Campus Units


Document Type


Publication Version

Accepted Manuscript

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

Pest Management Science




BACKGROUND: Development of new personal repellents to prevent tick bites is progressing to keep up with the increasing threat of tick-borne diseases in humans. However, the market share of natural, plant-based repellents is still quite small. We tested all of the major (> 1%) components found in the essential oils of rosemary (Spanish variety) and nutmeg. These were tested with Dermacentor variabilis ticks, a robust tick capable of vectoring human diseases, in a non-human horizontal Petri dish assay. For comparison, we also tested the active ingredients currently recommended by the CDC and EPA as personal repellents for use against ticks.

RESULTS: Of the 16 oil components tested, three performed significantly better than DEET in our assay. These compounds were myristicin and safrole found in the nutmeg oil, and terpinolene found in nutmeg oil and as a minor (< 1%) constituent of rosemary oil. The current market natural product, 2- undecanone, also performed strongly in our assay.

CONCLUSIONS: Our assay focused on comparing active ingredients as potential repellents and found that many natural products can elicit a strong response from ticks. Terpinolene is the most promising active ingredient identified, owing to human health concerns regarding myristicin and safrole. Our results from examining individual terpenoids from two essential oils suggest that there remain unexploited natural compounds that could be further developed for new personal tick repellents.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Wong, Colin, Kylie Crystal, and Joel Coats. "Three Molecules Found in Rosemary or Nutmeg Essential Oils Repel Ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) more Effectively than DEET in a Non‐human Assay." Pest Management Science (2020), which has been published in final form at DOI: 10.1002/ps.6149. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.

Copyright Owner

Society of Chemical Industry



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Available for download on Thursday, October 21, 2021

Published Version