Neem oil on herbs

Neem Insect Spray RecipesMaking And Using Neem Garden Spray

When making your own neem insect spray you can adjust the concentration to the purpose and situation.

There are no hard and fast rules, only guidelines.

Some insects are more persistent than others. For those you may want a stronger solution.

Regular spraying for prevention is different than fighting a severe infestation. A preventive spray can be more diluted.

For a neem garden spray 0.5% to 1% is a good general purpose solution. Depending on the purpose you may want to increase that to up to 2%.

Use your own observations and common sense. Keep in mind that neem oil insecticide does not kill insects instantly . Wait for at least a week to judge the effects.

Neem Oil Amounts For Insect Spray

For 1 liter or 1 quart of a 0.5 % dilution of neem plant spray you need:

  • 5 ml (1 tsp) neem oil (use pure, cold pressed oil)
  • 1-2 ml (1/3 tsp) insecticidal soap or other detergent
  • 1 liter (1 quart) warm water

Just multiply these amounts if you want to make a bigger batch.

If you want to make a more concentrated batch multiply both the amount of neem oil and the amount of soap used.

For 20 liters of a 1% solution of neem garden spray you need:

  • 200 ml neem oil
  • 30 ml insecticidal soap
  • 20 liters of water

Alternatively, for US readers…
For 4 gallons of a 1% solution of neem spray you need:

  • 6.5 oz neem oil
  • 5 tsps insecticidal soap
  • 4 gallons of water

If you have trouble dissolving the oil, use more detergent.

Method For Preparing Neem Spray

  • Use a high quality, organic, cold pressed oil.
  • Use warm water if possible. If making a large batch, first make a premix in a small amount of warm water, then add that to the rest of the water into the big container.
  • Mix the warm water with the soap first!
  • Then slowly add the oil while stirring vigorously.
  • Fill the mix into your sprayer.
  • (Or fill the premix into your sprayer, which should already contain the rest of the water. Mix well.)
  • Keep shaking or otherwise agitating the mix while spraying.
  • Use the mixture within eight hours.

Additional Instructions

Spray the neem insecticide solution on all the leaves, especially the undersides where insects like to hide. If you have plenty drench the soil around the roots as well. It does not hurt, neem oil is actually good for your soil.

Use your neem insect spray as quickly as possible, definitely within eight hours. Once mixed with water the neem oil starts breaking down. Always make a fresh batch for spraying, and only prepare the amount you need.

How often should you use neem garden spray? The suggestions below are general guidelines. Keep a close eye on things and fine tune as needed. If you are worried about sensitive plants, spray just a little bit in a small area, wait for a day or two, and see what happens. If you use insecticidal soap you should not have any problems.

Neem plant spray as a preventative measure: Spray once a fortnight using a 0.5 % solution. This should prevent any insect problems in the first place.

Neem insect spray to fight an infestation: When spraying the first time, throroughly drench all leaves and the soil around the plant. Then spray once a week until the problem disappears. If it rains you may need to respray sooner. If you are dealing with a less sensitive insect species you may need to increase the concentration of the neem spray. See how you go.

Learn more about making, using and buying neem insect spray.

  • How does neem oil insecticide work?
    And does it work at all? Many gardeners claim they prefer standard insecticides… Why?
  • Should you make your own neem oil spray?
    Most garden centres these days carry some ready to use form of neem oil spray. Should you even bother to make your own?
  • Is it safe to spray neem?
    That’s a good question. If it kills insects, is it safe for you? And your vegetables? And what about the beneficial insects?
  • Other Neem Oil Uses And Benefits

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Neem oil insecticide is an effective and natural way to get rid of bugs on houseplants, or battle tough insect pests out in the garden. Below you will find tons of information about it, learn how to use it for insect control, and I’ll also show you how to make your own spray for plants using my neem oil insecticide recipe.

Dealing with houseplant pests is one of the biggest frustrations indoor gardeners face. Sometimes it seems that no matter how careful we are, our precious houseplants become infested with some bug or another… and it gets very stressful!

Bugs are also a major struggle for most gardeners outside in the garden. It can be so overwhelming that some people feel like giving up on gardening all together.

Plant pest control doesn’t have to be so difficult, you just need the right tools to help in your fight. Let me introduce you to neem oil insecticide, your new best friend!

Organic neem oil concentrate for plants

What’s Neem Oil?

Neem oil is a naturally occurring insecticide that is found in the seeds of the Indian neem tree. The oil is extracted from the tree seeds, and is either sold in its pure form, or mixed with other ingredients to make pesticide sprays.

How Does Neem Oil Insecticide Work?

A common misconception is that neem oil is a type of poison. It is not a poison, but rather has a chemical effect on the bugs that eat it, which eventually ends up killing them.

Basically, the way it works is that it messes with the brains and hormones of the bugs, so they stop eating and mating, and eventually die off. Neem oil also works to smother the pests, which kills them faster.

In addition to killing plant pests, neem oil repels them, and it has a slight residual effect to keep bugs away longer than other organic pest control methods.

Use neem oil for aphids

Neem Oil Uses For Plants

Neem oil won’t kill all of the pests on contact, so it might take a few days, weeks or even months for all of the bugs to disappear from the plant.

The best part is that it only works to kill the bugs that eat the plants, so it won’t residually kill any beneficial insects! This is huge, especially if you plan to spray it on plants that are outside, or you want to use it in your garden.

Just be careful when you’re spraying it outside to make sure that you don’t spray neem oil directly on any beneficial bugs, because it could still smother them on contact.

It’s also safe to use indoors, and I mainly use neem oil for houseplants since battling bugs can be a common occurrence during the long winter months.

It has helped me get rid of all of the houseplant pests I’ve ever dealt with, and helps to keep my indoor plants pest free!

Related Post: How To Debug Plants Before Bringing Them Indoors

What Kind Of Bugs Does Neem Oil Kill?

Neem oil works to kill all types of houseplant pests, and I’ve successfully used it to help rid my indoor plants of bugs like…

  • Spider mites
  • Whiteflies
  • Houseplant scale
  • Aphids
  • Fungus gnats
  • Thrips
  • Mealybugs

In addition to killing annoying pests on indoor plants, neem oil can be used outside in the garden to help control bugs like destructive caterpillars, beetles, worms, and any other plant-eating insect.

Using neem oil to treat mealybugs

My Neem Oil Success Story

Using neem oil for organic pest control on my houseplants was a total game changer for me!

I love my houseplants, and indoor gardening is one of my favorite winter hobbies. But I’ve spent enough of my time dealing with houseplant pests, and I’m tired of all the fuss.

So, I finally purchased some organic neem oil to use against pesty houseplant pests. There’s no way I’m using chemical pesticides, so the fact that this is a natural, organic product is awesome.

A few years ago, we decided to try growing a pepper plant hydroponically. I’ve tried overwintering pepper plants in the house before, and I found that no amount of cleaning them would keep the aphids away.

Pepper plants are serious aphid magnets. Since aphids multiply very quickly, and I didn’t want to spend my winter fighting them again (and risk a repeat of the aphid outbreak I had in 2009, ugh!), I decided to give neem oil a try.

I am happy to report that our pepper plant has been aphid free since we started using neem oil on them.

Since it worked so great to get rid of the aphids, I tried it on the whiteflies that had plagued my hibiscus and plumeria plants for five years, and it worked like a charm!

I haven’t seen a single whitefly since I started using neem oil on these plants, woohoo! Now it is my go-to organic pest control method.

Neem oil works great to get rid of whiteflies

Neem Oil Insecticide Precautions

If you’ve never used neem oil before, it’s important to note that it has a strong smell to it that many people don’t like.

The smell goes away once it dries, but it can be overpowering if you’re spraying it on a lot of your houseplants at once indoors.

Also, before spraying anything, including neem oil, on any of your plants, always be sure to test it on one or two leaves first to make sure the spray won’t harm the plant.

To test it, douse a leaf or two, then leave it sit for at least 24 hours (one week to be safe). If there’s no damage to the treated leaf, then it’s safe to spray the whole plant.

And please remember that all forms of pesticides, even natural ones, should be used with care. Always follow the instructions on the label, and take care not inhale or swallow it, or spray it directly on any beneficial insects.

Applying organic neem oil spray

How To Use Neem Oil Pesticide

Once you see bugs on your plants, it’s important to begin treatment right away. Spray the entire plant with neem oil insecticide, taking care to spray under all of the leaves, and thoroughly wet every nook and cranny of the plant.

If I’m using it inside, I always bring my houseplants to a sink or bathtub so that I can spray them without worrying about getting neem oil all over the carpet or woodwork.

I’ve never had problems with staining or anything like that, but you want to spray the plant to the point where it’s dripping wet, so it can be messy.

For heavy infestations, I will use insecticidal soap before spraying neem oil on the plants (be sure to spot test this on your plant before treating the whole thing).

I wash the leaves with the insecticidal soap, which kills many of the bugs on contact. Then I rinse off as many of them as I can before spraying the plant with neem oil (my recipe for DIY insecticidal soap is 1 tsp of mild liquid soapper 1 liter of water).

Neem oil insecticide can also be used as a soil drench to kill annoying fungus gnats. When used as a soil drench, it can be absorbed by the plant and work as a systemic pesticide as well.

Related Post: Fungus Gnats vs Fruit Flies: What’s The Difference?

Make DIY neem oil insecticidal soap

Neem Oil Insecticide Dosage

Remember that neem oil has a residual effect, so you don’t have to spray the plant every day like you would with other all natural pest control methods. This residual effect also helps with pest prevention!

Like I mentioned above, it won’t kill all of the bugs on the plant instantly, it takes time to get into their system and start messing with their brains and hormones.

You could wait until you see evidence of plant pests before spraying the plant again, because the infestation might go away completely after applying neem oil the first time.

For plants that are plagued by pests that always end up coming back, you can spray your plant every few weeks until you no longer see any bugs, and then spray it every month as a repellent to keep them from coming back.

How To Make Neem Oil Spray For Plants

You can buy neem oil based pesticides in pre-made sprays, or you can make your own using a pure organic concentrate for plants (which is what I do).

Check the label to be sure there aren’t any special directions for mixing. Here’s my recipe for the type of neem oil concentrate that I buy…

My Neem Oil Insecticide Recipe

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure organic neem oil concentrate
  • 1 teaspoon mild liquid soap
  • 1 liter tepid water

The soap helps the oil mix with water, since they don’t mix well on their own. Plus the soap has the added benefit of killing the plant pests on contact, so you should see an improvement right away with this DIY neem oil insecticidal soap.

Mix all of the ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well. You can use your DIY bug spray on your plants right away. Be sure to shake it well each time you use it.

Making my DIY neem oil insecticide recipe

Where To Buy Neem Oil For Plants

You can find neem oil for sale anywhere pest control products are sold, or order it online. But be sure to always check the label before purchasing. Just because it says “neem oil insecticide” doesn’t mean that it doesn’t contain other harmful chemicals.

Buying the concentrate will probably be more expensive than a pre-mixed spray, but it will last you a very long time! Plus, you control the amount that’s in the spray, and many times a DIY spray will be much more potent than a pre-made one.

I buy an organic concentrate online, and if you want to get the same kind as I use, you can buy neem oil here.

Oh, and keep in mind that you can buy it for cosmetic use to, so be sure to specifically search for “neem oil for plants” when shopping online.

I use neem oil for bugs on plants indoors

If you have never tried using neem oil for indoor plants, I would highly recommend trying it. If you are tired of fighting indoor plant pest infestations, it’s by far one of the best pest control methods I’ve ever used.

Admittedly, I haven’t used it used it out in the garden yet, but plan to give it a try this year. I can’t wait to see if it works against all the nasty bugs that plague my garden plants every summer!

If you’re struggling to keep bugs off your houseplants, then my Houseplant Pest Control eBook is for you! It will show you how to identify which bug is infesting your plant, and show you exactly how to get rid of it FOR GOOD!

Products I Recommend

Recommended Books

  • Winter Houseplant Care
  • The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual
  • The House Plant Expert

More About Controlling Houseplant Pests

  • Organic Plant Pest Control Supplies
  • Where Do Houseplant Pests Come From?
  • How To Get Rid Of Houseplant Bugs Naturally

Have you ever tried using neem oil insecticide on houseplants or in your garden? Share your experiences in the comments below.

How to Use Neem Oil in the Grow Room

Neem oil is made from the seeds of the Azadirachta indica tree that is native to South Asia. The active insecticidal component in Neem is azadirachtin.

What makes Neem so special is that it is 100% natural and safe to use. It is non-toxic to humans and animals. There are no negative effects on your plants with Neem oil if you use it properly.

Neem oil is highly effective against many of the most common cannabis pests. It works especially well against soft-bodied insects like spider mites, aphids and white flies. It is also fungicidal and effective against fungi, mould and mildew. Understanding how Neem works is important so that we can maximize its beneficial effect.


Unlike some chemical insecticides, Neem oil doesn’t work on contact. It doesn’t kill pests right away when you apply it, say if you spray your plants with Neem oil solution. Instead, Neem makes insects stop feeding and interferes with their ability to grow and to lay eggs. To apply Neem effectively we need to be aware of this. There is also evidence that Neem can work as a systemic and that it strengthens plants’ natural resistances and defenses.

The usual way to go about applying Neem oil to plants is to use it diluted as a foliar spray. What is noteworthy to mention is that when you buy a Neem oil product, it is often that the instructions tell you to dilute it in water only. Commonly percentages with some Neem products are 0.1% or 0.2%, eg. 1-2ml Neem oil per each 1 liter of water. This however is less than optimal if not outright wrong!

If you have a basic knowledge of chemistry, you know that oils don’t dissolve in water. To spray Neem oil on your plants, the oil needs to be broken up so it mixes with water and forms an emulsion. Interestingly, many commercial vendors of Neem oil insecticides make no mention of this.

Some growers recommend adding a few drops of liquid soap to your water before you mix in the recommended Neem oil amount. This may work, we however strongly suggest that you look into special insecticidal soap (“potassium soap”) to make your Neem and water solution. With insecticidal soap, you can be sure that it doesn’t contain any potentially harmful ingredients for your plants.

Insecticidal soap doesn’t just help dissolve your Neem oil in water for spraying. It has the big benefit that it alone is a 100% natural insecticide that kills many pests on contact, unlike Neem, which is slower acting. Some commercially available products against aphids are in-fact nothing else than a 2% insecticidal soap solution. In other words, when you combine the Neem oil with soap, you get the best of both worlds. You are killing some pests right away together with the preventative and repelling long-term action of Neem. In addition to that, insecticidal (potassium) soap disintegrates into potash, which is a natural fertilizer.


Some growers will tell you that using natural, cold-pressed neem oil works better than commercial Neem oil products. There are reasons why we do not recommend that you use cold-pressed Neem oil for the purpose of combating pests.

Cold pressed Neem oil, although “all natural” is usually sold for different purposes such as for soap making in cosmetics and beauty. The packaging of those oils may not mention the right percentage to use for combating pests. In other words: You don’t know how much you will need and risk harming your plants.

We recommend that you use Neem oils that are sold as insecticides instead. Commonly, those are extracts made from Neem oil, containing the active compound, Azadirachtin. Any of those products is normally specifying the exact recommended percentage for insecticidal use. This way you can’t make a mistake with applying too much or not enough.


The normal and best way to go about using Neem oil in your grow room is to use it as a foliar spray. With some warm water, make a soapy solution with insecticidal soap, usually 2%. (Alternatively, add some drops of liquid soap that doesn’t contain any perfumes or other ingredients to your water).

  1. Carefully read the instructions on your Neem oil product about the correct percentage to use. With many Neem oil products, the amount you need is very small such as 0.1%-0.2%. However, this can differ depending on product, so make sure you read the label. (Do not simply take a “recommended” percentage you find on some forum on the internet. Some posts mention grossly too high percentages, a sure way to damage your plants!)
  2. With a dropper, mix the right amount of Neem oil into your soapy water.
  3. Fill your soapy Neem solution into a garden sprayer.
  4. Liberally spray your plant from all sides, the upper sides and especially the undersides of leaves. Spray right before the “dripping point” but make sure the entire plant is well covered. When you spray, shake your bottle frequently to keep the solution well-mixed.

Apply this treatment regularly. Due to the hatching cycles of some insects, repeat the Neem oil treatment after 3-4 days. Repeat spraying your plants for about two weeks, until your infestation is under control.


  • Foliar spray your entire plants from all sides and try not to miss any spots.
  • Spray either in the evening or early in the morning at low light. Neem degrades in the sun, and lower light helps avoid that your plants may “burn” from spraying.
  • If you spray indoors – and this is possible – move your lights and other equipment up or away for the time when you spray. This avoids splatters that can cause spots or even damage to your equipment.
  • Turn off fans for an hour or two to allow the Neem to soak into the plants without drying too fast.
  • Get a garden pressure sprayer, it will make a big difference. Spraying will be much easier as compared to using a small hand sprayer.
  • Neem oil is non-toxic and so is soap, but you should avoid spraying the buds of plants that are in flowering. Otherwise, this can affect the taste of your harvest.


Neem oil is effective, natural and very safe to use. If you know how to use Neem oil right to prevent and to get rid of most of the common cannabis pests, there is no reason that you ever need to use any harmful chemicals or overpriced commercial insecticides.

Less Toxic Insecticides

While a good pest management plan will start with preventative, cultural and other non-chemical methods, these are sometimes not completely effective on their own. In this case, a pesticide may be considered. If pesticide use is deemed necessary for control of the pest problem, it is good practice to use the least toxic pesticide that will do the job effectively. Although all pesticides are by their nature toxic in some way to some organisms, there are now a number of “less toxic” pesticide options.

Insecticides may be considered less toxic for several reasons. Generally, they should pose less risk to human and environmental health than conventional insecticides. Many break down rapidly and do not accumulate in the body or environment. Some are very pest specific and do little or no damage to other organisms. Still others, such as bait stations, minimize human exposure to the pesticide.

While “organic” insecticides are often less damaging to the environment than conventional insecticides, they are still pesticides. All pesticides should be evaluated before selection for level of toxicity, effectiveness, environmental impacts and costs. Some “organic” pesticides are as toxic, or even more toxic, than some synthetic pesticides.

Soaps & Oils

Insecticidal soaps and oils have a number of advantages for controlling insects. They are virtually non-toxic to humans and other mammals, and are relatively safe to beneficial insects in the landscape. They control a wide range of common soft-bodied pests including aphids, mealybugs, thrips, whiteflies, mites, and scales. It is difficult for pests to develop resistance to oils and soaps. Soaps and oils are now readily available and relatively inexpensive.

Both soaps and oils can cause damage to plants if applied when plants are water stressed, temperatures are above 90 °F, or high humidity prevents rapid drying. Some plants are sensitive to oil sprays. Read and follow the label.

Since soaps and oils work on contact, an effective application must coat both the upper and lower leaf surfaces as well as stems for best results. Repeated applications may be necessary. Apply soap or oil sprays in the early morning or late evening to reduce drying times for more effective insect pest control.

Insecticidal Soaps: Insecticidal soaps damage the protective coat of soft-bodied insects causing them to dehydrate.

Homemade soap recipes are not recommended because they may be more likely to cause foliage burn. Commercial insecticidal soaps are tested on plants and are less likely to cause damage. Some are available as concentrates to dilute before spraying, and some are available as pre-mixed Ready to Use (RTU) bottles. Examples of insecticidal soap products are:

Horticultural Oils: Oil products smother soft bodied insects on contact. Oils are formulated as either horticultural or dormant oils. Dormant oils are heavier, less refined oils used on dormant, leafless plants to control overwintering insects (e.g., aphids, spider mites, and scales). Dormant oils will damage plant foliage if used during the growing season. Horticultural oils are also called summer or superior oils, and these are lighter and more refined. They can be applied to both actively growing plants, as well as dormant plants for insect pest control. Do not apply horticultural oil sprays when the temperature is above 90 °F, or if rain is in the forecast within 24 hours.

Most horticultural oils are applied at a 1 to 2% mix with water to spray actively growing plants (this would be 2½ to 5 tablespoons of oil with a gallon of water). To use horticultural oil as a “dormant oil” spray to control pests on woody plant bark, they are mixed at 4% with water (this would be 10 tablespoons of oil per gallon of water). Always spray very late in the day to slow drying time, and to get better insect control. Most are available as concentrates made to dilute with water in a sprayer, although some are available as either a Ready to Spray (RTS), which is a bottle to attach to a garden hose for spraying, or as a Ready to Use (RTU), which is a pre-mixed spray bottle. Examples of horticultural oils are:

  • Sunnit Year Round Spray Oil Concentrate (98%) OMRI
  • Ferti-lome Horticultural Oil Spray Concentrate (80%) & RTS
  • Southern Ag Parafine Horticultural Oil (98%)
  • Bonide All Seasons Spray Oil Concentrate ((98%) & RTU
  • Monterey Horticultural Oil Concentrate (80%) & RTS

Sesame Oil:

  • Organocide Bee Safe 3-in-1 Garden Spray (5%) OMRI

Botanical Insecticides

Botanical insecticides are naturally occurring toxins extracted from plants. There are several advantages to using botanical rather than synthetic insecticides. Plant derived insecticides breakdown quickly in the environment, resulting in little risk of residues on food crops and less risk to beneficial insects. Some materials can be used shortly before harvest. Most botanicals are rapid acting and most, but not all botanicals are of low to moderate toxicity to mammals. Because most botanical insecticides must be eaten by the insect pest, they are primarily harmful to these pests and do little harm to beneficial insects.

There can also be disadvantages to using these products. Rapid break down, while less risky to health and environment, often creates a need for precise timing or more frequent applications. Several botanical insecticides are quite toxic and should be handled accordingly. Some botanical insecticides can be difficult to find in local stores.

Neem products: Neem oil is botanical insecticide made from extracts of Neem tree seeds. The active ingredient is listed on product labels as hydrophobic extracts of neem oil. It is used to control a wide variety of insects including leafminers, whiteflies, thrips, caterpillars, aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scale crawlers, and beetles. Neem oil is most effective against actively growing immature insects. Neem oil sprays kill small insect pests and mites by suffocation as do horticultural oil sprays, but also has some insecticidal properties. Neem oil sprays have some fungicidal activity, but it is typically limited to powdery mildew control. This control is primarily because it is oil. However, a horticultural oil spray generally works better for powdery mildew control.

Azadirachtin, the active ingredient in neem extracts, has a very low mammalian toxicity. It has been separated from the neem oil. It acts as an insect feeding deterrent and growth regulator. Azadiractin does not produce a quick knockdown and kill, but stops insect feeding. The treated insect usually cannot molt into its next life stage and dies without reproducing. It also is an egg-laying deterrent.

Many commercial neem products exist, and these products are labeled for use on ornamentals, foliage plants, trees, shrubs and food crops. Most neem oil products are available as concentrates made to dilute with water in a sprayer, but some are available as either Ready to Spray (RTS), which is a bottle to attach to a garden hose for spraying, or as Ready to Use (RTU), which is a pre-mixed spray bottle. Examples of neem products for landscape and garden use include:

Neem Oil:

  • Southern Ag Triple Action Neem Oil Concentrate,
  • Ferti-lome Rose, Flower & Vegetable Spray Concentrate,
  • Bonide Rose Rx 3-in-1 Concentrate; & RTU,
  • Bonide Neem Oil Concentrate; & RTU,
  • Natural Guard Neem Concentrate,
  • Garden Safe Fungicide 3 Conc.; & RTU OMRI,
  • Garden Safe Neem Oil Extract Conc. OMRI,
  • Concern Garden Defense Multi-Purpose Spray Concentrate,
  • Monterey 70% Neem Oil Fungicide/Insecticide/Miticide Conc.; & RTS OMRI.


  • Gordon’s Azatrol EC Insecticide,
  • Safer Brand BioNeem Insecticide & Repellent Concentrate,

Limonene (also known as d-Limonene) is produced from citrus oils extracted from oranges and other citrus fruit peels. It is used as a contact insecticide against ants, roaches, palmetto bugs, fleas, silverfish, and many other insects. Limonene has low oral and dermal toxicity to mammals, birds, and fish, although it can cause skin irritation or sensitization in some people.

Pesticide products containing limonene are used for flea and tick control on pets, insecticide sprays, outdoor dog and cat repellents, mosquito larvicides, and insect repellents. Many products containing limonene are labeled as safe for use in areas near food. Limonene is the active ingredient in Ortho Home Defense Indoor Insect Killer, Concern Citrus Home Pest Control, and in products made by Orange Guard. Safer Fire Ant Killer and Citrex Fire Ant Killer also contain d-Limonene.

Capsaicin is the material that makes chili peppers hot. It can be used on ornamentals outdoors and indoors for control of aphids, spider mites, thrips, whitefly, lace bugs, leafhoppers, and other pests. It is important to note that capsaicin containing products are primarily used to repel insects, rather than to kill existing infestations, and they appear to be effective at repelling certain animal pests such as rabbits, deer, and squirrels. Products containing capsaicin include:

  • Bonide Hot Pepper Wax Insect Repellent RTU,
  • Bonide Hot Pepper Wax Animal Repellent RTU,
  • Bonide Go Away Deer & Rabbit Repellent RTU.

Pyrethrin: Pyrethrum is made from the finely powdered flowers of a species of daisy. The word pyrethrum is the name for the crude flower dust itself, and the term pyrethrin refers to the insecticidal compounds that are extracted from pyrethrum. Pyrethroids are not botanical insecticides, but synthetically produced pesticides that are very similar in structure to the pyrethrins.

Pyrethrin is a contact insecticide and must be applied directly to the insect to be effective. Pyrethrum rapidly paralyzes pests, but may not kill them. However, pyrethrins are often formulated with another insecticide to ensure that paralyzed insects do not recover and once again become pests.

Because the pyrethrin mammalian toxicity is very low, it can be applied to food crops close to harvest. Pyrethrum has high contact toxicity for common beneficial insects. Pyrethrin’s insecticidal activity only lasts a few hours. There are many products with pyrethrin available; some products with pyrethrin alone, and other products combined with another insecticide, such as:


  • PyGanic Crop Protection EC 1.4 (1.4% a.i.) OMRI,
  • PyGanic Crop Protection EC 5.0 (5.9% a.i.) OMRI.

Neem Oil with Pyrethrins:

  • Ferti-lome Triple Action Plus II with Neem Oil,
  • Ferti-lome Fruit Tree Spray Concentrate,
  • Bonide Bon-Neem II Concentrate,
  • Ortho Tree & Shrub Fruit Tree Spray Concentrate.

Pyrethrins & Pipernyl Butoxide:

  • Southern Ag Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate,
  • Bonide Pyrethrin Garden Insect Spray Concentrate,
  • Bonide Japanese Beetle Killer RTU,
  • Garden Safe Rose & Flower Insect Killer RTU,

Pyrethrins & Sulfur:

  • Espoma Earth-tone Disease Control Concentrate; & RTU,
  • Bonide Citrus Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray Concentrate; & RTS,
  • Bonide Tomato & Vegetable 3 in 1 Concentrate; & RTS,

Pyrethrins & Canola Oil:

  • Espoma Earth-tone Insect Control Conc. & RTU,
  • Monterey Take Down Garden Spray Concentrate,
  • Whitney Farms Outdoor Insect Killer RTU,

Garlic is marketed in several products intended to repel insects, much as capsaicin does. Products are labeled to repel a wide variety of pests on ornamental plants, but garlic may also repel nuisance animals. To date there is limited research showing effectiveness of garlic insecticides.

Products containing garlic or garlic oil include:

  • Havahart Deer Off Deer, Rabbit & Squirrel Repellent Concentrate; & RTU,
  • Sweeney’s Deer & Rabbit Repellent Concentrate,
  • Captiva Insect Repellent/ Insecticide.

Rotenone, Sabadilla, Ryania, and Nicotine are older botanical insecticides that are no longer available due to toxicity to people and/or the environment. Although these insecticides were naturally-derived, they are more toxic or harmful than many commercially produced insecticides.

Essential Oils

A variety of pesticides based on essential oils or components of essential oils have come on the market in the last few years. Essential oils are volatile, highly concentrated substances extracted from plant parts. In 1996 the EPA established that certain ingredients that pose minimum risk to users no longer require EPA approval to be marketed as insecticides. A number of these ingredients are essential oils, including the oils of cedar, cinnamon, citronella, citrus, clove, eugenol (a component of clove oil), garlic, mints, rosemary, and several others. As insecticides, these work most commonly as contact killing agents only, so re-treatment may be needed. Most essential oils used as pesticides work by disrupting an insect neurotransmitter that is not present in people, pets, or other vertebrates.

Eugenol is a component of clove oil. It is a fast acting contact insecticide that is effective on a wide variety of household pests such as cockroaches, ants, dust mites, flies, wasps, spiders, crickets, and fleas. It is also used on some ornamental plant pests such as armyworms, thrips, aphids, and mites.

Eugenol has little or no residual activity, although the scent of cloves will linger. Products based on eugenol are considered minimum risk pesticides with very low risk of damage to the environment. Eugenol is rapidly absorbed by skin, is toxic to human skin cells, and can cause severe eye irritation. Applicators should wear protective eye wear and water proof gloves for handling and spraying. Often clove oils are mixed with other natural oils, such as rosemary oil, thyme oil, and sesame oil for enhanced control. Products that contain eugenol include:

  • Bioganic Safety Brand’s Barrier Treatment Indoor/Outdoor Insect Control,
  • Bioganic Brand’s Flying Insect Killer,
  • Bioganic Safety Brand’s Lawn and Garden Spray.

Microbial Insecticides

Microbial insecticides contain microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, or nematodes) or their by-products. Microbial insecticides are especially valuable because their toxicity to animals and humans is extremely low.

Insecticidal products comprised of a single species of microorganism may be active against a wide variety of insects or group of related insects (such as caterpillars) or they may be effective against only one or a few species. Most are very specific. Since there is such a narrow range of insects killed, they spare the beneficial insects almost entirely.

Bacillus thuringiensis products are the most widely used microbial insecticides in the United States. They are commonly known as Bt. Different subspecies of Bt are effective against different groups of insects or their larvae.

The best results will be achieved using Bt products by following a few guidelines.

  • Make sure the Bt product you have chosen lists the specific insect you want to control.
  • Make sure the insect is at a stage where it is susceptible to control by Bt. In general, Bt products are effective against young larval stages, but will not kill adults.
  • Spray the parts of the plant on which insects are feeding thoroughly, including the underside of leaves. Bt products must be eaten in order to be effective. Liquid formulations are more effective and stay on plants better than dust formulations.
  • Treat with Bt in late afternoon or evening, or on a cloudy day as Bt breaks down in sunlight.
  • Be aware that Bt does not kill immediately, but the poisoned insects will stop feeding almost immediately.

Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk) products are toxic only to larvae of butterflies and moths. They are used to safely control many common leaf-feeding caterpillars, including caterpillar pests on vegetables, bagworms and tent caterpillars on trees and shrubs, and European corn borer larvae.

Some caterpillars are not effectively controlled by Bt, especially those that live in the soil or bore into plant tissues without consuming a significant amount of the Bt applied to plant surfaces.

Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki products include:

  • Safer Caterpillar Killer with B.t. Concentrate,
  • Bonide Thuricide Bt Concentrate,
  • Natural Guard Caterpillar Killer Spray with Bt Conc.,
  • Southern Ag Thuricide Bt Caterpillar Control (Concentrate),
  • Tiger Brand Worm Killer Concentrate,
  • Monterey Bt,
  • Ferti-lome Dipel Dust,
  • Southern Ag Dipel Dust,
  • Safer Brand Garden Dust with Bt.

Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti) formulations kill mosquito, black fly, and fungus gnat larvae. Bti is most effective for mosquito or black fly control when it is used on a community-wide basis. For most homeowners, eliminating standing water sources is more effective than applying Bti or other insecticides. Floating products sold as dunks or pellets can eliminate mosquito larvae in ornamental ponds and other areas that cannot be drained. Bti products that are available commercially include:

  • Summit Mosquito Dunks,
  • Summit Mosquito Bits,

Milky Spore products contain the bacteria Bacillus popillae and Bacillus lentimorbus. Milky spore is applied to turf and watered into the soil below to control the larval (grub) stage of the Japanese beetle, and, less effectively, some other beetle grubs. If a substantial grub population is present at the time of application, milky spore can survive beneath undisturbed sod for a period of 15 to 20 years. Consequently, lawn applications of milky spore bacteria might not have to be repeated each year.

Examples of products are:

  • St Gabriel’s Milky Spore Powder Japanese Beetle Control
  • St Gabriel’s Milky Spore Granular Grub Control

Spinosad is an insect toxin derived from a soil-dwelling bacterium. It kills primarily by ingestion and is used against fire ants, caterpillars, thrips, leaf miners, and some beetles. It is also used against caterpillar borers of fruit trees. When applied at recommended rates, this product poses less risk than most insecticides to mammals, birds, fish, and beneficial insects. It is, however, toxic to bees, and should not be applied to plants in flower. Affected pests stop feeding within minutes, but may remain on the plant for up to two days. Always spray plants late in the day to reduce any harmful effect on pollinating insects.

Products containing spinosad are sold as concentrates to spray, or as fire ant baits in granular form. The sprays are labeled for use on ornamentals, lawns, and vegetables; the baits can be used in landscapes and within vegetable gardens. Examples of concentrates and baits are:

Spinosad Concentrates:

  • Southern Ag Conserve Naturalyte Insect Control Concentrate OMRI,
  • Bonide Colorado Potato Beetle Beater Concentrate,
  • Bonide Captain Jack’s Deadbug Brew Concentrate; & RTS; & RTU,
  • Ferti-lome Borer, Bagworm & Leafminer Spray Concentrate,
  • Monterey Garden Insect Spray Concentrate,
  • Natural Guard Spinosad Landscape & Garden Insecticide RTS.

Spinosad Fire Ant Baits:

  • Southern Ag Payback Fire Ant Bait,
  • Garden Safe Fire Ant Killer Ready to Use Granules,
  • Conserve Fire Ant Bait,
  • Ferti-lome Come and Get It! Fire Ant Bait,
  • Safer Brand Fire Ant Bait Ready to Use.

Beauveria bassiana is a fungus that attacks and kills a variety of immature and adult insects. Insects effected by various formulations include whiteflies, aphids, mites, caterpillars, leaf hoppers, grasshoppers, Colorado potato beetles, Mexican bean beetles, Japanese beetles, boll weevils, cutworms, sod webworms, bark beetles, chinch bugs, fire ants, European corn borers, and codling moths. Beneficial insects, such as lady beetles, are also susceptible.

Products containing Beauveria work best when applied at the onset of an infestation. It typically takes three to seven days after application for the spores to germinate, penetrate, and grow throughout the insect, thus killing them. Thorough spray coverage is essential because fungal spores must contact the insect for infection to occur.

Commercial products contain spores that germinate after application. New formulations do not require high humidity in order to provide effective control. Commercial products containing Beauvaria include:

  • Naturalis L,
  • Botanigard 22WP or ES.

Beneficial Nematodes Nematodes are microscopic, worm-like parasites. While some species of nematodes are pests of turf grass and other plants, others are beneficial, being parasites of harmful insects. Since beneficial nematodes cannot develop in vertebrate animals, they are very safe for use in pest control.

Beneficial nematodes can be used to control a variety of plant pests, including larvae of black vine weevil, clearwing borers, cutworms, sod webworms, mole crickets and white grubs. It is important to select the proper nematode species when trying to control a particular pest.

Nematodes can be difficult to use for most home gardeners. They must be shipped, stored and used under specific temperature and moisture conditions, and generally must be used very soon after shipping. For this reason, they are best ordered from suppliers immediately after a pest problem is observed.

A number of nematode products are available by mail order. Be sure the product you are ordering is specified for the pest you have and that you are able to provide proper environmental conditions for the nematodes. In general, nematodes require moist conditions, high humidity, and temperatures between 55 and 90 °F with little direct sunlight.


Diatomaceous Earth is a nontoxic powder composed of fossilized, one-celled organisms called diatoms. It is used to control slugs, millipedes, sow bugs, cockroaches, ants, and soft-bodied insects like aphids. It has low mammalian toxicity. Use the “natural grade,” not the type used as a filtering agent in swimming pools.

Prolonged exposure to diatomaceous earth will irritate lungs and other tissues of people or pets. Because it also kills honeybees, avoid applying the product to crops in flower. Diatomaceous earth products include:

  • Concern Diatomaceous Earth,
  • Natural Guard Diatomaceous Earth,
  • Bonide Diatomaceous Earth Crawling Insect Killer,
  • Natural Guard Crawling Insect Control Containing Diatomaceous Earth,
  • Safer Brand Ant & Crawling Insect Killer.

Kaolin Clay products act as a barrier that irritates insects and disguises the host plant by coating it with a ghostly white film. Insects are apparently unable to recognize plants treated with kaolin. It is most commonly used against a wide variety of pests on apple and pear trees. Also, kaolin can be used to control Japanese beetles, tarnished plant bugs, thrips, leafhoppers, cucumber beetles and Colorado potato beetles on vegetable crops. Kaolin must be applied as a preventative to be effective and cannot control a pest that is already established.

Kaolin clay can be applied up to the day of harvest and is non-toxic. Kaolin is sold as Surround Crop Protectant.

Boric Acid is derived from boron, a naturally occurring mineral. It acts as a stomach poison and causes insects to die from starvation. Boric acid is available in powder, paste, aerosol, tablet, and liquid forms for use against cockroaches, ants, and other insects. It should not be applied around plants in the landscape because, although boron is a necessary plant micro-nutrient, larger than trace amounts are toxic to plants. Most boric acid products are available as ready-to-use products. Boric acid (labels may list this as orthoboric acid or sodium tetraborate) is sold under a number of brand names, including:

  • Terro Outdoor Liquid Ant Baits,
  • Pic Boric Acid Roach Killer Gel,
  • Pic Ant Killing System (Bait),
  • Terro Multi-Purpose Insect Bait,
  • Amdro Kills Ants Liquid Ant Killer.

Silica Gel is an inert, nonabrasive material that is very effective in absorbing moisture. It absorbs the waxy coating on the insect’s body and causes death by dehydration. Silica gel products are often used by professional pest control operators to control cockroaches, silverfish, and other pests. Examples are BASF Tri-Die and Bayer Drione Insecticide. These contain 40% amorphous silca gel and 1% pyrethrins.

Sulfur is probably the oldest known pesticide in current use. It can be used as a dust, wettable powder, paste or liquid, and is primarily for disease control. However, mites, psyllids and thrips are also controlled by sulfur. Sulfur is nontoxic to mammals, but may irritate skin or especially eyes.

Sulfur is also used as a fungicide to control powdery mildew, rusts, brown rot, and leaf spots on fruits, vegetables and ornamentals.

Sulfur has the potential to damage plants in hot, dry weather. It is also incompatible with other pesticides. Do not use sulfur within 20 to 30 days of applying spray oils to plants as it reacts with the oils and is more likely to cause damage to foliage. Do not apply sulfur when temperatures are above 80 °F.

Examples of products containing sulfur are:


  • Hi-Yield Wettable Dusting Sulfur,
  • Safer Brand Garden Fungicide Concentrate; & RTU OMRI,
  • Southern Ag Wettable or Dusting Sulfur,
  • Bonide Sulfur Plant Fungicide (dust or spray),
  • Ferti-lome Dusting Sulfur.

Sulfur & Pyrethrins:

  • Bonide Citrus, Fruit & Nut Orchard Spray Concentrate,
  • Espoma Earth-tone 3-in-1 Disease Control Concentrate; & RTU.

Sulfur with Insecticidal Soap:

  • Safer Brand 3-in-1 Concentrate OMRI.

Insect Growth Regulators

Insect growth regulators (IGRs) are juvenile insect hormone analogs. They interfere with egg development and molting of various insect life stages. Because of their mode of action, they are very safe for vertebrate animals. IGRs are among the safest pesticides for application in homes. They are primarily used in homes for flea control. More information is available in EIIS/HS-2, Flea Control.

Two commonly available IGRs are methoprene (Precor) and pyriproxyfen (Nylar). The latter is photostable, and therefore can also be used outdoors. Nylar is sold as Martin’s IG Regulator.

Safer Formulations

Bait Stations deliver an insecticide through a sealed plastic or metal chamber that insects enter. This gives bait stations the advantage of decreasing both the amount of insecticide used and the likelihood of exposure to it. Bait stations are particularly suitable for use in situations where the safety of children is a concern, or in areas where food is prepared or stored.

Numerous brands of bait stations are commonly available to control cockroaches and ants. Some of the more effective bait stations have fipronil as the active ingredient, but those with boric acid (it may list this as orthoboric acid or sodium tetraborate) are also available. Examples of products containing fipronil are:

  • Terro Liquid Ant Bait,
  • Combat Source Kill Max Ant Bait,
  • Bayer Maxforce FC Ant Bait Stations,
  • Combat Roach Killing Bait,
  • Bayer Maxforce FC Magnum Roach Killer Bait Gel.

Pesticide Safety

Always read the pesticide label and follow its directions exactly. You may only use the pesticide on sites or crops listed on the label. Be sure to observe all special precautions that are listed on the label. Wear protective clothing or equipment as listed on the label when mixing or applying pesticides. Mix pesticides at the rate recommended for the target site as listed on the label. Never use more than the label says. Follow all label directions for safe pesticide storage and disposal. Always remember to read and heed the six most important words on the label: “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.”

Caution: Pollinating insects, such as honey bees and bumblebees, can be adversely affected by the use of pesticides. Avoid the use of spray pesticides (both insecticides and fungicides), as well as soil-applied, systemic insecticides unless absolutely necessary. If spraying is required, always spray late in the evening to reduce the direct impact on pollinating insects. Always try less toxic alternative sprays first for the control of insect pests and diseases. For example, sprays with insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, neem oil extract, spinosad, Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.), or botanical oils can help control many small insect pests and mites that affect garden and landscape plants. Neem oil extract or botanical oil sprays may also reduce plant damage by repelling many insect pests. Practice cultural techniques to prevent or reduce the incidence of plant diseases, including pre-plant soil improvement, proper plant spacing, crop rotation, applying mulch, applying lime and fertilizer based on soil test results, and avoiding over-head irrigation and frequent watering of established plants. Additionally, there are less toxic spray fungicides that contain sulfur or copper soap, and biological control sprays for plant diseases that contain Bacillus subtilis. However, it is very important to always read and follow the label directions on each product. For more information, contact the Clemson Extension Home & Garden Information Center.

Pure Neem Oil

Neem Oil affects over 400 varieties of insects and is an important part of an integrated pest management strategy. This foliar spray is 100% pure neem oil from the neem tree. In addition to working as a natural leaf polish, neem oil is a biodegradeable, fast acting insect bio-inhibitor. The oil is absorbed by the pests and interferes with reproduction and feeding for a steady decline in population. Concentrated, Pure Neem Oil goes 66% further than the 70% diluted solutions. The 8 ounce bottle makes 8 gallons of solution.

Important Note

Due to regulations, we cannot ship this item to customers located in the following areas:

  • California

Orders placed requesting shipment to any address within the above listed areas will not be processed.

Additional Information

Application Rates

Mix 1 tsp of neem oil and 1/2 tsp of liquid dish soap to 1 quart of water, or 4 tsp of neem oil and 2 tsp of liquid dish soap to 1 gallon of water. Shake well. (Neem oil mixes easier with warm water.) Spray the diluted solution generously on all leaf surfaces.


Material Safety Data Sheet

Important info about Neem & Insecticidal Soap

I am using Neem oil extract (Azadirachtin 3.2%) and insecticidial soap for the longest time already, but today I did found some info that might interest you if you’re also using Neem and/or insecticidal soap for spraying:
* When you use a Neem product as I do, a Neem oil concentrate with 3.2% azadirachtin (the active insecticidal compound in Neem), and the product is labelled with “EC”, this stands for “Emulsifiable Concentrate”. This means that the “neem oil” is dissolvable in water and does not require an emulsion.
* When you spray neem, your water/spray solution should have a ph of 4-6. (So you might need some drops of pH down for your water)
* You should NOT pH down insecticidal soap. A mix made from insecticidal soap (made from potassium salts) normally has a VERY high pH of maybe 10 or more. Again: I read several times on manufacturer pages (!) not to pH it down <8 since this could harm plants. (This contradicts some posts I read on forums where people claimed that someone “burned their plants” because their insecticidal soap spray had a high pH like 10 . <— not true. I spray for a very long time with non-pHed soap and never burned plants with it, ever)
* Since your insecticidial soap spray mix is supposed to have a high pH, but Neem needs a rather low pH of 4-6, this also means it is not optimal (or might not work at all) to mix insecticidal soap and neem. (Which I always did in the past since I thought insecticidal soap would be the ideal emulsifier for neem oil!). So if you mix, and you pH it or you don’t, it will affect either the one or the other. Either the pH too low for the soap (possible plant damage), or pH too high for neem. But you don’t have to emulsify neem with insecticidal soap anyway, since a good product which is a “Emulsifiable Concentrate” doesn’t need to, just use water.
* How this applies to normal cold pressed “Neem Oil” which people can get, eg. available in beauty stores or on ebay etc, is a different story! I do not recommend that people use this type of “Neem Oil” from ebay etc. at all and also wrote that already in a guide. For various reasons: not knowing about the recommended dosage using it as a pesticide is one. Not knowing whether your “Neem oil” even contains the active compound can be another. (There is some “neem oil” which doesn’t – it’s worthless). If it is a “natural Neem oil” and does not contain an emulsifier like a commercial neem offered as an insecticide, you cannot dilute it in water since it’s an oil. (TLDR: Don’t buy Neem oil for beauty etc. purposes since you don’t know what you’ll be getting, you don’t know whether it has the active insecticidal compound in it and don’t know the proper dose to use it as an insecticide.)
Commercial neem based insecticides, like Azamax etc. which contain “98% of other ingredients”, these “other ingredients” are likely emulsifiers, wetting agents etc…which makes these products easy useable for water.
* If your water is too hard so your insecticidal soap percipates/flakes, use distilled water.
* You should not mix insecticial soap and neem (like I did before) and store the mix and use it. First, because of the above reasons, second, because both things should be used right away. Keeping it for a few hours is maybe ok, but it will degrade within a few days. Always make fresh sprays.
* Spray neem using water, not mixed into insecticidal soap.
* When you spray insecticidal soap, do not pH down the soap and do not mix neem into the soap.
* It’s best when you alternate spraying insecticidal soap and Neem, on different days, but don’t use them together in one spray.
(It makes sense when you use insecticidal soap first to kill adult bugs, and then a day or two later spray neem. Because if you do it the other way around, you might wash off the neem, which you don’t want! And then repeat every week until everything’s under control)

Garden Safe Brand Neem Oil 16-fl oz Concentrate Garden Insect Killer

The experts behind Garden Safe brand know home gardening is as much about how you grow as what you grow. Since 2002, Garden Safe® brand has delivered garden products including natural-based and botanically derived formulas to growers who prefer to control plant pests and diseases without traditional chemicals. Organic gardeners trust our solutions to keep garden pest control simple – and let nature do the rest. Let goodness grow. Garden Safe Brand Neem Oil Extract Concentrate is designed for organic gardening. This concentrated formula acts as a garden fungicide, insecticide and miticide – it’s three garden products in one! Use it on roses, flowers, houseplants, ornamental trees and shrubs, fruits and vegetables in and around the home and home garden. Garden Safe Brand Neem Oil Extract Concentrate controls black spot, rust and powdery mildew, and kills aphids, whiteflies, spider mites and other listed insect pests and mites. This formula kills eggs, larvae and adult insects. Use it right up onto the day you harvest treated plants. Mix with water and apply at the rates listed on the product label. OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) Listed. As with other oil-based products, time applications to early morning/late evening to minimize the potential for leaf burn. Active ingredient is Clarified Hydrophobic Extract of Neem Oil.

You can get it here

If you tend to buy organic/non-toxic versions of many household products, you may have seen ‘neem oil’ listed in the ingredients.

It’s used in formulations such as toothpaste and lotion, and you may have seen a neem oil soap.

As a natural insecticide, fungicide and bactericide, people have been using neem for thousands of years.

Neem trees at sunrise

And many of the benefits we get from using it on ourselves translate to the garden, too.

To get those benefits, you’ll want to find a pure neem oil that’s a cold pressed neem oil, organically produced if you can find it.

What Is Neem Oil?

It comes from the seeds of the neem tree, Azadirachta indica, now grown in over 70 countries all around the world.

For many years I avoided using neem oil for plants because I tend to stay away from anything that might be considered a pesticide, but I’ve been reading more about it over the past couple of years and my opinion has changed.

I started experimenting with it on my fruit trees last year, and now believe it’s a rare product in that it repels pests without causing trouble for the beneficial organisms in our organic gardens.

I successfully controlled aphids and mildew, and the really cool part is that the leaves I sprayed were noticeably healthier than the ones I didn’t, which proved to me that this is not like most pesticides that harm plants.

There’s even anecdotal evidence, mostly coming from organic orchardists who swear by a whole list of neem oil uses, that it’s actually helpful for the soil and arboreal food web.

That’s why I call it the ‘healthy’ pesticide.

I still wouldn’t spray it haphazardly around the garden, but if you experienced some pest damage last year, I believe cold-pressed, pure neem oil is potentially one of the best options to improve your situation this year. Read on below to see why…

First, Does Pure Neem Oil Cause Any Problems?

The great thing about neem seed oil is that it mainly affects plant-feeding insects that suck or chew on leaves, so beneficial insects including bees, butterflies and other pollinators that feed on nectar aren’t much affected.

The neem tree, Azadirachta indica, is native to the Indian subcontinent including Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

Other beneficials, such as ladybugs, earthworms and spiders aren’t affected either unless they’re sprayed directly with a fairly heavy dose.

Research shows that only repeated applications of very high concentrations of neem – far exceeding those you’ll be using – had a small impact on some bee populations.

Personally, I still wouldn’t advocate blanketing the whole garden with neem oil as I do with microbial inoculants and liquid fertilizers, but some advocates, including well-known orchardist and author Michael Phillips, do use it as part of a regular spray program, mixed with liquid fish, liquid seaweed, effective microorganisms and other biostimulants.

As for human safety, pure neem oil is not only natural, but is actually used in many applications for our health – neem oil for skin, neem oil for hair, neem oil for dogs, and so on.

The residue from spraying your vegetables is non-toxic, but you don’t want to ingest it because neem oil can be irritating to eyes, skin and stomach, and negatively impact fertility, so as with most things we spray in our garden, don’t drink it or go splashing it all over your face.

WebMD says, among other things, “Taking neem seeds or oil by mouth is LIKELY UNSAFE for children. Serious side effects in infants and small children can happen within hours after taking neem oil. These serious side effects include vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, blood disorders, seizures, loss of consciousness, coma, brain disorders, and death.” and “Neem oil and neem bark are LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth during pregnancy. They can cause a miscarriage. Not enough is known about the safety of need during breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.”

Neem breaks down quickly without a lasting residue and has a low environmental impact. You can spray neem pretty much up to the day of harvest as it breaks down quickly.

The only thing to be careful of is not to spray too close to waterways because neem oil has been shown to be mildly toxic to aquatic organisms.

Neem Oil Pesticide – How It Works

Neem oil insecticide uses. Pure neem oil can kill soft-bodied insects and mites on contact, which is one reason why you want to spray it in the early morning or evening when the pollinators aren’t out as much, to avoid spraying them.

But that’s not the main method of action of how it controls pests.

First, neem oil repels insects and other animals directly when they encounter it on the leaves.

And when you spray it on the soil, the plant will take it up systemically, which will deter insects from feeding even more.

But for those insects who do still feed, the oil contains many different components that are not going to bode well for them, the most active and well-researched being a metabolite called azadirachtin.

When a plant-feeding insect feeds on a leaf that has been sprayed with pure neem oil, the azadirachtin interferes with the insect’s hormonal system, which inhibits their eating, mating and egg-laying patterns. It also inhibits growth, which prevents larvae from molting and eggs from hatching.

Because azadirachtin acts on the hormonal system, insects don’t develop resistance in future generations, thereby making it a sustainable solution.

While azadirachtin is the most researched metabolite, I expect there are others that are involved.

Neem oil fungicide uses. Organic compounds in the oil spark an immune response to prevent fungal diseases such as mildew, black spot, rust, rot, scab, leaf spot and blights.

And a quality, cold-pressed neem oil will occasionally control some of these diseases when they’re already present.

It’s also been used as a seed treatment to successfully prevent phytopathogenic fungal diseases, but I’ve not used it for that myself.

A Brief Word On “Pests”

Neem oil comes from neem seeds.

I’m using the word pest a lot in this article and I’d like to speak to that.

We call something a pest because it’s doing something we don’t like, but really, it’s just an animal or microorganism doing its job.

I may think about the tomato hornworm as a pest when it chows down on my tomato plants, but in reality, the reason it’s doing that is that my tomato plants aren’t optimally healthy.

As I’ve talked about before, insects and diseases don’t cause much problem when our plants are healthy, so when we see that they are causing problems, our first plan of action should be to improve plant health, not to reach for the pesticide, because that won’t solve the root cause of the problem.

The first thing I reach for is my favorite microbial inoculant and one of my favorite liquid organic fertilizers.

Both of these help boost plant health, sometimes enough to make the “pests” go away entirely, sometimes just enough so they don’t cause as much of a problem, and sometimes it doesn’t seem to help much at all, because it may be that something else is going on.

So the other thing I do is think about what else could be contributing to the problem – improper watering, airflow, sun exposure, soil imbalances, etc. There’s always a reason, whether or not I can figure it out.

Traditionally, an organic pesticide is the last thing I reach for. Now, the cool thing about pure neem oil is that it actually seems to boost plant health too, whereas most pesticides harm plants, so I do reach for it sooner than I would with other pesticides.

But I still want to remember to also bring in some foliar nutrition and some beneficial microorganisms, to take more of a holistic approach to addressing the root cause of the problem.

So yes, I use the word “pests” because then we can all understand what I’m talking about, but really, they’re just insects and fungi that are helping to remove the unhealthy plants from my food supply.

Okay, back to neem oil…

Other Pure Neem Oil Benefits

Neem flowers

Neem oil is nutritious, so it actually acts as a foliar fertilizer.

But perhaps more important, the fatty acids are especially good for plants and some fungi.

A lot of research I’ve come across states that neem is good for soils, too, but they don’t usually say much more than that, so I can’t speak to it much.

I think because most research is focused on using neem oil for plants as a pesticide that the soil benefits are considered secondary.

But I do know that a ‘neem cake’ is made from the organic residue after pure neem oil is pressed from the seeds, and that cake is used as a soil conditioner.

Do You Need Neem Oil For Plants?

If your plants are generally healthy and you don’t have much in the way of insect or disease problems, you probably don’t need neem oil.

Some proponents recommend it be used regularly, almost like a broad spectrum fertilizer, and perhaps there’s something to that, but personally, I don’t want to kill insects unnecessarily, so I save this for plants that really need some extra help.

In that case, it’s my number one choice. It helps control nearly 200 species of insects, 15 of fungi, and allegedly, some bacteria and viruses.

It’s most effective for either eradicating or at least deterring insects that feed on leaves. Here is a list of some of the main insects it can help control:

bed bugs
black-headed caterpillars
blister beetles
boring insects (many types)
cabbage worms
Colorado potato beetles
corn earworms
cotton stainers
eriophyid mites
flea beetles
fruit flies
fruit sucking moths
fungus gnats
gypsy moths
Japanese beetles
lace bugs
leaf miners
leaf webbers
Mexican bean beetles
mites (not an insect)
moths and moth larvae
mushroom flies
pod bug
pulse beetle
red palm weevil
root grubs
root weevil adults
sand flies
semi loopers
spider mites
spindle bugs
spotted beetles
squash bugs
tea mosquito
white grubs

Some people have also had success controlling snails and slugs, but not always.

Finding A Quality Neem Oil

Neem seeds

In terms of where to buy neem oil, be sure to seek out a product that is a cold-pressed, 100% pure neem oil, preferably organic.

Pure neem oil for sale that was cold-pressed contains much higher levels of active ingredients, which makes it more effective. You pay more for a bottle but you use a lot less.

If possible, try to determine the percentage of azadirachtin. The product I have varies between 1800-2200ppm. A higher ppm is achievable, but often by way of chemical extraction.

Commercial neem sprays often have chemicals added to them and often only include a neem oil extract with just the azadirachtin which greatly limits the effectiveness.

The Garden Safe neem oil and Bonide neem oil brands both have 30% “Other” ingredients and they don’t disclose what those are.

What you want is a pure, cold-pressed neem oil, not an extraction, and free of additional harmful ingredients.

How Much Neem Oil Do You Need?

Neem seeds and flower

I keep a small 16oz size around my house because that’s plenty for my home garden.

That size will do about 1000 square feet of orchard for a whole growing season, and 4000+ square feet for a vegetable garden.

Store your neem oil in a cool, dark place. Room temperature is okay, or the refrigerator is a good place for it, too. It will last about two years if you do this.

How To Use Neem Oil For Plants

You can use neem oil throughout the growing season on all types of plants. Just be careful with seedlings and young plants in general, as they tend to be more vulnerable to any type of spray.

It’s best to start early in the season to prevent the main infection period of fungi, disrupt egg hatch of soft-bodied insects, and target overwintering moths in the trunk and soil.

On plants that you know will have pest problems, you can spray for prevention every 1-2 weeks starting in late winter, and especially when the problem season approaches for that plant, and then for maintenance every 2-4 weeks after that.

If you have a specific pest to control, you can spray every 3 days for at least 2 weeks. This is approximately the length of one life cycle for many insects.

It’s best to apply early in the morning or even better is in the evening to make sure you’re avoiding the hot sun, as some sensitive plants may get burned.

Here’s what orchardist Michael Phillips says about when to use neem oil: “I apply pure neem oil along with liquid fish at the week of quarter-inch green, pink, petal fall, and 7 to 10 days after that. This early season program addresses many orchard health fronts including the primary infection period of fungal diseases like scab and rust. I continue to use neem through the summer on a 10 to 14 day schedule, again coinciding with any other specific spray needs. A late August spray on the later varieties finishes up the use of neem oil for the season here in northern New Hampshire.”

If you want to know what he means by “quarter-inch green” and “pink” and so on, here are example growth stages for apple, pear, and peach trees.

Like coconut oil, pure neem oil becomes solid and thick at cooler temperatures, so if necessary, you can warm up the whole bottle by placing it in a pot of warm water, or you can just mix the neem directly with warm water before spraying. Don’t use hot water because heat destroys azadirachtin.

The oil and water will separate, so you’ll need to use an emulsifier to stabilize the mixture. Generally, liquid soap is used. It also has insecticidal properties. Unfortunately, dish detergents are quite hard on plants, so I use a non-toxic Castile soap such as Dr Bronner’s.

Total application rate of neem oil is 1-2 cups per 1000 square feet per year, which could be divided into small-dose, weekly sprayings or larger-dose, monthly sprayings. For example, if you spray 6 times this year, that’s about 3-6 Tbsp of neem oil per 1000 square feet each time. Lean to the lower end if your plants are small, like vegetables in spring.

To mix, add the soap to the warm water first and then slowly stir in the neem oil. Per gallon of water, mix 1/2 teaspoon of non-toxic liquid soap and then add 1.5 Tbsp of neem oil and shake like crazy before and during application to keep it emulsified. Don’t use dish detergent – use a true liquid soap.

This makes for a 1:170 ratio of neem oil to water (1:150 to 1:200 seems to be the normal recommendation). That amount will do about 250-500 square feet, but don’t spray too much on young seedlings – it’s better to wait until plants are bigger for most types of foliar spraying, as tiny plants can be quite vulnerable to overapplication.

Let’s apply the above recipe to a standalone sprayer. If you plan to spray, for example, 3 gallons of water, it’s 1/2 Tbsp of soap and 4.5 Tbsp of neem oil (for soil and trunk applications in early spring and late fall when there are no leaves on your trees and shrubs, you can double the dilution to 3 Tbsp of neem oil per gallon of water).

Now let’s apply the recipe to a pint-sized hose-end sprayer. Here’s how I do it. Fill it 3/4 full with warm water, add 1/2 Tbsp of non-toxic liquid soap, and shake shake shake. Then, slowly pour in 4.5 Tbsp of neem oil while vigorously mixing the liquid. This is similar to how a good salad dressing is made – the oil needs to be added slowly and mixed really well in order to emulsify it. Alternatively, using a blender to mix this all together can work, but then your blender smells like neem, which isn’t very nice.

Then set the hose-end sprayer to setting 10 (10 Tbsp of your mixture per gallon of water). The reason I mix it with so much water in the sprayer is that it’s almost impossible for the sprayer to pull up straight neem oil, so mixing it with this water makes it less thick, allowing it to be pulled up. If it pulls up too fast, you can go down to setting 5.

Even better, in your hose-end sprayer, cut your water in half and replace it with liquid fish and/or liquid seaweed fertilizer to spray them at the same time. I always try to combine products when possible since I’m out there spraying anyway, and fish and seaweed are the best matches for pure neem oil.

I don’t mix this with microbial inoculants because I don’t think the microbes would like the oil, so I come through with my EM or compost tea a few days later or whenever I get to it.

Use your neem and water mixture within 8 hours because it will break down afterward. Then clean your sprayer immediately to keep it from clogging up with oil.

When you spray the leaves, make sure that you also spray the undersides because insects like to hide there.

It’s always useful to spray the soil too because insects lay their eggs in the ground, and because the fatty acids in the oil are beneficial for the soil food web.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate effects. Remember that neem oil concentrate primarily works not by contact, but by disturbing the hormonal systems of insects, so it can take some time.

If you want to learn more about organic pest control, check out this article.

Or if you have any questions about neem oil, let me know down below.

You Can Get It Here

A few years ago, I decided to start selling the pure neem oil product I use. It:

  • Helps control nearly 200 species of insects and 15 of fungi, without causing much harm to beneficials such as bees, butterflies and earthworms.
  • Also seems to act as a biostimulant, encouraging a healthier soil food web. It is especially advocated by organic orchardists such as Michael Phillips as part of a regular spray program.
  • Is 100% pure and cold pressed, which makes it much more effective than the cheaper products that are just extracts of neem.

As a free bonus when you order today, I’ll also enrol you in my online course on controlling plant predators.

Just click ‘Add To Cart’ up above.


  • Shipping is $10 (if your order is $99 or less) or free (if your order is $100 or more).
  • I ship in the U.S. only. I ship 7 days a week.
  • All of my products have a 1 year 100% money-back guarantee.
  • If you have a question about a product, leave it in the comment section below I’ll try to respond within a few hours.
  • Dry fertilizers and compost tea brewers ship separately so they will arrive on their own maybe a day or 2 apart from my other products.
  • With every order, I send $1 to Organics 4 Orphans and other similar organizations. O4O is working with the world’s poor to help them grow organic, highly nutritious, highly medicinal food for themselves, and then use the surplus food to generate income for themselves as well as feeding the orphans in their communities. My hope this year is to again send $1500US, which is enough to start projects in 25 new communities!

Pure Organic Neem Oil

Heard enough ?
Well there’s lots more !

Neem Oil is a really effective natural deterrent against loads of flies and horrible biting things including lice, mites, ticks and even the dreaded Scottish midge !
(The University of Edinburgh studied this

So how do you use Neem Oil ?

Well for existing conditions e.g. mud fever and sweet itch, use neat and gently bathe the infected areas.
You can do this twice a day.
(The same applies to in helping the healing of wounds and other skin inflammations.)
For thrush also use your Neem Oil neat.
Gently covering the frog and central sulcus daily, in fact the whole of the exposed area would be best, and then slowly increase the timing between applications as the condition improves.

(Incidentally, if the conditions are really wet, and mud fever is a possibility, we would suggest covering your horse’s legs, at least from hoof to knee, with pure Neem Oil before turning him out.)

An important extra benefit is that while your Neem is improving the infected area, it will also be deterring all those biting things – some of which may have caused the problem in the first place !

Using your Neem Oil to deter all those pests can be done in two ways.

When the flies and other nasties are really bad, mix a solution of one part Neem Oil to 50 parts warmish water and sponge (or spray) over your horse.
(In fact the mix you use is very much up to you depending on conditions.)
Doing this every two- three days during the season would really help keep those flying things away !
(This could be really nice for your horse after a ride as it will be quite refreshing too.)

Two weeks ago, I wrote about using horticultural oils to control pests in your yard and garden, but one deserves a column of its own.

If you’ve been searching for a safe and nontoxic pesticide, neem oil might be the product for you. Neem offers just about everything a gardener would want with none of the nasty effects of many man-made preparations may contain.

Neem oil is a pesticide that occurs naturally from seeds in the neem tree, or Azadirachta indica. The tree is found in South Asia and India, where it is an ornamental shade tree.

It has a bitter taste, garlicy smell, and has been used for hundreds of years to control plant diseases and pests. Its seeds also have been used in wax, oil, soap, organic cosmetics, toothpaste and pet shampoo.

Although the oil can be found in most of the tree, the seeds hold the highest concentration. The oil contains a mixture of components with azadirachtin being the most effective for use as a pesticide. Neem can be found in granular form, as a dust, a wettable powder or a concentrate.

It works as a repellent and has insecticidal properties that interrupt insects’ hormonal system, making it difficult for them to lay eggs or grow well. It also interferes with their ability to feed and mate, thereby weakening the population as a whole. As an oil, it works by smothering the insects.

One of the best things about this pesticide is that it’s very safe if applied according to label directions. It has a half-life of three to 22 days when used as a drench in soil, but only 45 minutes to four days when mixed with water. It is virtually nontoxic to birds, bees and wildlife, making it one of the safest controls you can use in your yard. It can control aphids, mealybugs, thrips, whiteflies, scale and most insects with soft bodies.

When mixed with water and applied as a foliar spray, it works just like other horticultural oils do, by smothering the breathing holes of the insects. Since some plants can be affected by neem oil, be sure to mix up a small amount and test on a small area of the plant first. Wait 24 hours and make sure there is no damage before applying the rest.

Apply neem in the evening or on a cloudy day when there is no direct light to avoid having the foliage burn and to allow time for the oil to seep into the plant. Do not use neem in extreme hot or cold temperatures and avoid using it on plants that are stressed.

Weekly applications will kill pests and keep things like powdery mildew in check. Apply according to label directions and coat the leaves.

Neem is also safe around bees – although I wouldn’t advise spraying it directly on the bees or their hives. And since it does not target insects that do not chew on leaves, beneficial insects like butterflies and ladybugs won’t be harmed. However, the aphids that you want to kill are the food supply for your ladybugs, so if you use neem to kill aphids, your ladybugs may disappear too.

Although the perfect insecticide doesn’t exist, neem is close. It controls pests without harming our food supply.

Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at [email protected]

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