Best all around pesticide?

funky_dutch(z5 CO ignacio)July 12, 2006

I've got so many old bottles of junk in my shed I can't tell whether to use them or throw them out. Okay, so I'm a packrat, and kinda lazy when it comes to killing bugs. But what's the consensus on a good all-purpose pesticide? Something's chewing big circles out of all my leafy plants, another is gnawing roots out of my perennials, looks like mites on my veges, even the daisy petals are eaten up, so on and so on. I'd like to keep it simple.

Part of my problem is that I don't like the ecological liabilities of using pesticides--I've got a great mix of snakes and frogs and toads and birds in our acre-yard, and I've only managed to do rare broadcasts of pyrethrins to keep the mosquitoes down (I've got a 2 year old who I'd rather not see with West Nile--last year's big worry here). Input appreciated.

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I once had a lengthy conversation with a bug expert, and his suggestion was that Pyrethrins, not the fake ones but the real, plant derived ones, are about the best universal insecticide. The problem / advantage is that they break down very quickly into harmless stuff, so you have to actually hit the target bug with it. I use Safer insecticide 'soap', which contains plant Pyrethrins.

However, I don't think it does much good on mites, I use a systemic on the ornamentals and luckily, haven't had much problem with them on the veggies.

Are you guys getting the grasshoppers in Ignacio? There's a big problem now for two years around Cortez / Mancos. My place, 5 miles north of Cortez, is irrigated enough that they don't do a lot of damage, but several guys I know have been wiped out this year as well as last year.

Re the round holes in leaves, watch and see if you don't have cutter bees. I finally saw them in action, and figured out, after 10 years, what was causing that. They always seem to go back to the same area of the garden.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2006 at 4:21PM
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funky_dutch(z5 CO ignacio)

Hey David

I think you're right about the pyrethrins, though I'm not quite sure if I know how to tell between the artificial and the authentic--it's in the names, isn't it? Pyrethrin vs. Permethrin, or something? I actually grew and harvested some of the chrys. flowers for the purpose a few years back but never got around to using them. Seems all I can do right now is keep enough water on the plants! Dang its hot.

And yeah, I thought cutter bees but I never see any--I try to look for their hives too but no luck. They sure look like the culprit, but it's all over the yard and I was thinking some sorta beetle maybe. Hoppers not as bad this year as previously--which is to say they are still a plague but they haven't eaten the rocks yet. I'm thinking I'll try that Nolo bait on em. (I kinda think it's why I got so many little garter snakes, cause of the grasshopper boom.) Wasps are worse this year, though.

Do you have the red ants too? Man, I've been trying to get a grip on those guys for years now, but the nests keep multiplying.

Shucks, I'm outnumbered.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 11:06AM
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I was sitting on the front porch the other day, and was watching the cutter bees carrying the round pieces of my rose leaves into the half inch wide crack between the concrete sidewalk and the concrete porch. So, at least mine live under ground.

Ants???? What Ants???

I have a hive about once every 5 feet. I swear if I kick a hive, everywhere one of them lands they start a new one.

Anyway, a balmy 97 this afternoon. They're being pretty lavish with the irrigation water this summer, so I'm staying wet.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 6:53PM
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Putting it down in print might help me remember also, Dutch:

Pyrethrins - are insecticides that are extracts of the chrysanthemum flower, Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium and Chrysanthemum cineum. The plant extract is called pyrethrum.

Alternately, 'semisynthetized' derivatives of the chrysanthemumic acids have been developed as insecticides that last longer in the environment than the natural pyrethrum. These are called pyrethroids . . . (from the Rutger U website linked below).

Then from Colorado State U: "The compound acts rapidly on insects, causing immediate knock down. Flying insects drop almost immediately after exposure. Fast knock down and insect death don't, however, always go hand in hand; many insects recover after the initial knockdown phase."

I use pyrethrum/rotenone each season. Rotenone "is a botanical insecticide and acaricide obtained from the roots of several tropical and subtropical plant species belonging to the genus Lonchocarpus or Derris." I'm fairly sure that it continues to be considered an organic pesticide.

I learned something the other day about rotenone - it sometimes works best when used alone for hard to kill bugs. If they eat it, they should die . . . if you use it with pyrethrum, these bugs may get up off the ground after awhile and leave without eating any of the rotenone.

Now, having said that . . . I think usually it is best to use these two organic pesticides in combination. Most insects are killed thru contact. And, if the bugs leave without eating the plants - that may well be all that's necessary and intended.

One thing, these 2 are nondiscriminatory insect killers. They kill the beneficial bugs.

I keep Bt spray (Bacillus thuringiensis) handy (both the cabbage worm and the potato bug strains) but donÂt need to use it every year. Bt is a naturally occurring bacterial disease.

I'm doing a little more experimentation with soap. Insecticidal soap has worked well on aphids for me and I sprayed some sunflowers the other day that were covered with aphids with 3T PALMOLIVE/gallon water. I've seen dish soap cause a fruit tree to lose nearly all of its leaves but was assured on another GW forum that Palmolive (green) would be safe. After 2 days, I found neither an aphid nor any damaged leaves so this may have worked well - darn cheap, too.

Pyrethrum/rotenone is my choice when I need to blaze away with both barrels but I'm somewhat reassured that I'm getting the job done without using any real heavy artillery.

Steve - no pesticide expert and never sure about anything

Here is a link that might be useful: Botanical-based Insecticides

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 12:11AM
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I spent several years working in Kenya, which is one of the major commercial producers of Pyrethrins. The flowers grow at a certain altitude, reasonably high. I don't want to go out on a limb here because my memory isn't all it could be, but it was pretty high up, like 7,000 to 8,000 feet. They have fields and fields of the flowers. They extract the pyrethrins, ship them off to market, and the remaining plant residue is made into mosquito coils. The main advantage over the natural product vs the synthetic one is that the natural extract contains all kinds of minor derivatives while the synthetic one is the same compound.

All the natural stuff breaks down within 24 hours.

Aside from the Safer Soap, I don't know, off hand, where to buy the stuff these days. I used to see it advertised in some of the larger organic gardening outfits, like Peaceful Valley, but not recently.

I'm going to have to use something on grasshoppers here pretty quick. Walking around yesterday, every step there are about 50 1/2 inch long hoppers jumping around. They're going to have to duke it out with the earwigs.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2006 at 10:15AM
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funky_dutch(z5 CO ignacio)

Rotenone, rotenone... hang on, I'm searching my bottles.

Thanks Steve for the info, and the pyrethum combo sounds good. If I'm understanding right, the rotenone has to be ingested by the insect not just a surface contact (unlike the pyrethum)? I think I've got a liquid rotenone I used on roses a few years back--probably to get some of those eency weency bugs that crinkle up the petals, but I don't remember how well it worked.

I can vouch for the Palmolive, but the soap has for me seemed to work on only select species, like whitefly and certain aphids, but provokes chuckles from the other serious pests. I swear sometimes they're heckling me. Anyway, David leads me to the next point--which is where the *&%^@ does one get a decent brew of true pyrethum? Or rotenone (which I'm pretty sure my outlets around here discontinued already)? And FOR SURE where can I get a spray version of the Bacillus thuringiensis?--the dunks work great for me, and being right on an irrigation ditch I'd like to improve protection for my yard (and my 3-year-old running laps around it). Had 3 cases of West Nile here in Ignacio last year, and August is supposed to be the peak party season for mosquitoes.

Man, I feel like I'm opening can after can of worms--or rather garden pests, sui generis. This is helping me a lot, though.

Would a whiffle bat help on the hoppers, David? Some exercise, a fleeting sense of wicked satisfaction, and who knows--maybe they'd get the idea.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 1:09AM
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"I've got so many old bottles of junk in my shed I can't tell whether to use them or throw them out."

I'm tempted to say that if you have to ask, you should probably toss them.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2006 at 2:48AM
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Dutch, on my shelf IÂve got all Bonide products (of those under discussion).
* Thuricide (Bacillus Thuringiensis for caterpillars)
* Potato Beetle Beater (Bt)
* Rotenone-Pyrethrin Spray

I buy these locally at a garden center but see that they are sold online at the link below. I donÂt know anything about Planet Natural other than coming across their ads here and there.

Rotenone can work with some bugs on contact but others need to ingest the stuff - that's my understanding. It kills fish - - so that canal . . . ???

Haven't a clue as to what to use in standing water for skeeters.


Here is a link that might be useful: Planet Natural - Bonide

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 12:29AM
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boldcolors(Zone 5 Ut)

Loved this thread and got a glimpse of all I need to learn to battle the buggies! What is anyones experience with Nolo???? as to being organic?? or other commments???Thanks

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 1:43PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado


For control of mosquitos in standing water you can use Mosquito Bits and Mosquito Dunks. They contain a mosquito specific form of Bt and are safe for fish and wildlife (can even be used in birdbaths). I have a very small pond and I watch pretty carefully for larvae and use Bits whenever I see any. Bits are for quick control and Dunks are longer lasting. Here's a link with more information. You should be able to buy either almost anywhere that carries pond supplies--including most good garden centers--I got mine at Paulino's here in Denver when I still worked there. If you have fish, they will eat the larvae and you may not need any other control.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mosquito Dunks/Mosquito Bits

    Bookmark   July 22, 2006 at 11:41PM
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So, Skybird, this is what Dutch meant by, "the dunks work great for me, and being right on an irrigation ditch . . ." I had no idea what a "dunk" was.

Skeeters aren't a big problem right where I'm at. My gardens are in various locations and one of them sometimes has skeeters late in the day. I think it may be because of all the junk cars near that neighborhood - locations for mosquito breeding.

Most of my gardening is on windswept, rocky benchland. Good location NOT to find skeeters - tough place to have a garden.

Grasshopper bait is also a mystery to me. My gardens are either within residential neighborhoods where most folks have automatic sprinklers for their green, green lawns or I'm surrounded by well-irrigated farm land. I believe that this limits the 'hopper population (maybe by increasing bird numbers).

That reminds me - laying hens chasing hoppers around the yard are quite entertaining.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2006 at 1:31AM
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funky_dutch(z5 CO ignacio)

Swell to know I ain't alone on the bug battle. Thanks for the link Steve! Great to hear from everyone else, too. The bait for grasshoppers comes under various trade names, but the basic ingredient is Nosema locustae, a disease which sterilizes hopper reproduction I think--organic yes, although it also affects crickets. I'm told that the downside of it is that you wouldn't see results from use until next year, when fewer grasshoppers would hatch. Incidentally, I found some available at the Planet Natural site you listed.

I knew the BT was mosquito specific but was hoping an aerial spray might be more effective than the regular pyrethrin stuff I buy, or that it at least might cover a wider area than the dunks can. The dunks are all that's available around here. From what I recall of the CO extension literature, the BT is fast becoming the standard for municipal spraying, since the human risks are low and threats to other species is minimized. If I had money I reckon I'd invest.

And I do take care to steer ALL pesticides away from irrigation flow--mainly because it's already loaded with fertilizers, livestock bacterias, and other pesticides from neighboring ranches. Ironically, it's the still water under leaves or in the lawn which pose the greater hazard, because mosquitoes reproduce there more than in moving water.

Get this: there's a new wrinkle--last night I walked out and lo! I've got lightning bugs!! I don't think they've been seen around these parts in years, and now I'm about ready to sit down and squall for the sheer meanness of something so beautiful. And the crickets singing their hearts out. Guess I'll stick to spraying just the beans and tomatoes after all--and walk around the yard in a mesh sack.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 2:11AM
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re fireflies, if you drive up to Denver on 285, at the top of the San Luis Valley at Poncha Pass, there are some hot springs over to the west. There are a bunch of fireflies that live there, over 9,000 ft.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2006 at 9:50AM
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shudavies(Zone 6a, CO)

Regarding 'nolo' for grasshoppers: I am convinced that it works well. I believe you have to use it in late Spring when the hoppers are still tiny, so it won't do much good any more this year. Also you have to buy it fresh every year; it's a biological control that doesn't keep for very long. In fact last year my local garden center didn't get any in at all, because there was unusually high demand from areas farther south, their supplier sold out early, and once the year's supply is gone, it's gone for the year. So I ended up having the worst grasshopper plague in several years last summer.

I live next to two properties that are not watered, so that's where I'm told that grasshoppers like to lay their eggs and that's where I spread the nolo bait, in a 6-8' band along those properties. It doesn't get all of them, because the little hoppers have to ingest the bait in order for it to work. But the population is not nearly as bad as last year, so I will continue to use it each Spring.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2006 at 2:31PM
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I used nolo this year and it worked great! I bought from a place in Colorado called M&R Durango or wonderful helpful people when I called to order. We have bad problems in Tampa with lubber grasshoppers, when they hatched this spring I had a few hundred in my yard, and I only have a quarter acre in town. I spread the bait all around the fence line once a week for 3 weeks and they were gone.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2006 at 3:31PM
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All around the SW corner of Colorado, there are increasing pockets of heavy grasshopper infestations, particularly in the drier, non-irrigated areas. Its pretty bad, I spoke with someone yesterday whose deciduous trees had been completely defoliated, let alone his garden.

There are some farmers here that are buying Nolo bait by the pallet load. Rumor has it that it works best the second year. I may have to try it next year, I can sure see a buildup in the population.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2006 at 12:17PM
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Stop! First Google the relationship between pyrethrins and Parkinson's disease, and Rotenone and Parkinson's disease. Just because it's natural or organic doesn't mean it's healthy! It's neurotoxic. And people use these on pets, in the garden, on head lice, and the toxicity builds up. My Dad died of Parkinson's, so that's how I started reading up on it, and found the studies linking pyrethrins and Rotenone and Parkinson's disease. I find the integrated pest management works very well, so release dragonflies, build bat houses or bird houses, dump out standing water, keep the lawn mowed, put goldfish in the farm pond. I wear long shirts to keep the mosquitos off. But beware these "natural" pesticides. Parkinson's disease isn't any more fun than West Nile virus.

Here is a link that might be useful: NRDC article about health effects of

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 9:26PM
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