Insecticides Garden

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					                       Organic Gardening–Natural                                                                                    IC O

                       Insecticides                                                                                        M

                                                                                                                    N EW

                       Guide H-150

                                                                                                                                           T   ®
                                                                                                                                E RSI
                       L.M. English
                       Extension Entomologist
                        Cooperative Extension Service • College of Agriculture and Home Economics

                                                                           This publication is scheduled to be updated and reissued 7/10.

Despite our best efforts, nonchemical methods some-                 Sabadilla–Botanical insecticide. Sabadilla is obtained
times fail to prevent excessive insect damage in the            from the seeds of a lily-like plant and acts as both a con-
garden. At such times, the use of insecticides may be           tact and stomach poison for insects. It is not particularly
the only alternative left to save the crop. When damage         toxic to mammals, but it does cause irritation of the
becomes great enough to warrant emergency measures,             eyes and respiratory tract. A mask should be worn when
organic gardeners often will want to use natural insecti-       working with this insecticide. This material deteriorates
cides and various homemade botanical sprays, instead of         rapidly when exposed to light and can be used safely on
synthetic organic chemicals.                                    food crops shortly before harvest. Generally Sabadilla is
   The insecticide used should have low toxicity to man         used as a 5 to 20% dust or as a spray.
and to other warm-blooded animals. Insecticides should              Rotenone–Botanical insecticide. Rotenone is ex-
be used only when needed and in strict accordance with          tracted from the roots of derris plants in Asia and cube
label directions. A good understanding of insecticides al-      plants in South America. This general garden insecticide
lows these materials to be used effectively without harm-       is harmless to plants, highly toxic to fish and many
ing you or the environment.                                     insects, moderately toxic to mammals, and leaves no
   The following information may help New Mexico gar-           harmful residue on vegetable crops. It acts as both a
deners select a natural insecticide for their specific needs:    contact and stomach poison to insects. It is slow acting
   Pyrethrum–Botanical insecticide. This slightly toxic         and, in the presence of sun and air, its effectiveness is
insecticide is derived from the flowers of a species of          lost within a week after application. Wear a mask during
chrysanthemum imported mainly from Kenya and                    application because rotenone can irritate the respiratory
Ecuador. The material causes rapid paralysis of most            tract. Rotenone dusts and sprays have been used for
insects, but the insects usually recover unless the py-         years to control aphids, certain beetles and caterpillars
rethrum is combined with a synergist or other poison.           on plants, as well as fleas and lice on animals.
Pyrethrum mixed with synergists such as piperonyl                   Neem–Botanical insecticide. Neem oil is an extract
butoxide or piperonyl cyclonene increases toxicity and          from the Neem tree, Azadirachta indica (Meliaceae).
produces longer, residual action, and is used extensively       The neem tree is native to Southeast Asia and grows
in space sprays, household sprays, crop sprays and dusts.       in many countries throughout the world. It is a close
This chemical is registered for use on most vegetables          relative to the common Chinaberry tree. This tree
and fruits at any time during the growing season.               propagates readily from cuttings, stumps, tissue culture
   Nicotine–Botanical insecticide. Pure nicotine is a           or seeds. It is widely used as a shade tree in many areas
tobacco extract highly toxic to warm-blooded animals.           because it tolerates a wide range of conditions. The
The insecticide usually is marketed as a 40% liquid             neem tree has many medicinal uses. It has been used as
concentrate of nicotine sulfate, which is diluted in water      an antiseptic and diuretic. It has been used to cure dis-
and applied as a spray. Dusts can irritate the skin and are     ease from diabetes to syphilis, and widely relied upon by
not normally available for garden use. Nicotine is used         herbalists in its native habitat. The uses of the neem tree
primarily for piercing-sucking insects such as aphids,          as a source of natural insecticides was discovered over
whiteflies, leafhoppers and thrips. Nicotine is more ef-         40 years ago.
fective when applied during warm weather. It degrades               The seeds of the neem tree contain the highest
quickly, so it can be used on many food plants nearing          concentration of azadirachtin and other biologically
harvest. It is registered for use on a wide range of veg-       active compounds. Because they contain the highest
etable and fruit crops.                                         concentration of these compounds, most experimental
                                                                and commercial preparations of neem are seed extracts.

To find more resources for your business, home or family, visit the College of Agriculture and Home Economics on the
World Wide Web at
Some of the commercial insecticides registered by EPA          • Apply insecticides to all plants surfaces so an insect
are: Turplex, Neemguard, Margosan-0, Wellgro, Repe-                anywhere on the plant will be exposed to a lethal
lin, Neemis, NeemazaL and Neemark.                                 amount of the chemical. Do not apply insecticides
    These products generally are well known for their an-          to wilted plants or during the hottest part of the day.
tifeedant activity. The Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies          Apply dusts only when the wind is calm and plants
and their larvae) are the most affected order of insects.          are dry. Sprays should be applied when the wind is
These compounds also act as growth regulators, which               no more than 5 to 10 miles per hour. Repeated treat-
causes some larvae to remain in a permanent larval stage.          ment may be necessary after a rain.
    Registered pesticide labels may vary, and you should       •   Apply insecticides only at recommended dosages.
carefully study the label before use.                              Increased amounts can be dangerous, cause plant
                                                                   damage and leave harmful residues without improv-
Other Pesticides                                                   ing insect control.
Gardeners have been using soap to control insects since
                                                               •   The length of effective control with insecticides varies
the early 1800s. During the first half of the 19th century,
                                                                   widely. The longevity of toxic properties varies pri-
whale oil soap and, more commonly, fish oil soaps were
                                                                   marily with the product, formulation, water, pH and
an important part of insect control. Recent tests indicate
                                                                   environmental conditions. Temperature, humidity,
Ivory Liquid dishwashing detergent, when diluted with
                                                                   wind and sunlight affect insecticides. The greater the
water to a 1 to 2% solution, provides the most consistent
                                                                   extremes, the sooner the insecticides are detoxified.
control and is easy to mix. There are also soaps avail-
able that are specifically formulated to control insects on     •   The time interval required by the Environmental
plants. Thorough coverage of the plant and repeated ap-            Protection Agency between treating a crop and har-
plications may be necessary to bring insect populations            vesting that crop varies with the insecticide and the
under control. High rates of soaps and detergents may              crop. This information is printed on the pesticide
damage some varieties of plants. The most effective soaps          label to ensure that any residues will be within estab-
have carbon chains of C-12 or C-18. Laurate (C-12) is              lished tolerances at harvest time.
the main component of most dishwashing liquids and             •   Always read and follow mixing and application in-
various other products in common usage. The richest                structions on the insecticide label for safe and effec-
natural source of this is coconut oil.                             tive insect control.
   Organic gardeners have been using a spray mixture           •   Some synthetic organic materials are actually less tox-
of onions, garlic and pepper to control insects for many           ic and more efficient than some natural insecticides.
years. Recent scientific research indicates using this mix-         Because a material is a natural pesticide, it does not
ture has been erratic and, in many cases, ineffective for          necessarily follow that it is not toxic to man or harm-
insect control. Sprays of food-derived substances may              ful to the environment if used improperly.
have no or sporadic success.
   Spraying several times a week may help to bring                In most situations it is helpful to use several control
infestations under control. Expecting control with             techniques to reduce insect pest populations to low
one application is unrealistic.                                enough levels that insecticides are not required, or are
                                                               needed only sparingly. With reduced insecticide use,
Safe Use of Pesticides                                         biological control agents can become more effective, in-
When it is necessary to use insecticides to protect the        secticide costs will be saved, and you will have the satis-
garden, use them wisely and safely. The following tips         faction of knowing that few, if any, poisons were applied
will help you make better use of insecticides.                 to edible crops.
• Inspect the entire garden at least weekly to monitor
   insect numbers and activity. Pay particular atten-
   tion to underside of leaves where mites, whiteflies,
                                                                   The information given herein is supplied with the
   aphids and insect eggs occur. If treatments are applied
                                                                   understanding that no discrimination is intended
   when an infestation first starts, insect numbers can
                                                                   and no endorsement by the New Mexico Cooperative
   be maintained at lower levels much more easily, and
                                                                   Extension Service is implied.
   with smaller amounts of chemicals.

New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department
of Agriculture cooperating.
Revised July 2005                                                                                       Las Cruces, NM
                                                  Guide H-150 • Page 2