Make Organic Pyrethrum Spray at Home for Organic Pest Control

Organic pyrethrum spray paralyzes insects that come into contact with it and is the strongest insecticide allowed under National Organic Standards guidelines. Learn how to make, apply and store this potent organic pesticide.
By Barbara Pleasant
April 25, 2013
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Pyrethrum is made from the dried flowers of a little white daisy classified as “Tanacetum cinerariifolium.”
Photo Courtesy EverGreen


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This article is part of our Organic Pest Control Series, which includes articles on attracting beneficial insects, controlling specific garden pests, and using organic pesticides.

What Is Pyrethrum?

One of the oldest pesticides known, pyrethrum is also the strongest insecticide allowed under National Organic Standards guidelines. Made from the dried flowers of a little white daisy now classified as Tanacetum cinerariifolium, pyrethrum insecticides are known for their fast knock-down of unwanted insects. Insects typically become paralyzed as soon as they come into contact with pyrethrum, so it’s often used in wasp sprays. Pyrethrum use in the garden should be undertaken with care and only after cultural methods that might manage a pest have been exhausted. Pyrethrum insecticides are highly toxic to bees, wasps and other beneficial insects, as well as to fish.   

Which Pests Does Pyrethrum Control?

Aphids, armyworms, cucumber beetles, cutworms, squash bugs, whiteflies, leafhoppers, thrips and Colorado potato beetles are often brought under control with pyrethrum. Pests that cannot be reached with the spray — for example, corn earworms or leaf miners — should not be treated with pyrethrum products. Additionally, very challenging pests such as cucumber beetles and squash bugs are best managed by excluding them with row covers, with pyrethrum used as a late-season remedy should pests get out of control.    

How to Use Pyrethrum

Pyrethrum degrades quickly in sunlight, but precautions still should be taken to protect beneficial insects from exposure. When using pyrethrum to control insects that take flight, such as cucumber beetles, apply pyrethrum early in the morning and then cover the treated plants with row cover or an old sheet to exclude bees and other beneficials for 24 hours. To put a damper on squash bug populations, spray plants as soon as the first nymphs are seen, and again one week later.

Do not use pyrethrum in situations where lady beetles, honeybees and other beneficials are active. Used carelessly, pyrethrum can wipe out these and other beneficial insects. 

Home production of pyrethrum pesticides is practical for the resourceful homesteader. Native to current-day Yugoslavia, the Dalmation daisy is a cousin of feverfew, which it closely resembles. Hardy to Zone 6, the plants grow as short-lived perennials and often reseed in hospitable spots. If the dried flowers are soaked in warm water for three hours, the resulting spray is highly toxic to insects for about 12 hours. People who are allergic to other members of the Aster family may react badly to this daisy’s pollen.

Purchased pyrethrum products require less handling and therefore may be safer to use. Look for the OMRI label when choosing a pyrethrum insecticide, because non-listed products often contain piperonyl butoxide, which is considered a possible human carcinogen. Organic pyrethrum products often contain oils or soaps to enhance their effectiveness.

How to Store Pyrethrum

Mix only as much concentrate or infusion as you will need. If not used within one day, place the container in the sun for a few hours and dispose of unused solution by pouring it out in the sun. Sunlight rapidly degrades pyrethrum, and the half-life of pyrethrum in soil is only one to two hours. Store pyrethrum products in their original containers on a high shelf, out of the reach of children and pets, in a dark place at cool room temperatures. Under good storage conditions, the shelf life of pyrethrum is about 1 year. Dried pyrethrum daisies can be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for at least six months.

More information on pyrethrum is available from Cornell University.


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Post a comment below.

 

aphidwars
2/2/2014 5:39:36 PM
Mark Fulop 201-925-3470 city_commercial@hotmail.com

aphidwars
2/2/2014 5:38:04 PM
My name is Mark and I am Commercial Mortgage broker living in northern NJ. I have a green house attached to the back of my house with a ebb and flow hydroponic system with 128 3.75 inch baskets. Two 600 watt lights. Currently I am growing about 50 strawberries and 12 tomatoes. Also a few watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumber, Brussels sprouts, lemon tree, grape tree,and pineapple tree. I just went through 1500 lady bugs that ended up dying in a week. Hopefully they will send me a new batch. I have a mite problem that seems under contro.Just from rubbing each leaf with water and breaking the webs with my fingers. It seems to have worked because the plants are not turning brown and starting to look better. The aphid problem is still an issue. Its harder to find a cluster of them on the plants but they still are there. I have killed a lot of them simply breaking off the leaves that they sit on or squeezing them into the leaf. It seems to be a losing battle because today I noticed some of the leaves ona few tomato plants are curling over. My biggest fear is that when the strawberries and tomatoes create flowers the bugs will be there to eat the flowers. Therefore stopping the plants from bearing fruit. I think that's why my cucumbers are all messed up and wilting. Its because I have an aphid problem. We have green ones and pink ones. Mites that create webs across the leaves on a strawberry plant. What about? Pyrethrum? Insecticidal soup or horticultural oil? 1% ceylon cinnamon leaf oil mixed with 99% water Email or call I appreciate any feed back? Do you think this is the reason why I have no plants that have created any fruit.

sivi.sokol.39
5/17/2013 6:31:31 PM

Sorry, Mrs Pleasant, but you'll have to change something in your article. Dalmatia, where Dalmatian daisy grows is part of Croatia. Yugoslavia doesn't exist any more.

 

Greetings from Zagreb, Croatia

 

Darko Babić


NortheasternExt
5/9/2013 6:23:58 PM

Hello, my name is joseph molluso and i own a pest control company so maybe i can shed some light on this article. Although it is a great idea for people to apply their own pesticides in their gardens they should really do so with caution. Certain types of fruits or vegatables have permiable skin and allow pesticides absorobtion into the fruit. Ingesting these insecticides can lead to many symptoms. Always hire a licensed pest control preofessional. We go through rigerous testing and we have many years of knowledge of applying pesticides and insecticides. If your choice to to go green, there are also many options for you to go  "green" if you would like. If you have any questions about pest control methods or need any advice for the above information you can contact me through my site at http://www.bedbugs-brooklyn.com and click the contact us link and ask me any questions you may have. When i get around to it i will try to reply to your questions. Again, please be safe around anything labeled a pesticide or insecticide, even if listed safe

Thanks

Joe









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