A Pesticide Primer
by Ruth S. Foster
There are many ways to control insects. When pesticides are needed, one should always start with the safest thing and use it only on the target insect. Don't blanket the world, your yard and yourself with chemicals that you don't need. The current theory is to only zap those insects that are really causing problems, but leave the others alone.
Some of the different pesticides you can try are listed here starting with the safest ones.
Most of the safer control methods have to be reapplied weekly or when the insects reappear. Always follow the directions carefully. Keep them in their original containers and out of the reach of children.
Soap Spray Use horticultural soap ( fatty acid salts) or make a solution of one teaspoon of dishwashing soap in a gallon of water. (Ivory or Dawn are the mildest ones.) Useful for sucking insects. Smothers them but you have to hit them directly. Watch out it doesn't injure tender new growth. Safe for fruits and vegetables.
Baking Soda (Also called BICARBONATE OF SODA) Add l tablespoon of Baking Soda to a gallon of water for control of some fungus diseases. Use the baking soda on 2 days successively, first day doesn't penetrate the spores.
Pyrethrum Made from an African chrysanthemum, zaps sucking insects. Don't use with soap. It's non toxic to humans but may cause allergies and nasal congestion. Synthetic pyrethroids are similar but work better.
Rotenone Made from derris root, zaps tough chewing insects and is often combined with pyrethrum for better control. Best to hit the critters directly. Non toxic to humans (except occasional eye or skin irritation) and fortunately doesn't seem to harm honeybees. Poisonous to fish.
A Stream of Water Used often, actually will knock off many insects. It's good for mites, aphids, some small insects.
Summer Horticultural Oil This is an improved version of an old remedy for scale, mites, other sucking insects plus it's a fungicide. Follow the directions carefully and don't breathe it in yourself.
Sabadilla This dust is safe for most humans (except for some irritated noses and sneezing bouts) but it's bad for honeybees. However, it does kill some hard to control adult insects. To protect bees, use on non-flowering plants and apply at dusk, after sunset.
NEEM Insecticides Come from the neem tree of India and are much less toxic than synthetic chemicals. There are many trade names, among them BioNEEM, Azatin, Azadirachtin or Margosan-O. Acts as a repellent and an insect growth regulator. Worth a try to keep Japanese beetles from eating leaves.
Bacillus Thuringiensis (called BT) Kills small caterpillars and grubs. Is harmless to people, animals, birds or good bugs. There are different varieties for each insect, as well as a long lasting solid BT for mosquito larvae. (Trade name MOSQUITO DUNKS. If you can't find these, write to Summit Chemical, 7657 Canton Center Dr., Baltimore, Md, 21224 for a retail outlet near you.)
Merit (also called Grubex) This is an insect hormone that keeps bugs from developing. Useful for grubs in the grass and many different, hard to control pests like leaf miners and small leaf eating caterpillars.
More Toxic Options
If these don't work there are more toxic pesticides for insects that survive the above. The safest of these are:
Diazinon will kill many different bugs.
Malathion though maligned, is one of the safer, shorter lasting chemicals, but is not a great deal better than pyrethrum plus rotenone.
Carbaryl ( trade name Sevin) is for tough chewing bugs. Kills bees. Use only at night when the bees are in their hives.
Conserve SC a naturally occurring organism ( a spinosyn) that attacks many pests, among them, caterpillars, gypsy moth larvae, bagworms, cutworms, sod webworms, armyworms, leaf miners and thrips.
Cruiser A nematode (a teeny soil worm) that kills grubs.
MACH 2 An insect hormone that confuses the molting of insects. For lawn grub control and other larvae.
Synthetic Pyrethroid Manmade chemicals that mimic natural safe pyrethrum but are stronger. Some trade names are Scimitar, Mavrik, Astro, Talstar and Tempo. Pyrethroids can be used for lawn grubs and on vegetables too, but read the label for necessary precautions.
For More Information A National Pesticide Hotline!
National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (NPTN) which is open to the public, is staffed by qualified pesticide specialists in toxicology and environmental chemistry. For information, they use EPA documents, USDepartment of Agriculture publications, scientific literature and a pesticide product database. They will direct people to local resources for products. Tel: l-800- 858-7378, Fax: 541-737-0761, Website: www.ace.orst.edu/info/nptn/