Less toxic pest control options

For pest control, theres no one spray that works for everything. You need to evaluate each pest and each situation before taking action. The less toxic options have specific uses and directions. When used correctly these products can be effective, when used incorrectly they can be ineffective or even harmful. As with any pest control product, always read the label before buying and again before using and follow the directions exactly. Insecticidal soap is more than just soapy water. Its been formulated and tested for use on plants. Home concoctions with dish soap are more risky and are not recommended. Some plants are sensitive to insecticidal soap and it should never be used on seedlings, stressed plants, or on hot, humid days. It kills insects on contact by drying them out so good coverage is essential. It is best for soft bodied insects including aphids and spider mites rather than tough-shelled beetles. Horticultural oil is a highly refined type of oil that smothers the insect and is most effective on the eggs and immature stages of the insect. Again, you need to check the label to see if your pest and plant are listed. Neem oil is made from the seeds of the neem tree. Various products containing neem oil becoming more widely available in stores and mail order catalogs. Its confusing because the active ingredient, azidirachtin, may or may not be present. Extracts of neem oil do not contain it and function more like the horticultural oil mentioned earlier. Azidirachtin interferes with the insects growth cycle and metamorphosis. It is non-toxic to birds and other animals. For more information on these or other products, call or visit our Web site. Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. CCE offices may be reached in Clinton County at 561-7450 and Essex County at 962-4810. More information may be found on-line at ecgardening.cce.cornell.edu or by sending an e-mail to a Master Gardener volunteer at askMG@cornell.edu.

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