Safer Options

All pesticides by their nature are toxic to some organisms. There is growing evidence that common pesticides are harmful to people and the environment. Many pesticides are indiscriminate, harming birds and beneficial insects; and when washed into our waterways are harmful to fish. Before you pick up a pesticide ask yourself if it is needed.

Is the pest actually harming your plant?

Many bugs are helpful. Also, if bugs are infesting your plants, it may be an indication that the plant is stressed. Maybe your plant needs more water, less sun, a different soil pH. Always try to get to the root of the problem.

To avoid being part of the toxic contamination process now occurring, take care to:

  • Choose the least toxic methods in gardening.
  • Diligently follow pesticide labels and recommended times of day to apply.
  • Follow all safety recommendations when using pesticides.

Use physical measures first, toxics last:

  • Scout your bushes/forbs for insects and damage.
  • Visually identify pest.
  • Place Row Covers over crop when flying insects are in season.
  • Hand Pick flies and beetles, drop them into pail of water, or,
  • Knock Off pests with a Spray of Water
  • Some gardeners Freeze the harvested insects and Feed them to birds.
  • Accept damage that does not threaten to kill your plant.
  • Consider Options and choose Least Toxic measures.

If you decide you still need a pesticide, apply with caution and use only those with active ingredients that do the least amount of harm.



Insecticidal SoapsPotassium Salts of Fatty AcidsAphids, mealybugs, thrips, mites, scales, whitefliesMay need repeat applicationsDamages soft-bodies insects' protective coat
Neem OilNeem (Azadirachta indica), an evergreen treeAphids, leafminers, mealybugs, spidermites, thrips, whiteflies, scales, caterpillars, lacebugsMay need repeat applicationsToxic when ingested
AzadirachtinExtract of Neem OilSee Neem Oil uses.May need repeat applicationsFeeding deterrent
Growth regulator
Essential OilsCedar, cinnamon, clove, mints, rosemary, eugenol, capsaisinAnts, dust mites, spiders, fleas, cricketsDo not use where pollinators feed or during activeMost kill on contact, quick acting
Horticultural OilsPetrochemicals
Summer: lighter weight oil
Dormant: overwintering
Aphids, mites, scales,Night spray only --
Do NOT spray in day
Blocks pests respiration, destroys waxy coats, interferes with feeding and egg laying
LimoneneOil from citrusAnts, roaches, palmetto bugs, fleas, silverfishNight spray only --
Do NOT spray in day
Kills on contact
GarlicGarlicA wide variety of pestsMay repel beneficialsRepellent
BtBacillus ThuringiensisDifferent strains used for different insectsBe sure to choose a product specific to your pestFeeding deterrent
SpinosadDerived from soil bacteriumFireants, thrips, aphids, scales, whiteflies, caterpillars, leaf miners, fruit tree borersDo NOT apply
to plants in flower
Apply at night
Kills on ingestion
Beauvaria BassianaFungusJapanese beetles, aphids, whiteflies, caterpillars, leaf hoppers, grasshoppers, Colorado potato beetles, Mexican bean beetles, boll weevils, cutworms, sod webworms, bark beetles, cinch bugsMay kill beneficials
and and ladybeetles
Kills mature and adult pests
Milky Spore - Paenibacillus popilliaeMade by inoculating beetle grubs with milky spore disease and extracting the spores.
Applied to turf once a year in powder form.
Japanese beetle grubs (and perhaps lady beetles, and June bugs).It may take more than one season to have impact but is active for 10 or more years.
It is not poisonous to beneficial insects, pets, fish, food, or humans.
Grubs eat spores and die of milky spore disease. Grubs are infected by eating grass thatch or roots; die; and release millions of spores thus affecting more grubs with the disease.
Diatomaceous EarthUSE FOOD GRADE
Powders of fossilized diatoms
Slugs, millipedes, sow bugs, cockroaches, ants, aphidsDo not use on
flowering plants
Causes abrasions on pest causing loss of body fluids, dehydrations, and death
Kaolin ClayJapanese beetles, tarnished plant bugs, thrips, leafhoppers, cucumber beetles, Colorado potato beetlesMust be applied preventatively
Cannot control
established pests
Host plant disguise

Materials Consulted in Construction of above table:

      1. Beyond Pesticides,, “Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management”
      2. MN University Extension, “Insect Pests of Roses” by K. Stroom, J. Fetzer, V. Krischik
      3. NPIC, Oregon State University and US EPA,
      4. OSU (Oregon) Master Gardeners Program,, “Least Toxic Options for the Home Gardener”
      5. Pacific Northwest Extension,, “How to Reduce Bee Poisoning from Pesticides”, by H. Riedl, E Johansson, L. Brewer, J. Barbour
      6. Purdue University Extension,, “Protecting Honey Bees from Herbicides” by C. Krupke, G. Hunt, R. Foster
      7. University of California,, “Pesticide Management Guidelines: Walnut, Grapes, “
      8. USDA, Agroforestry Center, , “Pesticide Consideration for Native Bees in Agroforestry” by M. Vaughn, S.H Black
      9. Xerces Society,, “Organic-Approved Pesticides: minimizing risk for bees”



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