Written by Linda Alexander
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Octenol (1-Octen-3-ol) is a naturally occurring by-product that comes from plants and animals, such as cows and oxen, which ingest large amounts of vegetable matter. It is an active ingredient in pesticides, used in attracting certain species of mosquitoes and biting flies, but it does not kill insects itself. It attracts insects by mimicking breath.

It may also be used in conjunction with carbon dioxide and electronic devices that in turn kill trapped insects. Studies show that when combined with carbon dioxide, it is highly attractive to many species of no-see-ums and biting midges.

By definition, octenol is a pesticide and as such is subject to EPA regulation. However, it is important to note that electronic and non-electronic devices that use it, when they meet EPA's definition of a 'device,' are not subject to registration as pesticides. According to the EPA, when released into air, octenol is not harmful to humans, to non-targeted organisms, or to the environment.

Is Octenol Effective?

Results reported to the EPA indicate that some insect species were repelled, some were attracted, and some were unaffected by the chemical. Product label claims say that it makes electronic mosquito repellents more effective in killing certain mosquitoes and biting flies. The statements do not claim to control biting insects, only to make the electronic insect killers more effective.

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