Natural Pesticides

- Natural substances that control pests -

Summary: Nowadays there are many so-called natural pesticides available to homeowners and gardeners that cover most pest control needs. Natural pesticides are generally much safer to use and pose less risk to the environment than conventional synthetic (man-made) pesticides. Natural pesticides include plant essential oils, mineral dusts, and a variety of compounds that plants and other organisms make to defend themselves against insects.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Pesticides from "nature" 

A pesticide is a substance that disrupts or kills organisms that we consider to be pests such as weeds, damaging insects, or microbes that cause disease. Natural pesticides are pesticides that are made by other organisms usually for their own defense, or are derived from a natural source such as a mineral or plant.

Most people believe that natural pesticides are always safer and more eco-friendly than man-made pesticides and while this is mostly true it is not always so. For example, nicotine is a natural pesticide in tobacco leaves, and the highly addictive component of cigarette smoke, but is in fact much more toxic than most modern synthetic pesticides. So, be a little skeptical if you see the claim that "natural = safe". However, that said ...

plants make their own natural pesticides

Plants produce many natural pesticides that they use for their own defense against insects and disease organisms. Photo by E.A. DeAngelis.

While some natural pesticides are highly toxic most are actually much safer and more eco-friendly than conventional pesticides. Since they are also very effective natural pesticides should your first choice for most home and garden pest control needs.

Advantages of natural pesticides: eco-friendly, safer for user/applicator, and very effective when used correctly.

Disadvantages of natural pesticides: short residual activity (some users consider this to be an advantage), may be more expensive than older conventional pesticides, and somewhat less pest-specific especially when compared to newer synthetic pesticides.

Use the links below for much more specific information about the wide variety of natural pesticides that are now available to homeowners and gardeners.

Natural pesticides for INDOOR use

  • Plant-based Oils (Botanical Pesticides) - offer a wide variety of indoor and outdoor uses against every indoor pest species. Dust, liquid and aerosol formulations are now available.

  • Natural dusts - are made from naturally occurring minerals like silica and boric acid, or plants. Use these in dry places where long-term control is needed.

  • Boric Acid - or borate insecticide is also available as liquid or powder (natural dust) for use mainly in structural pest control against termites, carpenter ants and powderpost beetles, and in baits for cockroaches.

Natural pesticides for GARDENS

  • Neem Oil - is used in gardens and landscapes against insects that chew on plants such as black vine weevil.

  • Insecticidal Soap - is used in gardens and landscapes against a variety of small, soft-bodied pests like aphids, spider mites and scale crawlers.

  • Rotenone - is an older, broad-spectrum natural insecticide used for a variety of garden and landscape pests. It is available as a powder or liquid.

  • Spinosad - is a newer, broad-spectrum insecticide for use in gardens and landscapes. See the labelled uses listed on this page.

  • Pyrethrum - is an older, broad-spectrum insecticide for use in gardens.

  • Diatomaceous Earth - Diatomaceous earth is a dry, powdery material (natural dust) derived from the shells of marine organisms. It is used mainly to deter and kill crawling pests both indoors and outdoors.

Every gardener should have a "pest control toolbox":

At a minimum every gardener should be armed with insecticidal soap plus at least one relatively broad spectrum but low toxicity biorational pesticide like neem oil, spinosad or pyrethrum (see links above for more information). These natural pesticides will handle most of your garden's pest control needs in a safe and eco-friendly manner.

A variety of natural and biorational pesticides are available from our affiliate click here.

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