All of us have dealt with some sort of critter, varmint, beastie, or #$*%@#% as I sometimes have called them. I am referring to insects that attack our gardens. There is nothing more frustrating than putting in all the labor involved in making a perfect indoor garden and then having some little critters come in and lay waste to all of our efforts! How these little #$%$@ know to attack our best & most prized plants I will never know. In my time I have battled and waged all out WAR on several different destructive insects. Sometimes I am the winner and sometimes not. So what are we to do?
My suggestion today is accept the things we can not change, change the things we can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. Wait…why does that sound familiar? The point is that it can be very difficult to eradicate an insect population, however like in a natural ecosystem we can establish a balance where an “acceptable” level of insects are left in our garden and an ongoing treatment regime is utilized. To maintain this balance we will use beneficial insects, and organic or non-toxic pesticides (as needed.) This approach has gained a lot of support as of late, and is better known as IPM or Integrated Pest Management. IPM is an approach that combines a wide array of crop production practices with careful monitoring of pests and their natural enemies. IPM practices include use of resistant plant varieties, biological controls (such as beneficial insects), and judicious use of pesticides. IPM systems anticipate and prevent pests from reaching economically damaging levels.
Next blog I will discuss beneficial insects, today I would like to talk about my favorite organic insecticides. The first group of insecticides we will call sufficants include the following products: Neem Oil, Organocide, Einstein Oil, Safer Insect Killing Soap, etc. These are oils and soaps that work by covering the exoskeleton of insects which they breathe through and literally suffocating them to death. This type of insecticide is an effective method for spot treating of insects that are slow moving. However, it is less effective on fast moving insects, flying insects, and egg or larval stages of most pests.
The second class of insecticides is the knock down type. This group works by impairing the central nervous systems of most types of flying and crawling insects, blocking nerve junctions so that nervous impulses fail, and the insect dies. The most common active ingredient in this type of insecticide is derived from the chrysanthemum plant and is called Pyrethrum. It can be found in products under the names: Doktor Doom Spider Mite Knock Out, Pyrethrum TR, Don’t Bug Me, or Safer Houseplant Insect Killer. Beware of the synthetic or manmade Pyrethroids which are not organic. Pyrethrum is highly effective on most pests but is only effective if it comes in direct contact with the pests. It is short lived as it deteriorates in the presence of light within 12 hours.
Now my personal favorite Azamax, this insecticide is derived from the Neem plant but is not a sufficant. It was discovered that plants treated with Neem oil seemed to show some future resistance to insect attacks. Research found that there is a compound in Neem oil called Azadirachtin which was responsible for this insect resistance. Azamax is essentially Neem oil distilled down to get a much, much higher concentration of Azadirachtin. Azamax has 3 modes of action to control insects. First it prevents insects from feeding on the treated plant surfaces resulting in damage prevention. Second it reduces the hatchability of insect eggs resulting in population reduction. Finally it interferes with insect reproduction resulting in reduction of egg-laying. All of these combine to drastically weaken, and over time destroy populations of harmful insects. One of the best things about Azamax is it is systemic meaning absorbed into the plant’s tissue so you do not actually have to contact the insect with it. It is also proven that Azamax’s effect of weakening insects makes other insecticides much more successful because the insects in question are already weak and thus more susceptible to insecticides such as Pyrethrum. Azamax is most effective if it is used before an insect attack and reapplied on a regular basis. Azamax is also not harmful to beneficial insects or bees.
Remember it is better to prevent an insect attack than to have one, but they will eventually find your garden. Integrated Pest Management will allow you to control the damage caused by pests and not devote all your time to pest control.
– Doctor Dave