Controlling Insects Organically - Page 2
Diatomaceous earth is another natural insecticide that may be used on a variety of insects. Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder that feels like talc, but it is actually the fossilized skeletal remains of small aquatic critters called diatoms. It is completely harmless to people and pets, but when soft-bodied insects come in contact with it, the tiny sharp edges of the diatoms lacerate the insects, making them dehydrate and perish. Apply diatomaceous earth in the early morning or evening when the plants are wet with dew, which will make the powder stick to the surface of the leaves and doom the insects that walk through it. Diatomaceous earth can be used to control ants, aphids, beetle grubs, box-elder bugs, flea beetles, those nasty little earwigs and many more insects. It’s also safe to use on houseplants, and can even be sprinkled on the ground to control slugs.
Insecticidal soap is another favorite organic insect control. Safe to use around bees, birds, and animals, insecticidal soap is made of fatty acid salts. It can be used in the garden and on houseplants to control aphids, spider mites, whiteflies and some leafhoppers and caterpillars. The drawback to insecticidal soap is that it must be sprayed directly onto the offending insects to be effective. Insects breathe through their shells, and insecticidal soap suffocates insects by coating their shells so they cannot breathe. Insecticidal soap must be applied thoroughly and repeatedly for the best results.
There are also plant-based insecticides available. The seeds of the Neem tree produce an oil that disrupts insects’ reproductive cycle, preventing them from multiplying. The Neem tree is native to Southeast Asia and is also grown now in Australia for its insecticidal properties. Neem works quickly and is effective against a variety of caterpillars, beetles, aphids and borers.
Many insects are actually fussy eaters and they won’t eat plants that are distasteful to them. If you’ve grown garlic you may have noticed that insects leave it alone. You can find insect repellants made with garlic that can be sprayed onto plants to prevent insects from eating them. These garlic-based insect repellents become odorless within five minutes after they’re applied and leave no aftertaste on food crops. The plants actually absorb the garlic and stay distasteful to insects for up to a month. There are also garden insect repellants available that are made with hot peppers. Like the garlic-based repellants, the hot pepper repellants are sprayed on the plants to make them distasteful to insects.
Organic insecticides and insect repellants are becoming available at more garden centers and gardening catalogs every year. It is not difficult to control insects with organic insecticides, but the organic gardener must be diligent with frequent plant inspections and take prompt action to avoid infestations when insect damage is found in the garden.