Friday, August 1, 2008

Tiny Vampires

Vampire folklore recommends using garlic to ward off the blood-sucking undead. This handy advice was likely derived from the fact that mosquitoes are repelled by the pungent herb. Several companies market a variety of garlic-based products for horses under the hypothesis that altering their body odor will reduce their appeal to biting insects. As with all such supplements, some horse-owners report near-miraculous results while others report nothing more than money wasted (and horses that smell like pizzerias).

Feeding garlic to horses is not risk-free. As a member of the allium genus (onion-type bulbs that produce those tasty sulfurous compounds) garlic has the potential to produce a low-level anemic response that can affect energy, stamina and immune function. With this in mind I have started giving Tonka and Raven a tablespoon of air-dried garlic flakes with their breakfast and dinner. Mosquitoes, gnats and flies are a fact of summer life in Deroche and the horses are likely to be stuck here with us for years to come. My plan is to re-evaluate the decision at the end of a one-month trial. Any real epidemiologist (what I claim to be at all the conferences) would have implemented a randomized controlled trial (by supplementing only one horse), but I deemed that option unethical in light of the potential benefits of treatment.


Anonymous said...

I've heard people get by really well with geranium or thyme oil mixed with a little apple cider vinegar and water as a spray. But yes, you hear that things either work extremely well or not at all. I'm really sensitive about bug spray, so I use a lemon thyme and eucalyptus spray for myself, and it works pretty well. Good luck with the garlic.

Funder said...

My only anecdotal success story versus mosquitoes was via my husband.

When he was a (sullen goth) teenager, his class took a field trip to somewhere outdoorsy with a lot of mosquitoes. He prepared in advance by giving up sugar for a few days - and passing out Cokes to his classmates. He also ate a bunch of garlic beforehand. The mosquitoes ignored him in favor of the tastier classmates.

He based this on something I vaguely remember as "mosquitoes are attracted to the sugar in your blood," but as this is a third-hand 15 year old story I cannot vouch for the lack of sugar being more effective than the garlic was.

Mainly I like this story because it illustrates how devious my husband can be :)

Robin said...

I started loading up on garlic last year when I read about its potential health benefits (stimulates production of hydrogen sulfide), I eat at least four + cloves a day. I'm allergic to mosquito bites so I was hoping this would help but...I'm still a mosquito magnet. Maybe it works better for horses.