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Research Shows Garlic a Successful Pest Repellent
(Beyond Pesticides, July 16, 2004)
Garlic oil shows significant activity as a nontoxic bird repellent for use against crop-damaging birds, according to a joint study by the University at Albany and the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. Garlic-based products, which are environmentally benign as pesticides, should be useful as bird repellents for airport, agricultural, and urban applications.

"The products could be applied to crops to reduce bird damage, which can be quite costly," said Eric Block, Distinguished Chemistry Professor at the University at Albany and co-author of the study. "The products could also be used to keep birds away from airport runways, where they pose an aviation hazard." Many current pesticides can be hazardous due to their toxicity and environmental persistence. Garlic-based repellents represent economically viable substitutes, and could be applied to targeted areas as easily as fertilizer.

The research demonstrates that European starlings, a species which causes considerable damage annually to U.S. crops, significantly reduce their food consumption with as little as one percent of garlic oil containing granules mixed with their food. The starlings further decreased their consumption in foods treated with 10 percent and 25 percent solutions, showing a correlation between the level of garlic and the adverse reaction of the birds. Granules prepared from food-grade garlic oil as well as commercially produced granules containing a refined garlic product are equally effective.

The study, “Aversion of European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) to Garlic Oil Treated Granules: Garlic Oil as an Avian Repellent. Garlic Oil Analysis by Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy,” was published in the 2004 edition of Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, volume 52, number 8. Researchers include Eric Block, University of Albany graduate student Zhixing Shan, along with USDA scientist Dr. Arla Hile of the Monell Chemical Senses Center. The study was supported by grants from the Berryman Institute and the National Science Foundation. Copies of the report are available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/jf035181d.

For more information on this research, contact Michael Parker at (518) 437-4980. For more information on other safe ways to repel birds, contact Beyond Pesticides.

TAKE ACTION: Advocate for the use of safer alternatives, such as garlic oil, in your own community. To find out more about creating positive change in your community, pay a visit to Beyond Pesticides’ Community Organizing Fact Sheets.