For centuries, farmers relied on natural insecticides as a means to control pest infestation. However, synthetic insecticides began to be developed in the 1930s and in 1940s, DDT was introduced. Farmers began using many of these synthetic insecticides as an easier way to ensure bumper crops for commercial produce.
In light of various studies throughout the years scientists have found that many commercially produced insecticides have been hazardous to human health. In fact, some older insecticides were so toxic, such as DDT, that they are no longer used for food related pest control in the U.S. Exposure to synthetic insecticides have been linked to various forms of cancer and birth defects in both humans and wildlife.
About Natural Insecticides
This has given rise to a growing interest in more natural ways to control insect infestation in gardens and on farms. But, what are natural insecticides? In general, natural insecticides are a derivative of plants that have been known to repel or kill insects. Often, many of these natural insecticide plants can be grown in your own garden and are a lovely addition to the landscape.
Common Insecticide Plants Used for Pest Control
One of the most commonly known and most widely used insecticide is made from a plant that resembles a Daisy.
Pyrethrum, which is of the genus chrysanthemum family, is one of the most commonly used natural insecticides. One of the drawbacks of using this plant for natural pest control is that it kills all insects, the good insects as well as the bad.
It’s often spread in dust form or as an emulsion, and one should take precautions by wearing a breathing mask if dusting it around your yard or in the garden, because it could cause respiratory irritation.
Another natural insecticide is rotenone, is derived by extraction from the roots and stems of a variety of tropical and subtropical plants such as Florida fishpoison tree, often called Jamaica dogwood, which is found in Florida.
Other plants such as Hoary pea, and Jícama are found in North America.
Many other plants that contain rotenone are found in southern Africa, South America and Asia. Rotenone is normally applied as a pest control spray for fruits and row crops. It is lethal to aphids, cockroaches, houseflies, and mosquitoes.
In small doses, it is not harmful to humans, however, it was originally used in South America to stun fish and make them flow to the surface of a stream or pool. Considering that there are other natural insecticide alternatives, it may be wise to avoid this form of natural insecticide as it could potentially runoff into area water supplies. It is, however, rapidly biodegrades under warm conditions, so harmful residues are considered minimal. It is classified as moderately hazardous by the World Health Organization.
Natural Insecticide Issues
The problem with any insecticide is that the majority of them are broad based and will kill the good with the bad. Often some of the best natural defenses come from the good insects and some of these broad based natural insecticides cannot distinguish between the two.
Obviously, using natural insecticides takes a bit more diligence and planning as compared to using synthetic insecticides when trying to control insects within your yard and garden. Natural insecticides do have their limitations such as easily being washed away after rain. Some also lose their potency in direct summer heat and will need to be reapplied more frequently than synthetic insecticides.
Natural Insecticides: A Better Choice
You might have to try several different types or combinations of natural insecticides to find what will be most effective for your needs. However, the health and environmental rewards outweigh the instant gratification offered by toxic synthetic insecticides. It is very much worth the effort to use natural insecticides as a means of insect control for your organic garden.