I have fed birds for years and I have had dogs and kids playing on the lawn almost as long, so I have tried to avoid anything that might cause harm to either. Over time companies have developed new weapons so I will write about my favorites.

          The one I have used most is Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), a fungous for control of some insects. There are specific strains for specific enemies. However, remember that Bt kills helpful and beautiful insects as well, so be careful how and where you use.  The Mosquito Dunks we put in our Lily ponds is Bacillus israelensis and kills mosquito larvae. If you have fish, they will eat the larvae. But coons eat the fish out of my small above ground ponds, so each spring I get a quart bottle for those ponds. The same Bt will kill fly and knat larvae.  There is one for Beetles and one for Caterpillars. Sorry to say this is fatal to Butterfly larvae so the only plants I use Bt kurstaki on are the cabbage family. Remember those little white Butterflies? If you don’t have too many plants in that family, you can pick the little green worms off and drop in soapy water. Bt kills their digestive system but doesn’t hurt people or animals.

          Safer’s soap (aka as horticultural soap and insecticidal soap) is my favorite especially on my house plants.  It doesn’t smell terrible like the systemic granules. It removes the insect’s outer coating. Outside it is good for some Beetles, Mealy bugs, and aphids. It doesn’t kill many of our “good bugs” as many of their outer coats are a harder shell.  You can buy this insecticidal soap as a concentrate or in a ready-to-use spray. Do not mix your spray too strong as it can burn some leaves, and you need to coat the “enemy” for it to work (contact spray). It will not work to kill caterpillars.

          Horticultural Oil is used by many Rose growers. Some add 1 tablespoon of soda per gallon to the spray. Be careful to get the right weight oil. You need the correct oil during the right season. The heavy oil or dormant oil can be used as a dormant spray in the winter. But in the spring and summer you need a lighter or “All Seasons Oil” or you will cause leaf damage. The Horticultural oils work by suffocation, and is quite often used on trees and shrubs to suffocate Aphids, Scale, Mites, and insect eggs.

          Neem Oil comes from the Neem Tree and will kill most any insect, good or bad, keeping them from eating or growing. It also works on fungous spores, on powdery mildew and leaf spot.  It also kills fish so stay away from your Lily Pond .  The trouble I have had with it is the mixing.  It seems to be very heavy and doesn’t go into solution well.  I had to shake whenever using and have used it in the greenhouse but now I read a number of people are allergic. One brand sells it in the form of Insecticidal Soap so you get both the control from insect soap and from the Neem Oil all in one.

          The Pyrethrums are made from the seed of a Chrysanthemum. It kills all insects, so be careful and read the label and use as it says. Did you know a label is a legal document? Most often used for Wasps, Whiteflies, Aphids and Beetles as a spray or a dust. It interferes with their nervous system. People have an enzyme that counteracts this affect but you should wear safety equipment when using, as it causes allergic or asthmatic reactions. Pyrethroids are a synthetic insecticide, not from Mums, and are more toxic than Pyrethrums so be sure and read before you buy!!!

          Water and good bugs are my favorite weapons.  During a hot dry summer many plants are attacked by Spider Mites. You will notice the leaves are speckled and losing color when they have Spider Mites. To make sure, put a piece of white paper under the leaves and snap the leaf. The little guys should drop off onto your paper to identify. If you see speck of dust start to move, you probably have Spider Mites. I use a “hose gun” and with a fairly good force try to hit both the top and bottom of the leaves or needles so they drop on the ground. They will not climb back up. You will need to repeat in a few days.  My Dwarf Alberta Spruce gets hit by Mites every summer so I try to wash them down whenever I am working with the hose. Mites are not fussy about where they drink sap, so watch all your plants including Hollyhocks, and Hibiscus.  Turn the leaf over and look for webbing.

          A number of years ago when they first started selling “good bugs” I was front in line to try.  The Lady Bugs came in a little wire basket. I am sure the mailman was pleased so I turned them loose and I am not sure I ever saw one again! But I have native Lady Bugs!!! If I spot an Aphid colony one day and go back in a day or so, there are usually none left.  The Aphids on my Cup Plant are a gorgeous orange.

          Praying (preying) Mantis arrived in soft little cocoons to hang on a plant somewhere. I have Mantis every year with such neat manners. The female eats the male after mating. She needs the protein to produce eggs. Then when it warms up in Spring the first ones to hatch eat the late ones! But some always escape to devour all my bad bugs.

Copyright 2010