essential oil

Residual and ovicidal efficacy of essential oil-based formulations in vitro against the donkey chewing louse Bovicola ocellatus

Essential oils have shown good experimental potential as novel veterinary ectoparasiticides. However, if they are to be used as veterinary products, they must be available in formulations that are suitable for practical application against specific ectoparasites. Here, the efficacies of formulations containing 5% (v/v) lavender or tea tree oil, in combination with two emulsifiers [a surfactant, 5% (w/v) N-lauroylsarcosine sodium salt (SLS), and a soluble polymer, 5% (w/v) polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP)], with or without 10% coconut oil, were tested in contact bioassays against the donkey chewing louse Bovicola ocellatus (Piaget) (Phthiraptera: Trichodectidae). Residual activity was quantified in open and closed containers; ovicidal efficacy was also examined. Exposure to either of 5% (v/v) lavender or tea tree oils with SLS or PVP resulted in louse mortality of 100%, but when coconut oil was included as an excipient, significantly lower efficacy was recorded. However, the formulations became significantly less effective after 2 h in open containers and 40 h in closed containers. The results confirm that the residual activity of essential oils is relatively transitory and the addition of 10% coconut oil does not prolong the period of insecticidal activity by slowing essential oil evaporation. Too short a period of residual activity is likely to be a significant impediment to the effective practical use of essential oils. However, unlike many synthetic pediculicides, the essential oils tested here were highly ovicidal, which suggests that prolonged residual activity may not be essential to kill newly hatched nymphs after treatment.

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Essential oils in the management of the donkey louse, bovicola ocellatus

Reasons for study

Chewing lice are widespread and clinically compromising parasites of livestock and equines. Their management is complicated by growing levels of resistance to commonly applied insecticides. Hence, the development of novel approaches to their control is of major clinical interest.


To assess the effects of incorporating the essential oils of tea tree and lavender into a grooming programme for populations of donkeys with natural infestations of Bovicola ocellatus in the UK and Ireland when louse populations were at their winter seasonal peak.

Study design:

In vivo field trial.


Suspensions of 5% (v/v) tea tree or lavender oil or an excipient only control, were groomed into the coats of winter-housed donkeys (n = 198) on 2 occasions, 2 weeks apart. Louse counts were conducted before each application and 2 weeks later.


After 2 applications, the groups groomed with lavender or tea tree oil suspensions had a significant reduction in louse intensity, with a mean decline in louse abundance of 78% (95% CI 76-80%). Louse numbers in the groups groomed with excipient only either did not change or increased significantly. Donkey hair length had no effect on the decline in louse numbers.


These results demonstrate that the inclusion of essential oil suspensions during grooming can be used to manage louse populations successfully. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

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Control of the chewing louse bovicola (werneckiella) ocellatus in donkeys, using essential oils

Infestations by lice can be a significant clinical and welfare issue in the management of large animals. The limited range of commercial pediculicides available and the development of resistance have led to the need to explore alternative louse management approaches. The results of in vitro and in vivo trials undertaken to control populations of the donkey chewing louse, Bovicola ocellatus (Piaget) (Phthiraptera: Trichodectidae) using the essential oils of tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) are reported here. Results of contact and vapour bioassays showed that 5% (v/v) tea tree and lavender oils resulted inā€‰>ā€‰80% louse mortality after 2ā€‰h of exposure. On farms, separate groups of 10 donkeys sprayed with 5% (v/v) tea tree and lavender oil as part of their usual grooming regime showed significant reductions in louse numbers compared with a control group (0.2% polysorbate 80 in water). These findings indicate that tea tree and lavender essential oils can provide clinically useful levels of control of B. ocellatus when used as part of a grooming routine and suggest that with further development could form the basis of an easy to apply and valuable component of a louse management programme for donkeys

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