Onion extract as a repellent against House Fly

Almost all scientific blessings that human beings are enjoying today has come from local wisdom.Local wisdom, said so much about Neem, and finally, science proved it as reality, so is true about quite a few other items, may that be husk or herbal products.

By Prof Dr Abdullah G Arijo

Onion and garlic are known for their pungent smell and have the potential to keep many moths away. This came to my observation, while I asked from a Haleem wala as to why there are no moths around his cart?

Sir, can you see those pealed onions, he pointed towards his cart, where onions were nailed, yes, I replied. So, this all is due to the smell of onion which keeps these nasty insects away.


Onion? What this onion contains? The question kept me thinking and finally my postgraduate student, Raz Ali Soomro, did a project and findings came as a convincing factor that, yes, phosphorus is the cause of creating a smell that irritates arthropods (moth etc.) to repel them away. 


The data that my research group obtained results revealed that at 80% concentration of onion, the repellency was 100% whereas the flies repellency was 0% at 20% concentration. The results on-time parameter showed that at 10 minutes, the repellency was 70% which decreased gradually to 60%, 50%, 30% and o% at 15, 20, 25 and 30 minutes. In the case of water and sugar, there was no repellency recorded. Feedback response of humans for their advanced sensation of bulb extract odour was tested by serving eatables on the table surface. The experiment was repeated 5 times with the same protocol. The results revealed that except for one respondent, none else could feel onion odour and felt an irritating smell during lunch.  The present study concludes that the onion extract at a concentration of 80% gives maximum repellency while with time (after 30 minutes) the repellency rate is gradually decreased. It is further concluded that Onion extract can be used as repellent in devices that are used in fly repellency/control.

The housefly is a recognized insect of medical and veterinary significance. This species of fly is mostly found near human settlements. The house fly is a mainly common pest of large and small ruminants including poultry farms, horse stables and houses. House flies are not only producing irritation by their presence, but they also play a major role in the transmission of pathogens, which may lead to a variety of infections and diseases. Heavy populations of these flies are considered a major annoying source both for workers and animals. These flies create disturbance in the feeding and resting of the victim host (Graczyk et al., 2001). The common M. Domestica is a famous mechanical vector of various organisms, which are mostly responsible to transmit pathogens and parasites. Approximately 100 different pathogens are linked with the M. Domestica. They could cause many diseases in humans and animals, including anthrax, trachoma, leprosy, T.B, Q-fever, bacillary dysentery, and infantile diarrhea (Azizi et al., 2014). Mostly use of chemicals, which kill the insect is not only harmful to the environment and have unwanted effects on non-target organisms, but its long-term use also leads to the development of resistance among insects. The house flies create nuisance and affects the healthiness of the animals on the farm, but also become infuriated to the workers of the farm and the people who live in the villages nearby the farms of animals. (Thomas and Jespersen, 1994). It plays a major role to produce many diseases and act as a mechanical carrier of pathogenic bacteria, such as Shigella spp, Vibrio spp, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella spp: House flies have resisted human being attempts to control them since the distant past, and the worldwide problem of M. domestic resistance to conservative insecticides has resulted in renewed interest in biopesticides as another management tools to conservative insecticides. However, they have continued to pose a serious health threat to human beings and livestock by transmitting many infectious diseases (Bharkad et al., 2013).M. Domestica is also known as a potential vector of the bird flu virus (avian influenza), posing sporadic threats to the poultry industry and humans worldwide. The large amount of poultry manure that is exposed to high humidity and temperature can provide an ideal condition for M. domestic growth in poultry farms. The high-density population of M. Domestica irritates and stresses the poultry workers and hens and influences the economics of poultry products (Iqbal et al., 2014). Controlling house files have always been the focus of attention in the scientific community, however, such a challenging situation requires a management strategy to interfere with the insect development to maintain adult stage population as lower as possible through controlling larval stage population (Mansour et al., 2011). The ecological problems caused by the overuse of pesticides have been the subject of concern for both scientists and the public in recent years. It has been expected that about 2.5 million tons of pesticides are used on crops each year and the worldwide harm caused by pesticides reaches 100 billion annually. (Suresh et al., 2008). There are many effects of pesticides which are directly and indirectly affect organisms. Many kinds of animals are harmed by pesticides, leading many countries to regulate pesticide usage through biodiversity action plans. (Dennis et al., 1993).                                                     


Onions and garlic are underground modified stems. They are tasty ingredients in food items and help to keep away harmful insects. Sulphur compound in the onion keeps to producing peculiar odor, which acts as an M. Domestica repellent (Brickell and Christopher., 1992). Onion is very highly valued for its beneficial properties and recognized as an important medicinal plant known for its repellent properties, Onion extract has been reported that to be efficient as anti-cardiac, anti-hypertensive and anti-diabetic by few workers. (Najia et al., 2014). To reduce the polluting effects of chemicals, it is a need for time to re-evaluate the efficacy of traditional methods to control insect pests and diseases. Out of many non-synthetic insecticidal control methods of diseases, being the use of natural products are gaining more attention (Tiwari et al., 2014).


For the study purpose, house flies were collected from hotels/houses with the help of a hand net. From the collected sample, 05 adult flies were kept in a glass jar and left to die a natural death. The dead flies were collected and identified under the dissecting microscope based on the taxonomic description as given and the remaining flies were reared on sugar solution in glass jars until used in actual trials.


To test onion bulb extract as Musca domestica repellent and to detect the repellency duration against Musca domestica proved repellency effect of onion bulb extract against adult house flies. For comparison, sugar solution was used as a contemporary solution, whereas pure water was used as a control. We found that flies were released on sugar extract. Repellency effect against sugar solution was noted at 10-30 minutes. It was seen that at all concentrations of sugar solution, the repellency percentage was zero at all time points, whereas, the pungent smell of onion repelled they proving that onion extract has repellency potential.


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