Top Organic Pest Control Products

Learn about organic pest control products when cultural controls cannot keep garden pests at bay.

| February/March 2006

  • Cabbageworms can be treated with “Bacillus thuringiensis,” also known as Bt.
  • Aphids can be treated with insecticidal soap, such as Safer Insect Killing Soap, which breaks down the pests’ protective cuticles so they quickly become dehydrated.
  • Scale can be treated with light horticultural oils, such as Concern Pesticide Spray Oil (plant-based) or SeaCide (fish-based).
  • Products based on extracts from neem trees, such as Safer 3 in 1 Garden Spray and Green Light Neem Concentrate can help eradicate squash bugs.
  • Products based on spinosad, such as Monterey Garden Insect Spray and Conserve, are made from naturally occurring bacteria found in some Caribbean soils and can help treat bean beetles.
  • Spinosad causes susceptible insects, such as bean beetles, to have convulsions until they die of exhaustion.
  • Flea beetles can be treated with Pyrethrum, which causes immediate paralysis in many pest insects, and it will do the same to beneficial insects.
  • The sharp edges of diatomaceous earth cut into insects’ bodies, causing them to die of dehydration. In the first few days after their habitat is treated, cockroaches may become more visible as they desperately search for water, but will die within two weeks.

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all organic remedy for destructive insects. Instead, you should tailor your plan of attack to the pest itself, while also considering potential risks to beneficial insects and other wildlife. Or, you can choose to do nothing at all. In the vegetable garden, light insect feeding causes little or no loss of productivity, and having a few pest species present helps to support populations of beneficial insects. The pests below are grouped according to control measures that are known to work well.

Top Organic Pest Control Products

Cabbageworms, mosquito larvae, army worms, tomato hornworms and other leaf-eating caterpillars

Organic Pest Control Products: Products made from naturally occurring Bacillus thuringiensis, often abbreviated as Bt, such as Dipel Dust and Gnatrol. After the insects eat the bacteria, their guts rupture and they die. It’s important to note that sunlight degrades Bt after a few hours. Some Bt products include genetically modified strains; products listed by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) include only naturally occurring forms.

Aphids (except green peach aphid), mealybugs

Organic Pest Control Products: Insecticidal soap, such as Safer Insect Killing Soap, which breaks down the pests’ protective cuticles so they quickly become dehydrated. Repeat applications may be needed, and leaf tissues of some plants may be damaged, especially in very hot weather.

Mites, scale

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