One of the biggest nuisances that sailors face, as Practical Sailor, Drew Frye will tell you, is the biting fly. They will find you in the middle of the bay in a howling wind; they will stay with the boat once on board; they are undeterred by DEET and every formulation tried; and they are seriously distracting, often biting right through clothing.
In his research to put an end to onboard biting flies Drew came across an
interesting USDA Agriculture Research Service article
on using catnip oil to repel stable flies. … In the words of the lead USDA researcher: “Catnip oil and its active compounds – nepetalactones – are powerful repellents against stable flies. … Catnip is probably the best repellent identified [including DEET and DMP] so far, for flies that bite. Catnip oil is also good as a larvicide,” meaning it can be used for reducing stable fly larval development, he adds.
Drew was unable to find anyone marketing catnip oil as a repellent so he purchased a spray bottle of the kitty treat spray from a local pet shop and tested it on the Chesapeake Bay for the summer.
Catnip oil has a mild, earthy odor. It sprays and spreads easily, is harmless to clothing, plastics including soft vinyl window material, which DEET melts on contact, is non-irritating to the skin, and washes off easily. While it only repels flies: deer flies, green head flies and horse flies, for about 30-60 minutes, it is instantly effective and can be sprayed easily with one hand while steering with the other. Tester found the oil only moderately effective against mosquitoes.
Bottom line: While not a durable repellent like DEET is for mosquitoes, catnip oil was far more effective against biting flies than DEET or commercial brews, plus it’s plastic safe, people safe, fast, and pleasant smelling. Try www.petco.com. $5.00 per 8oz bottle.