When homeowners are faced with a pest infestation, it’s usually takes seconds before they reach for the nearest lethal product to use against them. But chemical insecticides have some disadvantages. Not only do they pose a risk to air quality, they can leave lasting damage and dangers in accidental consumption by pets or children.
To reduce the harmful side effects of conventional pesticides, homeowners are now opting for natural insecticides instead, believing oils and plants are just as effective as synthetic components. But is this accurate?
For the most part, natural insecticides do work, but they are not as harmless as most people think. In fact, they can be just as toxic as chemically-based pesticides found in stores. For example, nicotine has been found to combat aphids, thrips, and mites, but we all know how it affects humans when it is respired.
To help you determine whether natural insecticides are worth using, read below before making a decision:
More about Natural Insecticides
Natural insecticides are unique for their botanical and plant bases. Because of the wide variety of plants that can be used, they vary in potency as well as the pests they target, length of use, type of soil it is best applied on, and toxicity (yes, even natural insecticides contain minor levels of toxins
Most natural insecticides come in soaps, oils, inorganic, and biological. Inorganic insecticides use minerals like clay and sulfur to actively kill pests; biological insecticides use bacteria like nematodes and milky spores which feed on soil-inhabiting pests like grubs.
Common Natural Insecticides
- Neem. Neem is derived from the neem tree, which grows mostly in the tropics. It is toxic to many pests and contains active chemicals that repel mites and disturb insect feeding patterns. It is primarily produced in oil form that is dropped or spread onto plant leave. As it has only recently registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, cold-pressed neem oil has only been approved for outdoor use.
- Ryania. Also known as ryanodine or ryanicide, ryania is a botanical insecticides made from the stems of a South American plant. It acts as a stomach poison to insects, and has low to moderate toxicity in mammals.
- Pyrethrum. Composed of pyrethrins, another natural form of pesticide, pyrethrum poisons pests as it gets absorbed into the skin and reaches the nervous system. It is produced from the chrysanthemum flower and is meant to paralyze pests. It also has a low toxicity to mammals, making it safe to use around pets.
- Sabadilla. Extracted from the sabadilla lily, the active ingredient veratrine is among the least toxic of botanical insecticides. However, that does not stop it from being an eye irritant and is not free of other precautions in its application. Sabadilla is effective against caterpillars, thrips, and stink bugs.
- Bacillus thuringiensis. Also labeled as Bt, this naturally occurring bacteria is highly effective against caterpillars, flies, mosquitoes, and beetles. It works by paralyzing the digestive tract of pests, stopping them from feeding and eventually starving them out.
Is it Worth It?
Because natural insecticides are conscious of using materials that are organic or found in nature, it makes them an option worth considering if you’re searching for ways to combat pests through natural means.
At the same time, it would be mistaken to think that natural insecticides are “better” or safer than normal pesticides. All insecticides are toxic to some degree, which is why it’s important that homeowners know how to use them properly by following the directions outlined, whether it’s a product label or a formula created by a reputable source.
Natural insecticides can also be implemented in Integrated Pest Management. Providing a much more sustainable approach to pest control, IPM involves steps like sowing plants that naturally repel pests and using other pests as predators to manage pests over an extended period of time.
By using natural insecticides, you’ll be able to get rid of pests almost just as quickly without using harsh chemicals that could damage plants and indoor air quality. If you have further reservations about using natural insecticides, consult with a professional pest company that can provide you with additional information.