A whiff of catnip can make mosquitoes buzz off, and now researchers know why.
The active component of catnip (Nepeta cataria) repels insects by triggering a chemical receptor that spurs sensations such as pain or itch, researchers report March 4 in Current Biology. The sensor, dubbed TRPA1, is common in animals — from flatworms to people — and responds to environmental irritants such as cold, heat, wasabi and tear gas. When irritants come into contact with TRPA1, the reaction can make people cough or an insect flee.
Catnip’s repellent effect on insects — and its euphoric effect on felines — has been documented for millennia. Studies have shown
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