You love a beautiful garden, but soft-bodied pests, like whiteflies and aphids, can literally suck the life out of your plants. One of the challenges of being environmentally conscious is how to get rid of those pests without harming garden plants or contaminating the environment with potentially harmful pesticides. An insecticidal soap made from a common household dish detergent, such as Dawn brand dish soap, might be the solution.
How the Soap Might Work
Scientists don't completely understand how insecticidal soaps work, notes Colorado State University Extension, but they are thought they disrupt the outer skin of soft-bodied pests, like spider mites, mealybugs and psyllids, and cause a toxic reaction. Hard-bodied bugs, like adult beetles, aren't affected because the soap can't penetrate their outer shells.
Homemade Insecticidal Soap
You can make your own batch of insecticidal soap by mixing 2 1/2 tablespoons each of regular strength -- not de-greasing -- Dawn dishwashing liquid and vegetable oil with 1 gallon of water. Make only what you need for that day and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray directly onto the pests, thoroughly covering them. Repeat the treatment as necessary. Apply any time of the year, when the temperature is below 90 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid possible leaf burn.
- Colorado State University Extension: Insect Control: Soaps and Detergents
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Insecticidal Soaps for Garden Pest Control
- University of Illinois Extension: Home, Yard and Garden Pest Newsletter
- University of Florida IFAS Extension Lee County: Topic: Making Insecticidal Soap
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Natural Products for Insect Pest Management
- Photo Credit dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images
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