What are botanical pesticides?
The pesticides that are derived from plants are called Botanicals (or Botanical Pesticides). They consist of dried, ground plant material or extracts from plants.
When comparing them with synthetic pesticides, botanicals have the advantage of being organic, which means that they decompose without releasing toxins into the soil. For centuries farmers all over the world have been using botanicals for pest control.
14 Recipes of Organic Pesticides You Can Prepare At Home By Using Your Plants
It is possible to prepare your own pesticides. The ingredients are simple and easy to get. For this purpose, I prepared a list with 14 of the most common botanicals (with RECIPES so you can prepare your homemade pesticide!)
1. Hot-pepper: it is used primarily as an insect repellent and its efficacy can last for up to three weeks. The active ingredient is the chemical Capsaicin, which is the one that causes the heat in hot peppers. It has been reported effective also as a deterrent for rabbits and squirrels.
How to make a hot pepper spray: put several hot peppers in a blender (about 7-8), add 2 cups of water. After you mix them, pour the mixture into a jar and let it sit for a day then strain the liquid into a spray bottle. Don’t forget to wear gloves when handling hot peppers!
2. Neem Oil (aka Neem Extract): is extracted from the seeds of the tropical Neem tree, the Azadirachta Indica. You can get two products out of it: the Azadirachtin solution and Neem Oil. Neem extract has an interesting characteristic. The active ingredients do not kill the insects, but the oil prevents them from reproducing and laying eggs. It works very well as a pesticide and fungicide. Neem Oil is effective against aphids, beetles, fungus gnats, and caterpillars. It is also effective against leaf diseases such as black spots, powdery mildew, and rust.
How to make Neem oil spray: mix 4 tsp of Neem oil with 2 tsp of dish soap. Add 1 gallon of warm water and shake well. Spray directly on the plants.
3. Garlic oil: is a great insect deterrent. You can mix it with cayenne pepper and spray it directly on your plants.
How to make garlic spray: Into a bowl mix 1 clove of garlic, 1 medium size onion, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and 1 tablespoon of liquid Castile soap. Add 1 quart of water. Wait an hour and then strain into a bottle. It can be stored for one week in the refrigerator. For best results, use this as a prevention and apply it to the plants before the arrival of pests.I wrote an article just about garlic and its properties. You can read my article here.
4. Citrus oil: its oil coats and suffocate the insects however, it is not as effective as other pesticides. It is harmless and can be used up to the day of harvest. It kills fleas, aphids, mites, fire ants, and house crickets.
How to make citrus oil: mix 1 cup of compost tea with 1 ounce of blackstrap molasses and 2 ounces of orange oil in a gallon of water. Shake vigorously.
Another well known, effective organic pesticide is Orange Guard. The active ingredient is D-Limonene. The product is completely organic, and it is safe to use around pets & kids.
5. Pyrethrins: the source of this pesticide comes from some chrysanthemum flowers. It contains chemicals that are toxic to insects, penetrating their nervous system and causing paralysis. They are commonly used against mosquitoes, ants, fleas, and flies. You can obtain Pyrethrum powder by crushing whole chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrins are used to produce chemicals known as Pyrethroids, which are man-made and are not approved for use in organic farming. In general, pyrethrins are low in toxicity to humans and pets, however, it can cause tingling or numbness when in contact with the skin.
How to make Pyrethrins Spray: pick 3 to 5 Chrysanthemum flowers and soak them in 1 gallon of hot water for about 1 hour. Strain into a spray bottle and add 1 tsp of dish soap. Shake well. Don’t forget to wear gloves during the preparation! Better to use this pesticide in the evenings, when bees and butterflies are not around since it is very toxic to them.
6. Marigold: this plant is a beautiful addition to our garden and will keep aphids, mosquitoes, and other pests away. However, they will attract spider mites and snails as well. Besides being a great companion plant for potatoes, tomatoes, and basil, they are also a powerful pesticide.
How to make Marigold Spray: mix in a blender 10 marigold flowers together with 2 cups of water. Pour the mixture into a jar and let it sit for about two days. Strain into a spray bottle and apply directly to the plants affected.
7. Clove Oil: is scientifically known as Eugenol oil. Clove oil is very effective in weed control, specifically wide-leafed weeds.
How to make clove oil weed spray: mix 10 drops of clove oil into water emptied into a spray bottle.
8. Vegetable Oil Spray: this very efficient pesticide can kill aphids, mites, and thrips by suffocating them. It is very easy to make at home.
How to make vegetable oil spray: mix 1 cup of vegetable oil with 1 tsp of dish or Castile soap. Shake well. Take 2 tsp from that mixture and add 1 quarter of water. Shake well and apply directly to the affected leaves.
9. Tomato Leaf Spray: Tomato plants contain alkaloids such as the “tomatine” which can control aphids and other small insects.
How to make tomato leaf spray: chop 2 cups of tomato leaves, put them into a jar with warm water, and let it sit for a day. Strain out into a spray bottle and apply.
10. Essential oils: Essential oils are becoming more and more popular for the purpose of repelling insects. They are extracted from different plants such as peppermint, rosemary, clove, wintergreen, and cinnamon. You can either use them either directly on the plant itself or pour it on the soil to protect the roots. Most essential oils are safe to be touched and smelled by humans, but you need to make sure they are out of the reach of children and pets.
11. Basil: is a natural insect repellent. Plant it close to tomatoes and squash. He is a great companion plant as well as a powerful insect deterrent. Thanks to its pungent smell it will keep away many types of bugs such as thrips, flies, and mosquitos.
How to make basil pesticide Spray: pour 1 cup of fresh basil, 1 tsp of dish soap, and 4 cups of water. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Let it sit for about 3 hours, then apply directly to the affected plant. It kills aphids.
12. Tobacco Bio-Oil: this is a powerful pesticide, due to tobacco’s content of toxic nicotine. For centuries tobacco farmers used to heat tobacco leaves in order to produce what is known as a bio-oil. This powerful substance is very effective against 11 different types of fungi, bacteria, and the Colorado potato beetle. Using tobacco as a pesticide could become a valid alternative for tobacco farmers whose livelihood has been damaged by the worldwide growing health concerns over tobacco.
13. Siam weed: Siam weed (Chromolaena Odorata) is considered one of the world’s most invasive weeds. However, it is also a very powerful pesticide, working very well especially against cabbage pests.
15. Moringa Oleifera: The Moringa tree is cultivated in tropical and subtropical parts of the world. The extract is obtained from Moringa leaves and seeds. This pesticide is said to inhibit the insect’s digestive tract which compromises their development.
Are Pesticidal Plants Dangerous For Humans?
Even though they have an organic nature, botanicals should be used with caution since they could be toxic. They are not necessarily safer for humans and pets. In many cases they can cause allergies, rashes, and in some cases carcinogens. Also, it’s good to know that most botanicals have a wide spectrum efficacy and often can kill both good and bad bugs, indiscriminately. When using any botanical pesticides in the garden, do it always with caution.
Are Pesticidal Plants Any Good?
Since the creation of the universe the threat of pests has been challenging farmers all over the world. The ancient man used different methods to control the damages caused by rodents, parasitic worms, pathogens, and snails. One of these methods was the application of organic substances to protect the crops.
As a matter of fact, botanicals were likely the first pesticides.
With a few exceptions, organic pesticides fell out of favor when synthetic pesticides hit the marketplace in the 1940sWe have seen the rise of chemicals such as DDT and derivatives that caused serious pollution to the environment and health hazards to humans. Luckily, DDT was banned in 2004 and natural pesticides are being reconsidered as safe alternatives. For those who are asking themselves if plants can be used as pesticides, the answer is yes!
In some cases they have proven to be more effective than conventional insecticides, which in time can raise a resistance in insects. Nevertheless, the final results by using botanicals can vary. Since they are usually homemade, the concentration levels may vary and can be influenced by other factors such as the weather.
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