If you find insect damage on your plants, there are a large number of organic products that work in a variety of ways to kill insects or discourage them from eating your garden plants. Because many organic insect controls are used for specific types of insects, it is very important to know what insects you are dealing with before choosing the correct organic insecticide. Carefully examine the damaged plant to find the culprits, looking under the leaves and along the stems where they may be hiding. Your county?s Ag Extension Agent can help identify specific insects, or you can also do an online search for insect identification sites.
Butterflies often lay their eggs on plants, and when those eggs hatch the little caterpillars will stay and feed on the plant as they grow. Caterpillars can be controlled using a common organic insecticide known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. Bt is a naturally occurring bacteria that causes caterpillars to stop eating and die. There are several varieties of Bt that can be used, depending on the type of caterpillar you?re after, including one specific to Colorado potato beetle larvae and another for corn earworms. Bt is also effective against tomato hornworms, the little green worms that like broccoli and cabbage, and bagworms. Bt should be applied at 1-2 week intervals to kill succeeding generations of insects. Gardeners with butterfly gardens should avoid using Bt on their plants because it is harmful to butterfly caterpillars. However, Bt is completely harmless to pets and people.
Diatomaceous earth is another natural insecticide that may be used on a variety of insects. Diatomaceous earth is a fine powder that feels like talc, but it is actually the fossilized skeletal remains of small aquatic critters called diatoms. It is completely harmless to people and pets, but when soft-bodied insects come in contact with it, the tiny sharp edges of the diatoms lacerate the insects, making them dehydrate and perish. Apply diatomaceous earth in the early morning or evening when the plants are wet with dew, which will make the powder stick to the surface of the leaves and doom the insects that walk through it. Diatomaceous earth can be used to control ants, aphids, beetle grubs, box-elder bugs, flea beetles, those nasty little earwigs and many more insects. It?s also safe to use on houseplants, and can even be sprinkled on the ground to control slugs.
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