Date palm, Phoenix dactylifera L. (Arecaceae), grows commonly in the Arabian Peninsula and is traditionally used to treat various diseases. The aim of the present study was to identify chemical composition of the essential oil and to investigate the repellent activity. The essential oil of P. dactylifera was obtained by hydrodistillation from the spathe, a specialized leaf structure that surrounds the pollinating organs of the palm. The oil was subsequently analyzed by GC-FID and GC-MS. The oil showed promising repellent activity against yellow fever mosquito - Aedes aegypti. Sixteen components were characterized, constituting 99% of the oil. The main components were 3,4-dimethoxytoluene (73.5%), 2,4-dimethoxytoluene (9.5%), beta-caryophyllene (5.5%), p-cresyl methyl ether (3.8%), and caryophyllene oxide (2.4%). The minimum effective dosage (MED) for repellency for the P. dactylifera oil was 0.051 mg/cm(2), which had moderately lower potency compared to reference standard N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, DEET (0.018 mg/cm(2)) in the "cloth patch assay". The five major compounds were individually assayed for repellency to determine to what extent each is responsible for repellency from the oil. 3,4-Dimethoxytoluene and 2,4-dimethoxytoluene showed the best repellent activity with the same MED value of 0.063 mg/cm(2), respectively. The results indicate that these two constituents which comprise a large proportion of the P. dactylifera oil (83%) are likely responsible for the observed repellent activity. In this aspect, the P. dactylifera spathe oil is a sustainable, promising new source of natural repellents. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.