There are several local beekeepers in Hillcrest, and while they typically do not encounter bee poisoning by pesticides, this danger is always possible if pesticides are used within a 3-mile radius of beehives. As you may have read or heard about the UN report of extinction looming over 1 million species of plants and animals, colony collapse disorder (bees) is one of the issues of concern. Pesticides cause the loss of beneficial insect life that we need to maintain biodiversity and our agricultural productivity.
In 2019, some local beekeepers found one of our hives with bees no longer foraging, but instead the bees were falling around on the ground unable to fly. A neighbor said the bees looked like they were drunk! Describing the behavior to other beekeepers provided a consensus that the bees had been poisoned by pesticides used in our neighborhood (bees visit within a 3-mile radius). So, it is their plea to all of us to consider what we put on your plants. Below, local beekeepers have included 1) Pesticides to avoid, and 2) Bee-friendly pesticides.
While citronella oil is classifed as a natural insect repellent, research is conflicting as to the effectiveness for repelling mosquitoes. The National Pesticide Information Center describes oil of citronella as an effective repellent of insects. It works by masking scents that are attractive to insects. This characteristic makes it more difficult for insects to locate a target.
Due to their acidic nature, apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar are effective weed killers. Fill a watering can or spray bottle with vinegar and apply it directly to the difficult weeds you’d like to eliminate. You can also mix up a little cocktail of a gallon of vinegar, one cup of Epsom salt, and a tablespoon of castile soap.
An ideal component of any organic garden, Epsom salt is completely safe, non-toxic, and bee-friendly. In addition to being a magnesium rich fertilizer for tomato and pepper plants, Epsom salts are also an effective way of keeping slimy critters like slugs and snails off your plants. Simply sprinkle the salt around the base of affected plants, or apply a half-water, half-salt saline spray to the leaves of plants affected by other pests, like beetles.
Pepper, Garlic and Onion Spray
Just as pepper spray is harsh for human skin, at milder concentrations, pepper spray works on insect bodies as well. A handful of chili or habanero peppers, garlic, or onions can be pulverized in a blender with a few cups or water, boiled over the stove, then cooled and transferred to a gallon container. Add extra water to make sure you don’t burn your plants, and be sure to wear gloves and protect your eyes when making this mixture.
Given its much-lauded gentleness and non-toxicity, it might come as a surprise that castile soap spray is a potent pesticide. Its effectiveness stems from the fatty acids present in the olive oil-based soap, so be sure to use the real deal; dish soaps and detergents will be both ineffective and harmful here. To make a solution, mix about 2% soap, and feel free to add a little cooking oil, vinegar, neem oil, or pepper to the mix.
Cut the foil into strips and wrap them around the base of plants affected by aphids, or tear it up and mix it in with the mulch around your plants. The light reflections will confuse pests and drive them away.
An important component of many natural insect repellents intended for bodily use, eucalyptus oil is an effective method of keeping harmful bugs away from your garden. Strong, pungent smells are what work here. Other essential oils to use include orange, peppermint, and rosemary. Sprinkle a few drops around the area, or add them to a spray bottle full of water, and apply directly to the threatened plants.
Pesticides to Avoid
The most toxic of all pesticides and have been phased out of use; examples include:
Pyrethroids: Special chemical class of modern insecticides that kill insects almost instantly by affecting the neuromuscular function. This group is also toxic to fish and mammals.
Pyrethrin; Found in chrysanthemums and used to make pesticides; i.e., Raid®.
Pyrethroids: Same chemical makeup as pyrethins but are not naturally occurring compounds. Pyrethroid common names almost always end in either -thrin or -ate. Examples include allethrin, resmethrin, permethrin, cyfluthrin or esfenvalerate. (Note: Mosquito Joe’s uses these products according to their website, and Lowe’s sells these products for use on your patio areas.)
Neonicotinoids: A class of systemic water-soluble insecticides (such as imidacloprid) chemically related to nicotine that are used especially in agriculture to control destructive pests (such as aphids and mites) and that selectively bind to the postsynaptic nicotinic receptors of insects to produce paralysis and death —called also neonic. Colony Collapse Disorder is in part caused by this class of pesticides.