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December 16, 2017  |  Login
Picking Your Poison: Natural Pest Control
By Bill Marken & The National Gardening Association
 

Organic pesticides, which we prefer, come from plants, animals, minerals, and microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi. Each of these pesticide groups — and individual products — kills pests in different ways. To get the best result from any product, you have to know as much as you can about the pest you hope to control.

“Organic” doesn’t necessarily mean “nontoxic.” Some commonly accepted organic pesticides are just as toxic, if not more so, than some synthetic chemical pesticides. Organic pesticides are derived from plant, animal, and mineral sources. Synthetic chemical pesticides come from petroleum and other chemical sources. Organic pesticides generally have far fewer health side effects than synthetic pesticides, but not always. For example, nicotine — derived from a plant and used as an organic pesticide — is highly toxic to humans and many other species.

To learn more about the dangers of pesticides (as well as other “-cides”) click here.

Dust To Dust

Insects have a waxy cuticle that covers their bodies, holding in moisture. Dusts work by disrupting the waxy cuticle, which causes the insects to dry out and die. Unfortunately, these dusts harm beneficial insects, too. Although not toxic to humans, use them with caution to avoid harming the innocent “bugstanders.”

  • Diatomaceous earth (DE): DE resembles microscopic shards of broken glass, which pierce the soft bodies of insects, slugs, and snails. DE kills beneficial as well as harmful insects. Some DE products contain non-toxic bait that induces pests to eat the dust, which is also fatal. Apply the dust to damp foliage to control soft-bodied insects or sprinkle on the ground to target slugs, snails, ants, and earwigs. Reapply after a rain.

    Although not toxic to animals, the dust can irritate your lungs — wear a dust mask to avoid breathing the dust. The DE that gardeners use as a pesticide is not the same as the DE used in swimming pool filters; the two kinds aren’t interchangeable.
  • Iron phosphate: This mineral product, when mixed with bait, attracts and kills slugs and snails.
  • Boric acid: For cockroaches, ants, and silverfish, look for boric acid powder. If kept dry, the powder remains effective for years without harming animals, people, or the environment.

Soaps And Other Oily Characters

Insects breathe through pores in the cuticle that surrounds their bodies. If you plug up the pores, the insects suffocate and die. Disrupt the cuticle with special soaps and oils and — poof! — the insects can’t maintain their internal moisture. Soaps and oils kill a wide range of pest insects, but affect beneficial insects, too.

Oils do have several drawbacks. Don’t use them when temperatures are likely to rise above 90°F, when plants are suffering from drought stress, or if you have applied or plan to apply sulfur fungicide within 30 days.  ....read more

 
 

 

 
 
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