When searching for a safe and effective product to control insects and disease in your lawn and garden, look no further than neem oil.
What is neem oil?
Neem oil is a natural byproduct of the neem tree. The oil is harvested from the trees’ seeds and leaves. While it has been used as natural pesticide for hundreds of years, you’ll also find it in many products you use in your home, including:
- Dog shampoo
People in India have been using the neem leaf for its medicinal properties for thousands of years to help:
- Strengthen the immune system
- Detoxify blood
- Improve liver function
- Maintain a healthy circulatory, digestive and respiratory system
How does Neem Oil kill insects?
Neem oil doesn’t actually kill bugs by poisoning them. Instead, several active ingredients called limonoids repel insects while also disrupting their growth and reproduction. Azadirachtin is the most potent of these limonoids, so look for it on the ingredients list when purchasing a neem-based pesticide.
How it works: Azadirachtin is chemically similar to insects’ hormones and ingesting it can mess with metamorphosis by either preventing larva and pupa from maturing or by preventing adults from reproducing.
Additionally, neem oil kills soft-bodied insects when it is sprayed directly on them. The coating causes them to suffocate by preventing respiration the same way that insecticidal soap does.
Neem works well for aphids, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies, scale, beetles, leafhoppers, leafminers, lacebugs, caterpillars, and other chewing insects. It’s also effective at getting rid of fungi and mildews like root rot, sooty mold, and powdery mildew, likely because of its antibacterial properties.
Neem is non-toxic to humans and wildlife, including most beneficial insects like bees and ladybugs that do not feed on leaves. It is safe to use indoors, outdoors, and on food (just be sure to wash everything well). You can use it safely around pets provided they do not ingest the oil directly.
How to Use Neem Oil at Home
Neem oil is most often applied as a spray. Typically you will need to mix two to four tablespoons of the neem oil concentrate with one gallon of water, but check the directions on the bottle.
Neem oil might kill some plants, especially if they are young and if the oil is applied too heavily. Test a small area of the plant and wait 24 hours before applying it all over. Apply neem in the evening for outdoor plants and out of direct sunlight for indoor plants to prevent leaf burning. Spray all surfaces of the leaves, including the undersides. Reapply every seven to 14 days as needed.