Organic Pest Controls

There is a virtual arsenal of natural and organic pesticides available now and more are being developed every year. A few have been available for 50 years or more.

One of my favorite natural pesticides is Neem oil, which is an extract from the Neem tree which grows in India. It repels most common insect pests such as aphids, mites, thrips, cabbage worm, caterpillars, mealybugs, beetles and leafminers. Neem oil is also a very good fungicide for leaf disease control. It will control both the mildew and aphids on your roses. Since Neem oil is harmless to humans and pets, it is also safe to use on vegetables.

Spinosad is a natural pesticide available for only the last few years. Spinosad is a compound found in a bacterial species: Saccharopolyspora spinosa. It kills insects by disrupting their nervous system. It is widely available in a number of formulations. One formulation called Sluggo is effective on slugs, snails, earwigs, cutworms, sowbugs and pillbugs.

Rotenone and Methoxychlor are two older insecticides which are natural plant derivatives. They are found in many different brands of natural insecticides.

Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. The fine powder absorbs lipids from the waxy outer layer of insects’ exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. It is very effective on maggots in root and cabbage family crops if applied in the soil on top of seed or on the roots of transplanted plants. It has been available for at least 150 years.

Insect predators (parasitoids) such as lady bugs and lace wings can be purchased and released. Newer parasitoids include wasps, mites and midges.

Insecticidal soap has been widely used for years to wash pests such as aphids and mites off of plant leaves. Once on the ground they cannot find their way back onto plants.

Various plant oils such as citrus, pepper, jojoba, canola, soybean and mustard are used to repel insects. Highly refined petroleum oils are used to smother insects by clogging their breathing pores. These horticultural oils have been widely used as dormant season sprays to kill overwintering insect pupae and eggs. They can also be used during the growing season when temperatures are below 80 degrees.

Bacillus thuringensis, sold as Dipel and Thuricide, has been used for years to infect various caterpillars (worms) with a bacterial disease.

Cease is a contact biological fungicide that contains a strain of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. It controls common fungal diseases such as Botrytis, Powdery Mildew, Anthracnose and several leaf spot diseases. It also controls bacterial diseases as well as soil diseases.

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