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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Cockroach & Catnip Science Fair Project

By February 26, 2007

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This is the time of year when I get asked for science fair project ideas. Here's one for you, based on something I read while writing about catnip chemistry. Catnip and nepetalactone (the substance in catnip that affects cats) are said to be more effective than DEET at repelling cockroaches. If you live someplace where cockroaches are relatively easy to find, which presumably includes the entire southern half of the continental U.S., you can test this for yourself. Catch some test subjects and get some catnip spray (found in pet stores and many grocery stores) and DEET-containing repellent. Spray a sheet of paper with catnip, spray one with DEET, leave a sheet untreated. Label the papers and use them to line the bottom of a container. Add roaches. Record where they end up. I'd move the sheets around between trials, epecially if your container has any shadows, to reduce the risk of accidentally introducing another variable (e.g., light).

That's one way to test the assertion that catnip repells roaches better than DEET. To be honest, I don't know whether or not either DEET or catnip repels roaches. A simpler project is to test one chemical or the other. Spray a sheet of paper; leave a sheet untreated. Place them in the bottom of a container. Where do the roaches go?
If you can't locate cockroaches, consider testing another insect (mosquitoes, flies, etc.). If catnip turns out to be an effective repellent, do you think planting it outside your home would reduce the numbers of insect pests coming inside?

Photo: Dawn M. Turner, morguefile.com


October 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm
(1) kelsey lintner says:

ok this helped my non … im trying to wright a hypothesis and i got my project from you … it’s dew tomarow … i felt like leaving a comment cas you had non

February 15, 2011 at 2:02 pm
(2) christina Knutson says:

You need grammar and spelling lessons. just saying.

February 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm
(3) Shayla Tennings says:

i agree with Christina, it is not that hard to spell something corectly even if you are doing a quick reply to a project page.

March 27, 2011 at 8:44 pm
(4) Lupe says:

How doi write this out in trials because in my projetc something has to be measured and the data also have to be in a graph so does the insects be measured in how many inches away from the deet N catnip

August 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm
(5) David says:

“christina Knutson”:
“You need grammar and spelling lessons. just saying.”

Learn how to capitalize; the most basic principle of the written English language. You all are freaking morons. James Mortimer you are the only one with any sense.

December 5, 2011 at 9:35 pm
(6) Therese says:

Lol, David!

But just to clarify, shouldn’t it be “James Mortimer, you are the only one with any sense.”

With a comma?

Just saying.

But at least you know how to use a semi-colon.

Thank the Lord!

But “moron” is a mean, hateful, and bad word.

Try not to use it in the future.

And the rest of you, please correct your grammar.



December 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm
(7) Chalupita says:

u al r a bunch ov idiots. tis is ze free cuntry, an belive it or no, i am very good with grammer. chalupita is my nickname; long story. x(

January 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm
(8) babeii says:

ok all of you guys need to get some sense,get some friends,stop chatting on a school project website cause its really weird,and stop using the word “moron” it’s really not cool but,deuces peace out kids

have fun chatting on an online school project website:)<3

yours truly,

March 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm
(9) chaquitta says:

dear all ya peepzzz,

people of science school website i would like to know some of your suggestions for a schience fair project for 7th grade little sis is in need of some BIG HELP

from chaquitta! <3

October 12, 2012 at 1:06 pm
(10) alexis says:

Honestly, when did this project page become an argument page for grammar? It doesn’t make sense. If you want to leave a comment don’t let it be criticism unless the person really needs to revise their idea or post. C’mon you guys, no one is perfect.

November 25, 2012 at 11:20 am
(11) Gman says:

Now that’s the best observation and post of this project on this site.

November 26, 2012 at 5:34 pm
(12) Bernardo Vernandez says:

I am using this as my science fair project and I need to know if DEET is used to repel cockroaches.

November 27, 2012 at 4:16 pm
(13) Bernardo Vernandez says:

Can you please answer my question? Please!

December 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm
(14) Anonymous says:

Ok, so I need to do a science project for TOMORROW! I’m planning to do this but like the other dude said, we need to use graphs or pie charts or whatever, so yeah, can anybody help me with this? I have no idea what to do, even though I have all the information, I was planning to do what I did last year, but I don’t think that will help me anymore, because I have some people that I had last year on science and they might tell on me, so yeah, I’m between a rock and a hard place (If that is how you say it), so can anybody help me at all?

February 8, 2013 at 1:13 pm
(15) Monica says:

iT lOOKS sO Nasty Bc Roaches A GROSS

May 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm
(16) CT says:

I thank you for the useful information. I don’t have a science project due, but I do live in Southern California. I am going to attempt the bags and the spray. Hopefully being that I am in a cat infested area too, I don’t attract the cats around these parts. LOL…the spelling argument is real. Grammer & Spelling will get you a long way

September 12, 2013 at 4:23 pm
(17) anonymous says:

This doesn’t work. You would need to know the chemical base in the catnip, change it, and measure the reaction it creates. Not only that it is harmful to the roaches (I don’t really like them either!) and very dangerous to humans.


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