Oils and Neem

cranialgirlJuly 21, 2011

I am fighting ants in my garden. I do know they are not always considered a pest, but I am infested with them all over the yard and I am taking the population down a little.

I dropped off a root sample from a bean plant that has root aphids and white cottony spots on it to the extension office for a for sure diagnosis. In the meantime I am fighting them. The ants are running up and down the stems into the root systems, and when I pulled up a plant, I actually watched the ant go over and pull off a bit of the cotton stuff anf go off with it. I intend to kill the ants, and the aphids.

My questions are this. I am mixing up a soil drench of garlic and habanero pepper, and an oil. Does that oil need to be sesame? Why do most bought sprays use sesame? It is more expensive than most other oils.

Also I have a container of neem oil, but it is probably 10 years old. Kept closed and cool. Is it bad, or does it now loose it's potency? Thanks so much for any info!

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feijoas(New Zealand)

Is borax considered ok for organic gardeners in your area?
I've not killed ants outside, but when they come in the house I give them borax-based ant poison to feed the family back home.
As far as I know, neem doesn't go 'bad' but it loses it's potency pretty fast, even in optimum conditions.
I'd say decade-old neem would be had-it as an anti-feedant, but could still be used when oil's required for spraying plants.
I'd be concerned about using any quantity of any oil directly on the soil, as it could have some pretty unfortunate side-effects.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 12:09AM
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I believe neem oil does have a expiration date. Have you considered boiling water and pouring it on to the ants. Have another pot boiling and when the first ones settles dig a little down and expose the ants further and pour some more boiling water.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 5:38PM
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Hmmm.... I wonder if boiling water could take care of the aphids on the roots, and the ants? Very interesting idea. So simple and yet never thought of it.

I actually posted earlier today and it never showed up. Hope this one does.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2011 at 7:15PM
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Sesame oil appears to have a synergistic affect on other products, ie. it seems to make them more potent. That may be why it is used in numerous commercial formulations.
Boiling water will kill plants, but since the heat would be well dissipated by the soil it would have little affect on an insect nest. Boiling water would kill any workers it contacts near the surface, but not deep enough to clear out the nest.
In very small amounts Borax is an essential micro nutrient, but in quantities just above that needed it becomes a poison and kills plants as well as insects.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 6:22AM
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Well, maybe I should stick to either what I started or insecticidal soap in a drench, or the garlic hot pepper and sesame oil drench. I know it is not helping the soil, but that is useless until I get rid of the root bugs. SO after I get them killed, and allow it to sit empty for a bit, then I am going to load a load of compost from the nursery onto the garden beds.

The nats are actually clustered around the stems of the plant, and they can travel down into the roots. The soil was new this year, so tilled originanlly and very loose and great for ants. Not much work fpr them to get down to the roots.

I could be way off onthis, but I think the heavy ant infestation we had in our yard, and then a newly dug garden that they immediately infested is how I got a pest that is generally not seen outside of a hydroponic system.

The Bug ID guy at the Agricultural Center made a positive id for me yesterday. he also said the little white cottony spots on the roots is a juvenile form of the same bug.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 9:28AM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

BTW, I wouldn't recommend adding Borax directly to your soil, but baiting a lid or something.
Did the bug guy give you any ideas for dealing with the root aphids organically?

    Bookmark   July 23, 2011 at 6:57PM
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NO, and he said he thinks the organic guy at the extension office had been laid off due to budget cuts.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 1:52PM
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My thought is that anything that would kill an aphid above the ground would kill it below as long as I could get it there. Does that seem logical?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2011 at 1:53PM
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feijoas(New Zealand)

I'm not sure, since you have to take the huge difference between soil and air into account: out in the air, once stuff hits...stuff, it tends to stay there, but in the soil, I imagine you'd have to basically drown large areas to smother the aphids.
Can you get hold of any other local organic bug people?
Maybe start a thread here with 'root aphids' in the title and see if anyone with experience shows up.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 5:51AM
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Another option is flooding the area with a alcohol mixture, if your trying to save the plants I dont think that will happen. I would call the plant a loss and take care of the aphids before years end so it will be less likely you run into it again next year. If you added a bunch of sand its also possible that the sand was not sterile on you brought them in.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2011 at 3:15PM
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