Homemade Insecticide

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Homemade insecticide can be a simple, easy-to use alternative to chemical insect killers. They are also organic, which is attractive for many vegetable gardeners. Certain soaps, plant material and spices have a proven track record for killing and repelling many common garden pests. For serious infestations, though, you may still want to consider using a commercially available chemical insecticide designed to combat your specific pest.

Warning

  • Though often considered safer than commercially available chemical insecticides, there are still risks involved when using certain homemade insect treatments. Research each option carefully, and follow instructions for mixing and use. To help protect yourself and your plants when using homemade insecticides, follow these steps:

    • Test homemade insecticides on a small portion of the
      plant. Wait a couple of days to make sure the treated leaves don't burnor wilt before treating the whole plant.
    • Do not spray leaves when they are in direct sunlight, or when temperatures are over 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Early morning is the best time to spray.
    • Wear gloves
      to avoid any potential allergic reactions to the insecticide formula.
      If spraying outdoors on a windy day, wear eye protection and a face mask as well.
    • Use homemade insecticides immediately after you are finished making them. Do not store homemade insecticides, and do discard leftovers after use.

Insecticidal Soap

Aphids are some of the soft-bodied insects that insecticidal soap kills.
Aphids are some of the soft-bodied insects that insecticidal soap kills. (Image: maksim-yakovlev/iStock/Getty Images)

Works against: aphids, mealy bugs and other soft-bodied insects

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring spoons
  • Pure or all-natural liquid soap
  • Water
  • Cooking oil (optional)
  • Sprayer

Step 1

Mix 5 tablespoons of liquid soap with 1 gallon of water. It is very important to use soaps described as "pure" or "all-natural" because they contain fatty acids. If you want the treatment to stick to the plants longer, add 2 tablespoons of a cooking oil like corn, canola or olive.

Step 2

Shake or stir the solution to mix well, then pour it into a sprayer. Apply it to wet plant leaves. If this solution burns plants when you test it, cut the amount of soap in half. The weaker solution does not work as well, but is gentler on plants.

Warning

  • May cause mild skin irritation; wear gloves when mixing and applying. Insecticidal soaps are not threatening to beneficial insects or small animals after application, but will kill all soft-bodied insects on the plant when applied.

Garlic and Pepper Soap

Insecticidal soaps can kill both adult insects and their eggs.
Insecticidal soaps can kill both adult insects and their eggs. (Image: sasimoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Works against: soft-bodied insects and chewing insects

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring spoons
  • Pure or all-natural liquid soap
  • Water
  • Cooking oil (optional)
  • Ground red pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Sprayer

Step 1

As with the basic insecticidal soap, mix 5 tablespoons of pure soap, and if you like, 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to 1 gallon of water. Add a teaspoon each of red pepper and garlic, then shake or stir to mix the solution.

Step 2

Pour the mixture into a sprayer, and apply to thoroughly wet plant leaves.

Insecticidal soap may cause mild skin irritation, and garlic and pepper can irritate eyes; wear gloves and eye protection when mixing and applying this spray. After they dry, insecticidal soaps do not harm beneficial insects or small animals, but they will kill all soft-bodied insects on the plant at application.

Pyrethrum Dust

Pyrethrum daisy is also called "painted daisy."
Pyrethrum daisy is also called "painted daisy." (Image: kazakovmaksim/iStock/Getty Images)

Works on: soft-bodied insects

Things You'll Need

  • Flowers from pyrethrum daisy Chrysanthemum coccineum)
  • Window screens

Pyrethrum daisy is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 7. When it blooms in the summer, pick and dry the petals for use as an insecticide dust.

Step 1

To dry the flowers, cut them off the stems and spread them out on window screens.

Step 2

Place the screens in a warm, dry and dark place with good air circulation. When the blooms crumble easily, they can be moved to a heavy-duty plastic bag for storage.

Step 3

Crush the dried petals into a powder and sprinkle it through your garden.

Warning

  • The dust will kill soft bodied insects on contact, and can also harm beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs. The dust does not persist in the garden, and must be reapplied to kill more insects. There is little danger to humans or pets, but if you have an allergy to pyrethrum it can cause dizziness, headaches, hives or asthma. To be safe, wear gloves and a breathing mask when applying the dust.

Herbal Spray

Herbal sprays can effectively repel leafhoppers.
Herbal sprays can effectively repel leafhoppers. (Image: Miyuki Satake/iStock/Getty Images)

Works against: leafhoppers, aphids, cucumber beetles, mites and other insects

Things You'll Need

  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Other strongly-scented herbs (optional)
  • Bucket with a cover, large enough to hold at least 1/2 gallon
  • Water
  • Measuring spoons
  • Pure or all-natural liquid soap
  • Sprayer

Step 1

Take a couple handfuls of trimmings from annual basil plants -- the exact amount does not matter -- and place them in a bucket with 1/2 gallon of water. You can also include trimmings from other strong-scented herbs. Cover the bucket, and let it sit in a sunny location for three days.

Step 2

Strain the loose herbs from the water. Pour herbal solution into a spray bottle, and add 1/8 teaspoon of liquid soap. Shake well, and spray to thoroughly cover infected plants.

Warning

  • Do not spray directly on beneficial insects. Since you're using edible herbs, the only risk to humans is if you have an allergy to the herbs chosen.

Spearmint Spray

Chewing insects include grasshoppers, caterpillars and beetles.
Chewing insects include grasshoppers, caterpillars and beetles. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Works against: all chewing insects

Things You'll Need

  • Blender
  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  • Green onions (Allium fistulosum)
  • Hot peppers (Capsicum annuum)
  • Water
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Lemon-scented liquid detergent
  • Sprayer

Step 1

Place 1 cup chopped spearmint leaves, 1 cup sliced green onion tops, 1/2 cup chopped red peppers and 1/2 cup water in a blender.

Step 2

Pour blended solution plus 1/2 cup liquid detergent into 1 gallon of water. When you're ready to use, strain the mixture and mix 1/2 cup of spearmint solution with 1 quart of water.

Step 3

Pour this into a sprayer, and spray to thoroughly cover affected plants.

If you want to grow the plants for this mixture in the garden, spearmint is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 11 and green onion is hardy in zones 6 through 9. Cayenne pepper is hardy in zones 9 through 11, and is grown as annuals in all zones.

Warning

  • Fresh hot pepper can irritate eyes and skin; wear gloves and eye protection when mixing and applying this spray. Do not spray directly on beneficial insects. Since you're using edible plants, mild skin irritation is the only risk to humans.

Delphinium Spray

Japanese beetles are a destructive garden pest.
Japanese beetles are a destructive garden pest. (Image: Dantesattic/iStock/Getty Images)

Works against: Japanese beetles

Things You'll Need

  • Blender
  • Larkspur (Delphinium spp.) leaves.
  • Water
  • Sprayer

You can use annual or perennial larkspur leaves to repel Japanese beetles. Perennial larkspur is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9. The plants work as an insecticide because they contain the poisonous alkaloids deliosine and delsoline.

Step 1

Place a handful of the leaves -- the exact amount does not matter -- in a blender, then pour the blended mixture into 1 gallon of water.

Step 2

Strain any chunks of leaves out and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray this solution directly on the Japanese beetles and infected plant leaves.

Warning

  • All parts of delphinium are highly toxic. Do not use a blender that is or will be used for food purposes. This spray may harm small animals and beneficial insects, as well as targeted Japanese beetles.

For more information on homemade insecticides, see "DIY Pest Control With Boric Acid Power."

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