moved over to my eggplants as usual. Normally I don't think the FBs have ever bothered with my melons with their other favorite goodies nearby.
Trudi may have a point on the variety of catnip being a factor. I had just always assumed that there was only one type. Anyone have a photo site of various catnip plants? Doubtful I'm sure. vgkg

    Bookmark   August 22, 2001 at 12:59PM
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Catnip is usually Nepeta cataria, with white flowers, but there are other species in the Nepeta genus, like Nepeta mussini (catmint), which is what Trudy has. Or so I'm informed, anyway :-).

    Bookmark   August 22, 2001 at 2:31PM
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Oops, I need to correct myself. I said a couple of messages back that my catnip has purplish flowers. Wrong! They are white, a subtle white which turns sorta purplish as they fade back. Purple-gray may be more descript. Bees love em' no repelling there on the bees, esp carpenter bees. vgkg

    Bookmark   August 22, 2001 at 3:20PM
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I have big gobs of Nepeta mussini this year from small plants I set out last year, and love to go by rubbing the leaves, although they are getting a bit dry and the flowers passed now- but the bees still love them. I look forward to the goldfinches (especially since my thistle didn't come in this year). THat was the cat mint I planted a few years ago.

Recently I set in a catnip plant (Nepeta cataria) nearby and hope it settles in. I was going to set up a Nepeta hedge to distract the neighbor's cat from our bird feeders, but will plant out into the vegetable garden as well. Is it better than marigold then?

    Bookmark   August 25, 2001 at 3:22PM
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Squash autopy report: Well, I pulled up all my unproductive squash plants today. Checked them out closely and found that about 1 in 4 had been attacked by SVBs. Very subtle invasion but all these plants were mostly gone now. The others that were untouched by SVBs were also non-productive yet still alive (guess squash plants eventually die of age before frost). A couple of the SVBed ones were right next to the catnip so it may not have helped. On the bright side there were only 2 Squash bugs to be found among the 15 squash plants pulled out.

The pumpkins are still very much alive, some of the first early leaves are dried up now (mainly the leaves first attacked by the "attracted" flea beetles). Vines are still healthy and putting out blossoms down the line and a few more pumpkins too. No noticable SVBs or Squash Bugs here either. Will report on these vines once they die. vgkg

    Bookmark   August 25, 2001 at 11:33PM
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hbremmer(z5 MO)

There was a news report today that catnip has a mosquito repelling chemical in it thats more effective than DEET.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2001 at 10:51PM
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Interesting HB, next time I'm out there looking like one of those human arms in the "Off" commercial (probably tonite) I'll try rubbing some crushed leaves on one leg & one arm to see if there's a difference. Catnip is as potent as basil in aroma so anything is possible. Might get attacked by the neighborhood cats tho ;o) vgkg

    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 7:38AM
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I just collected my nepeta mussini seeds, the flower color is very pale pink. I have plenty to share. If anyone would like some you can send me a SASE, please email me directly for the SASE info.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 10:22AM
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An article about catnip as a mosquito repellent was found in this month's OG (you can tell my gender by the magazine I got, glad I'm the subscriber and not my wife, I'd be P#####!). On the flip side, this issue seemed to have a lot of good material in it, I'm sold on the idea of a couple of chickens, now how to convince my wife...

    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 12:13PM
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Gyurkovitz, when you've convinced Mrs. Gyurkovitz, tell me how, so that I can convince Mr. Alfie. Mr. Alfie is agin it. As he is the only one in the Alfie household who has actually kept chickens, i.e. knows what he's talking about, it's been hard to change his mind.

Vgkg, I tried lemon balm on one arm and leg and nothing on the other last year, and it really did work. Tons of bites on the nothing-ed side, compared to one or two on the lemon-balmed side. I wonder if all members of the mint family work.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 12:26PM
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Hi Alfie, it makes me wonder if the skeeters just "prefer" the untreated limbs? If I rub catnip all over my body maybe many skeeters are still hungry enough to bite me anyway. Kinda like Limburger cheese, I'd prefer the Sharp Chedder but if I were starving I'd still eat the limburger.
Last nite was the worst yet for the skeeters down here, I "deeted" myself all over but yet some of the brave ones still landed & bitted anyways.

A thought about deet, if a tanker truckload of deet crashed on the highway it probably would be considered an enviromental disaster by the EPA, but smearing it all over our bodies is ok by the FDA? Go figure!? vgkg

    Bookmark   August 29, 2001 at 12:54PM
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Hi vgkg,

Mmm, good thought about the deet. Lived in Africa for a year and the folklore had it that a dose or two of malaria was probably less harmful than rubbing deet all over every day. Have no evidence to back this, (but I can say that I was pretty miserable during my bout of malaria!)

    Bookmark   September 1, 2001 at 9:53AM
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weedlady(Central OH 6)

Thanks to Alfie for clarifying the difference between catmint and catnip; saved me the trouble! Since I have to fence my catnip to allow it to survive the depredations of my own and the neighborhood cats, I have but one plant. However, since the cats care nothing for lemon catnip, and because it self-sows with the same gleeful abandon as the regular sort, and because I much prefer its aroma and taste in tea to the standard (which to me smells like skunk, although I confess I do not find that scent--at a reasonable distance!--terribly off-putting), I have masses of that around, duking it out in one wild corner with the lemon balm, equally enthusiastically self-sowing calendula, and several mullein plants that I encourage for their medicinal properties as well. ANYhow--my point is this: if plain ol' catnip is a good 'skeeter repellent, seems my lemon catnip would be even better, as it has that citronella-like scent, same as lemon balm. We, happily, have not too many mosquitoes this year, but I will sure give it a try tomorrow for the ravenous black flies that have plagued our area the last couple of summers. I have little hope, though, since the lemon balm did not faze them...CK

    Bookmark   September 4, 2001 at 10:48PM
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Ok, this is my final summary on this experiment. I closely examined my now defunct pumpkin root/stems to check for any SVB damage. The largest variety (Prizewinner) did not have any damage and the root/stems were in good condition. But it appeared that the other 2 varieties (Jack-0-lantern & Big Max) both did have some SVB damage but it was late in coming. There was also SVB damage in spots further down the vines where there was no catnip nearby.

To repeat the main disadvantage, is that catnip does attract flea beetles which do a lot of leaf damage. I did notice very light Squash bug activity this year but cannot say for certain the reason. Normally the Squash Bugs are more numerous.

Next year I may just use isolated catnip and cut off trimmings to use around the root/stems. It's more work but "picked" catnip doesn't seem to attract the flea beetles like the live plants they like to congregate upon.

On production, I had 7 plants total which produced 16 pumpkins ranging in size from ~5 lbs to ~190 lbs. The Jack-o-lanterns produced the most at 10 pumpkins on 3 plants.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2001 at 9:35PM
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Hey, Folks! When you plant your gardens with catnip, beware! Cabbage moths just love catnip plants. Maybe even more than cats do. As soon as they appear in Spring those "white butterflies" seek out our catnip plants and hover near all season long.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2001 at 9:31AM
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Great thread, thanks for posting!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2003 at 2:06PM
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Cat Deterrents for your Garden:

Keep in mind that each cat is different (like people), what works for one may not necessarily work for another. On the plus side, most cats will keep pesty squirrels, moles and other critters out of your garden. Cat's are also great for keeping out moles, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters which can do more damage in your garden than a cat ever will. If the cat's have owners, take it up with them without being non-confrontational. The cat owner who allows his cat to damage other peoples' property is as guilty as the cat hater who kills the cat for trespassing. Remember, cats will be cats, and it is unfair of us to blame them for being what they are. After-all, we praise them when they catch mice or rats or other creatures we deem to be 'pests'.

* amonia soaked (corncobs, etc)
* aluminum foil
* bamboo skewers
* black pepper
* blood meal fertilizer
* bramble cuttings
* Carefresh - "recycled" wood pulp
* catnip - donated into your neighbor's yards (so they'll stay in their own yards)
* cedar compost
* chicken wire (metal or plastic)
* cinnamon
* citrus peels
* citrus spray
* cocoa bean shells
* coffee grounds -fresh & unbrewed (highly recommended)
* dogs
* electric fence for animals
* essence of orange. essence of lemon, lime (citrus essential oils)
* fresh manure(ditto)
* garlic cloves
* gumballs from the Sweet Gum Tree
* gutter covers
* hardware cloth
* heavy bark mulch
* holly leaves
* keep the area damp, they like dry soil
* lavender
* liquid manure (good for your garden too)
* motion sensor sprinkler
* pinecones
* pipe tobacco
* plastic forks
* predator urine
* river rocks over the exposed soil
* rocks, crushed
* rose bush clippings
* rue, an herb (Ruta graveolens) (highly recommended in plant form only)
* short twigs throughout the planted area about 6" apart
* six-inch bamboo skewers (pointy side up)
* Spray on your leaves (not the cat): fill a spray bottle with 1/2 t chili powder, 1/2 t cayenne pepper, 1 t dish soap and water
* squirt gun with water
* talk to your neighbors
* thorny berry, lilac, hawthorn, rose clippings
* toothpicks
* upside down vinyl carpet
* vinegar sprayed on areas where they roam
* water bottle on "stream"

*** chili powder, red crushed pepper, cayenne pepper (NOT recommended), it gets on the cat's paws then they wash themselves and they get it in their eyes, beware cats have literally scratched their eyes out because of this
*** Don't ever use mothballs or flakes. Those little toxic waste pellets destroy cats' kidney function, could seriously harm people who handle them, and yes, contaminate your garden soil. Their packaging even warns against using them this way.

Give them their own areas:

(To keep them out of where you don't want them)
(If you don't mind them protecting your garden from other critters)

+ pick the cat up and bring it to eye level with the plant to see and smell it up close. She noted that once her cat has seen and sniffed at the plant, she usually doesn't bother with it later.

+ give them their own plants - i.e., pots of grass for her to chew on and a place in a large planted container on her balcony with some miscanthus grass in it (the cat likes to curl up in that for some reason)

+ if the cats are strictly indoors and attracted to your houseplants, grow catgrass for them. If someone forced you to remain inside one enclosed structure all your life, you might be attracted to the plants too.

+ Barley Grass
+ Any type of "catgrass" from the pet store
+ Carex elata 'Bolwes Golden' but put it in some shade
+ Catmint Nepeta mussinicultivars (Simply put, Catmints are Catnips without any culinary or feline use. In any case, they are, however, phenomenal, long flowering, hardy perennials that belong in every fairie or flower garden.)
+ Catnip Nepeta cataria (in your own yard) The oils of which also work as a mosquito repellent that works 10 times better than Deet!
+ Cat Thyme (Teucrium marum)
+ Flax
+ Oat Grass
+ Jacob's Ladder
+ Lemon Grass
+ Loose soil and mulch like small bark mulch
+ Mints
+ Purple Fountain Grass so the cat lays in the long leaves all day. Maybe put something in that the cats really like and - you know cats won't winky were they like to hang out.
+ Sandy area
+ Silver vine (Actinidia polygama)
+ Striped Ribbon Grass (can be invasive)
+ Sweet grass
+ Trificum aestivum (type of cat grass)
+ Various Varieties of Cat Mints (Catnips)
+ Wheat Grass
+ Wheat Berries
+ Valerian

This list compiled by Violet_Z6, email at for comments and suggestions regarding this list.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2004 at 6:47PM
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Maggie_J(z5 Ontario)

I have also found plain ordinary catnip - which grows wild here - very effective against cluster flies. Most of the time we have a strong breeze here, but on the occasional calm day I grab a handful of fresh catnip, mash it up and rub it over my hair and skin. Keeps them away for ages and makes my cat love me even more! :-))

    Bookmark   May 6, 2004 at 9:46PM
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I always plant canip near my tomato plants very little bug damage.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2010 at 12:20AM
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Is anyone using catnip to repel squash bugs? If you are, please let me know your results. Thanks

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 4:36PM
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WOW, I came back here today on a fluke just to see what's new after a 10 year absence, never expected to see my 10 year old catnip thread on page 1. I posted this one right after I convinced "Spike" to create a new "Experiment" category. We all do some experimentation at times. No update on my part, still have catnip in the garden.
Happy experimenting!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2012 at 10:09AM
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dowbright(z6 in Missouri)

My husband is having chemo, and it has made him hugely attractive to chiggers and mosquitos. He'll have bites all over, when those around him have none. Go figure!

Our old neighbors run a store in St. Louis where they make a special potion that includes catnip essential oils and other things. All organic. Bob sprays it on and is now almost bite-free...except when he forgets to use it, of course! It's absolutely wonderful, as are most of their products. Highly recommended. They sell their things online too.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 5:13PM
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