Organic insecticides use botanicals or plant extracts to naturally combat insects. This natural form of insecticide is applied to plant foliage and kills the insects when they come in contact or ingest it.
All Pesticides Are Regulated
Each state regulates pesticides no matter whether they are natural, organic or manufactured from man-made "synthetic organic" ingredients. If you see organic insecticides listed for sale online it is not uncommon to see the product is not available is select states. This is because the manufacturer of the insecticide decided not to register their product with that state or states. The reasons for this choice on the manufacturer's part vary, but it usually has to do with the cost of annual registration that may be required by each state. Another reason is that some states require re-labeling. Making such changes, on the manufacturer's part, for a handful of states can be cost prohibitive.
Natural Insecticides Available Commercially
When pests invade an organic gardener's vegetables, fruits or flowers the response is a natural insecticide. There are various homemade botanical sprays you can make yourself if you want to avoid the use of synthetic organic chemicals. If you don't have time to make your own, look for the following natural insecticides as you read the labels:
- Neem: An oil extract taken from the Neem tree which is native to Southeast Asia but grows in countries throughout the world. Historically it has served a variety of medicinal uses, and forty years ago, it was also discovered as a source for organic insecticides. The first commercial Neem insecticide, Margosan-O, was registered by the EPA for non-crop use in July, 1985, and since then the EPA has okayed it along with several other commercial Neem insecticides.
- Pyrethrum: A botanical insecticide derived from flowers belonging to a species of chrysanthemum. Pyrethrum is combined with other poisons such as butoxide, because while the Pyrethrum causes quick paralysis of most insects, they usually recover unless some other poison is added. For use on vegetables and fruits and may be applied throughout the growing season.
- Rotenone: This botanical insecticide comes from the roots of derris plants (Asia) and cube plants (South America). While Rotenone works well as a general garden insecticide, care should be taken if you have a Koi pond because it is highly toxic to fish and moderately toxic to mammals. However, it doesn't leave any harmful residue on your crops and works well to kill insects as a contact and stomach poison. You should also wear a mask when applying this insecticide because it can irritate the respiratory tract.
- Sabadilla: This botanical insecticide is made from seeds of a lily-like plant. It's an effective contact and stomach poison for insects, and while on the whole it's not toxic to mammals, a mask should be worn during application because it does irritate the eyes and respiratory tract. This organic pesticide deteriorates quickly upon exposure to light and as a result can be used safely on food crops shortly before harvesting.
Tried and True Organic Insecticides
If you'd rather make your own insecticides, there are a number of ingredients you can usually find around the house to mix up your own recipe. These ingredients include things like:
- Soap: While we don't have common access to things like the whale oil soap or fish oil soap used back in the early 1800s, tests have shone Ivory Liquid Soap, and Murphy Oil soap to be effective when diluted with water and sprayed on plants. There are also soaps made specifically for pest control on plants.
- Onion, garlic, pepper spray: This is another natural that's been used by organic gardeners to control insects but requires repeated applications.
Tips for Applying Insecticides
- Apply to all surfaces of plant
- Don't apply to wilted plants
- Don't apply during hottest part of the day
- Apply insecticide dusts only if wind is calm and plants dry
- Reapply after rain
- Use proper dosages