Essential oils used to control mites in honey bees.

Jim Amrine, Bob Noel, Harry Mallow, Terry Stasny, Robert Skidmore
(September, 1996)

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Those with * were used in hives from which honey and beeswax were collected; **most used oil: wintergreen. This information is taken mostly from the Merck Index, 10th Edition, 1983. Family names are based on Kertescz 1994.

CATNIP oil, Cataria, catmint. Herb of Napeta cataria L., Lamiaceae. Habit. Europe, Asia; naturalized in U. S. Constit: volatile oil, nepetalacetone (q.v.), nepetalic acid and related compds., tannin: McElvain, Eisenbraun, J. Am. Chem. Soc. 77:1599 (1955). Its odor is very attractive to all members of the cat family. Therapeutic category: aromatic. Contains: Nepatlactone: No. 6314, Merck Index: 5,6,7,7a-tetrahydro-4,7-dimethyl-cyclopental[c]pyran-1-(4aH)-one. C10H10O2; mol. Wt. 166.21. Isolated from the volatile oil of catnip produced by Nepeta cataria L, Lamiaceae: S. M. McElvain et al., J. Am. Chem. Soc. 63:1558 (1941). Mixture of sis-trans and trans-cis isomers, the cis-trans isomer comprising 70-99%.

CINNAMON OIL : Oil of cassia; oil of Chinese cinnamon. Volatile oil from leaves and twigs of Cinnamomum cassia (Nees) Nees & Eberm. ex Blume, Lauraceae. Contains: 80-90% cinnamaldehyde (#2271); cinnamyl acetate, eugenol (#3846). Yellowish or brownish liquid. Darkens and thickens on exposure to air. d25/25: 1.045-1.063. a25/D: -1 to 1. n20/D: 1.6020-1.6060. Slightly soluble in water; soluble in an equal vol of alcohol and glacial acetic acid. Keep well closed, cool and protected from light. Use: as flavor in foods and in perfumes. Therapeutic category: carminative.

CINNAMON OIL, Ceylon : volatile oil from bark of Ceylon cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum Blume, Lauraceae. Contains: 50-65% cinnamaldehyde; 4-8% eugenol; phellandrene. Light yellow liq.; gradually becomes reddish; characteristic odor, d. 1.000-1.030; aD: 0 to -2. n20/D: 1.565-1.582. Therapeutic category: carminative.

Citronella Oil: Volatile oil from fresh grass of Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rendle, Poaceae, Citronella Grass. Contains: (Sri Lanka) about 60% geraniol (#4263), 15% citronellal, 10-15% camphene (#1708) and dipentene (inactive limonene, dl form) (#5321) , small amounts of linalool (#5325) and borneol (#1322); (Java) 25-50% citronellal, 25-45% geraniol. Almost colorless to pale yellow liq; gradually becomes reddish; pleasant odor. d Ceylon, 0.897-0.912; Java, 0.885-0.90. a20D: Ceylon, -6 to -14; Java, -2 to -5. n20/D: Ceylon, 1.479-1.485; Java, 1.468-1.473. Slightly soluble in water; soluble in 10 vols 80% alcohol. Keep well closed, cool and protected from light. Use: as perfume; insect repellent.

EUCALYPT OIL: Dinkum oil. Volatile oil from fresh leaves of Eucalyptus globulus Labill and of some other species of Eucalyptus, Myrtaceae. A dwarf species, E. dumosa A. Cunn. ex Schauer, called Mallee in Australia, is richest in oil of Eucalyptus. Contains: 70-80% eucalyptol (cineole ) (#3840); a-pinene (#7319), phellandrene (#7060); terpineol (#8996); citronellal (#2301, 2302) ; geranyl acetate (#4263); eudesmol; eudesmyl acetate; piperitone (#7348); volatile aldehydes (principally isovaleric ); E. Guenther, The Essentiial Oils, vol. 4 (Van Nostrand, N.Y., 1950) pp. 437-525. Colorless to pale yellow liquid; chjaracteristic camphoaceous odor; pungent, spicy, cooling taste. d25/25: 0.905-0.925. Does not solidify below -15.4. aD: -5 to +5. n20/D: 1.458 to 1.470. Almost insoluble in water; soluble in 5 vols 70% alcohol; miscible with abs alcohol, oils, fats. Keep well closed, cool and protected from light. Therapeutic category: expectorant, anthelmintic, local antiseptic. Therapeutic. category (Veterinary): inhalation expectorant; wound dressing.

MELALEUCA OIL, Oil of Cajeput : Volatile oil from fresh leaves and twigs of several varieties of Melaleuca leucadendron L., and other species of Melaleuca, Myrtaceae. Contains: 50-60% eucalyptol (cineol) (#3840); l-pinene (#7319), terpineol (#8996); valeric, butyric, benzoic and other aldehydes. Colorless or yellowish liquid, agreeable camphor odor, and bitter aromatic taste. d: 0.912-0.925; a20/D <-4. n20/D 1.4660-1.4710. Very slightly soluble in water; soluble in 1 vol 80% alcohol. Misc with alcohol, chloroform, ether, carbon disulfide. Keep well closed, cool, and protected from light. LD50 orally in rats: 3870 mg/kg, P. M Jenner et al., Food Cosmet. Toxicol. 2: 327 (1964). Therapeutic. Category: expectorant, topical parasiticide, counterirritant. Used for its germicidal properties and as a powerful anti-spasmodic diffusable stimulant and as a sudorific; in India it has been use as an external application for rheumatism. Therapeutic category (veterinary): rubefacient, topical antimycotic.

*PATCHOULY OIL: commercial oil from Pogostemon cablin (Blanco)Benth., Lamiaceae. Contains: patchouli alcohol (#6913) (q.v.); minor constits. include patchoulene, azulene (#926), eugenol (#3846), and several unidentified sesquiterpenes: Pfau, Plattner, Helv. Chim. Acta 19:874 (1936); Naoko et al., Bull. Chem. Soc. Japan 40:597 (1967). Review: E. Guenther, The Essential Oils, vol. III (Van Nostrand, NY, 1949), pp. 552-575. Yellowish or greenish to dark brown oil, intense and persistently fragrant odor. Can be stored indefinitely. Odor improves with age. d15/15: 0.975-0.987. a20/D: -54 to - 65.3. n20/D: 1.5099 tp 1.5111. Saponif. No. 3.3 to 9.3. Ester no. After acetylation: 17.7 to 22.4. Practically insol. in water. Sol. in ether. USE: In perfumes to impart a lasting oriental fragrance, in incense, soaps, cosmetics. To scent fine Indian fabrics and shaws. [To repel or control insect pests].

*PENNYROYAL OIL (American): Oil of hedeoma. Volatile oil from leaves and flowering tops of Hedeoma pulegioides (L.) Pers., Lamiaceae. Contains: chiefly pulegone; 2 ketones; acetic, formic and isoheptoic acids. Pale yellow liq; aromatic odor. d25/25: 0.920- 0.935. a20/D: +18 to +22. n20/D: 1.482. Slt. sol. in water; soluble in 3 vols 70% alcohol; very soluble in chloroform, ether. Keep well closed, cool and protected from light. Therapeutic category: aromatic carminative.

PENNYROYAL OIL (European): Oil of pulegium. Volatile oil from Mentha pulegium L., Lamiaceae. Constit.: ca. 85% pulegone. Yellowish or greenish-yellow liquid; aromatic mint-like odor; aromatic taste. d15/15: 0.960. a20/D: +14 to +28. n20/D: 1.475 to 1.496.

PEPPERMINT OIL: colpermin. Steam-distilled, volatile oil from fresh flowering plant, Mentha piperita L., Lamiaceae. The Japanese oil, also known as oil of Poho, is the liq. portion remaining afer the separation of menthol from the oil of Mentha arvensis L. Contains: not less than 50% total menthol (#5662) including 5-9% esters calcd as menthyl acetate; menthyl isovalerate (#5667), menthone (#5663), inactive pinene (#7320), l-limonene (#5321), cadinene (#1582)), phellandrene (#7060), some acetaldehyde, isovaleric aldehyde, amyl alcohol, dimethyl sulfide. Colorless to pale yellow liquid; strong, penetrating peppermint odor and pungent taste. d25/25: 0.896-0.908. a25: -18 to -32. n20/D: 1.460 to 1.471. Very slt. Soluble in water; soluble in 4 vols 90% alcohol. Use: for flavoring ill-tasting medicines, tooth powders, toothpastes, mouthwashes, liqueurs. Therapeutic category: pharmaceutic aid (flavor). Carminative. Therapeutic category (veterinary): carminative.

Rosemary Oil: Volatile oil from fresh flowering tops of Rosmarinus officinalis L. Lamiaceae. Contains: not less than 10% borneol (#1322); not less than 2.5% esters calculated as bornyl acetate (#1323); camphor (#1710), eucalyptol (#3840), pinene (#7319), camphene (#1708). Colorless or pale yellow liquid; characteristic rosemary odor; comphoraceous taste. d25/25: 0.894-0.912. a25/D: -5 to +10. n20/D: 1.464 to 1.476. Almost insoluble in water; soluble in 10 vols 80% alcohol. Keep well closed, cool and protected from lithrt. Use: in liniments and in hair lotions. Therapeutic category: carminative, rubefacient

*SPEARMINT OIL: Oil of crispmint: oil of curled mint. Volatile oil from the flowering tops of Mentha spicata L. (M. viridis L.), Lamiaceae. Contains: at least 50% carvone, l-limonene, pinene. Colorless, yellow or greenish-yellow liq.; characteristic spearmint odor and taste. d25/25 0.917 to 0. 934. a20/D: -48 to -59. n20/D: 1.482 to 1.490. Very slt soluble in water; soluble in equal vol 80% alcohol. Keep well closed, cool and protected from light. Therapeutic category: pharmaceutic aid (flavor), Carminative.

*TEA TREE OIL: Produced as a volatile oil from leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia (Myrtaceae). The bush industry is centered in the Richmond and Clarence river valleys of Australia--areas with the largest natural stands of M. alternifolia. The Australian standard recommends that tea tree oil contain at least 30 per cent terpinen-4-ol (= a-terpinen-4-ol?) and not more than 15 % cineole (eucalyptol). Most commercial tea-tree oil contains 30-45 % terpinen-4-ol and 2-10 % cineole (Colton & Murtagh 1990).

THYME OIL: Volatile oil distilled from flowering plant, Thymus vulgaris L., Lamiaceae. Contains: 20-40% by vol of thymol (#9246) and carvacrol (#1855); cymene (#2758), pinene (#7319), linalool (#5323), bornyl acetate (#1323). Colorless to reddish-brown liq; pleasant thymol odor; sharp taste. d25/25: 0.894 to 0.930. a25/D: <-4 . n20/D: 1.483 to 1.510. Very slt soluble in water; soluble in 2 vols of 80% alcohol. Keep well closed, cool and protected from light. Note: often mislabeled "Oil of Origanum". Therapeutic category: rubefacient, counterirritant, antiseptic, carminative.

**WINTERGREEN OIL, betula oil, sweet birch oil, teaberry oil. No. 5994, Merck Index. Contains: Methyl salicylate; 2-Hydrxybenzoic acid methyl ester; C8H8O3. Mol. Wt. 152.14. Present in leaves of Gaultheria procumbens L., Ericaceae; in the bark of Betula lenta L., Black Birch, Betulaceae; mostly prepared by esterification of salicylic acid with methanol. The product of commerce is about 99% pure. Colorless, yellowish or reddish, oily liq; odor and taste of Gautheria. Mp -8.6 bp 220-224 d25/25 1.184. D of the natural ester is about 1.180. N20/D 1.535-1.538. Flash pt, closed cup: 210F (99C). Slightly soluble In water; one gram in about 1500 ml.; soluble in chloroform, ether. Misc with alcohol, glacial acetic acid. LD50 orally in rats: 887 mg/kg. P.M. Jenner et al., Food Cosmet. Toxicol. 2: 327 (1964). Human toxicity: ingestion of relatively small amounts may cause severe poisoning and death (average lethal dose: 10 ml in children, 30ml in adults). Symptoms of poisoning: nausea, vomiting, acidosis, pulmonary edema, pneumonia, convulsions, death. Cf. Clinical toxicology of Commercial Products, R. E. Gosselin et al., eds. (Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, 4th ed. 1976), Section III, pp. 295-303. Use: in perfumery; for flavoring candies, etc. Therapeutic Category: counterirritant.


Colton, R. T., Murtagh, G. J. 1990. Tea-tree oil--plantation production. Agfacts, New South Wales Agric. & Fisheries, Order No. P6.4.6, Agdex 184/10. 24 pp.

Kartesz, J. T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada and Greenland. Checklist, 622 pp. and Thesaurus, 816 pp. 2nd ed., Timber Press, Oregon.

Windholz, M, Budavari, S., Blumetti, R. F., Otterbein, E. S. (Eds.) 1983. The Merck Index, 10th Edition. Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, N. J., 1463 pp. + appendices.

Questions or comments please contact:
James W. Amrine, Jr.
Division of Plant and Soil Sciences,
P. O. Box 6108, West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV 26505-6108 USA
Telephone: 304-293-6023

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