Repellent effectiveness of seven plant essential oils, sunflower oil and natural insecticides against horn flies on pastured dairy cows and heifers

Med Vet Entomol. 2014 Jun;28(2):193-200. doi: 10.1111/mve.12044. Epub 2013 Dec 30.


Plant essential oils (basil, geranium, balsam fir, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, pine and tea tree), mixed with either sunflower oil or ethyl alcohol, were applied at 5% concentrations to the sides of Holstein cattle. Pastured cattle treated with essential oils diluted in sunflower oil had less flies than the untreated control for a 24-h period. However, the essential oil treatments were not significantly different than the carrier oil alone. Barn-held heifers treated with essential oils and sunflower oil alone had significantly less flies than the untreated control for up to 8 h after treatment. Basil, geranium, lavender, lemongrass and peppermint repelled more flies than sunflower oil alone for a period ranging from 1.5 to 4 h after treatments applied to heifers. All essential oils repelled > 75% of the flies on the treated area for 6 and 8 h on pastured cows and indoor heifers, respectively. Geranium, lemongrass and peppermint stayed effective for a longer duration. Essential oils mixed with ethyl alcohol demonstrated less repellence than when mixed with the carrier oil. Safer's soap, natural pyrethrins without piperonyl butoxide and ethyl alcohol alone were not efficient at repelling flies. Essential oils could be formulated for use as fly repellents in livestock production.

Keywords: Cattle, essential oils; Muscidae; horn flies; repellents; sunflower oil.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Female
  • Insect Control*
  • Insect Repellents* / pharmacology
  • Insecticides*
  • Muscidae* / drug effects
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils
  • Sunflower Oil


  • Insect Repellents
  • Insecticides
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils
  • Sunflower Oil