Insecticidal Soap

1. Q. Will soap kill bugs? Will it injure plants?

A. Various solutions of different soaps and detergents (Ivory, Tide, etc.) were compared with organic insecticides for effectiveness in controlling aphids, mites, psyllids, and thrips. In all of the experiments, soap and detergent sprays produced high mortality of all the arthropods tested and compared favorably with insecticides such as diazinon and Kelthane. However, there was no residual control and in many cases, plant phytotoxicity was observed. Because no residual control can be expected applications must be made more often (every three days) which may enhance the occurrence of plant foliage damage.

These results indicate that some soaps have direct insecticidal activity and may provide an alternative to so called "hard" pesticides. However, the only soap solution legally registered with EPA is Safer's Agrico-Chem Insecticidal Soap. Regular soap is illegal because of government regulations which state that any chemical used to control insects must have an approved label.

Another note of interest for you bug watchers - - - What do you get when you cross a praying mantis with a beetle? (An ugly, strange looking bug that says grace before chomping away at your garden vegetables.)

2. Q. I have read several articles that recommend using household ingredients to control fungi and aphids (ie.liquid soap, baking soda, amonia). Could you please tell me the effects that household liquid soap would have on lawns and plants? Also, could you direct me where I might find avaiable information on this on your web page.

A: First of all, technically, the use of household ingredients for pest control is highly illegal and a federal offense!! The label IS THE LAW and unless the pest to be controlled and the dosage recommended is on the label of the product to be used, YOU COULD GO TO JAIL!

Even though baking soda has been shown effective for ball moss control, Mr. Arm&Hammer has not put it on the label SO WE CAN'T RECOMMEND IT. Detergents can be as harmful to plants as they are helpful in killing aphids -- too concentrated spray will cause plant tissue to deteriorate. The Insecticidal Soaps such as Safers with instructions on the label is best used. The use of Jerry Baker products such as Listerine, pinesol and the such is not recommended and not effective. Detergent on the lawn does nothing but wash the grass and cool the insects; it does not control pests.


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