Sorry for the recent radio silence. Fear not! I'm back! A while back, I posted a rather general article on the MANY uses of Neem Oil. Now that gardening season is in full swing, I'd like to share the seemingly miraculous properties of Neem Oil as a 100% natural weapon against garden insect pests and plant ailments. I came across a wonderful website called Discoverneem.com from which I have garnered tons of great information about the many, many uses of Neem (garden, skin care, pet care and much more). The author, Birgit Bradke, has graciously given me permission to cite her work.
NEEM OIL FOLIAR SPRAY
No, you don't just put straight Neem Oil on your plants! That would tend to suffocate them and burn them in the sun. Neem contains many natural chemicals that act on insects, and it is potent stuff. It affects different insects in different ways, such that scientists have not entirely understood which compounds affect which insects. What they do know is that a very broad spectrum of pests can be controlled using Neem!
A little Neem Oil goes a long way! Here is a simple recipe for a very effective foliar spray.
- 1-2 teaspoons Neem Oil
- 1/2-1 teaspoon natural soap or detergent
- 1 quart of WARM water
Put 1/2 of the water and the soap in a spray bottle, shake it up a bit, then add the Neem Oil and the rest of the water. SHAKE WELL! Neem Oil is naturally hydrophobic, thus the soap is necessary to help keep it emulsified in the solution. Neem Oil also becomes a waxy solid below about 70 degrees farenheit, so the warm water really helps keep it well blended. You can mess a little with the proportions to see what works for you. Spray plants liberally, remembering to hit the undersides of leaves as well, and to keep shaking the bottle as you go. It is best to apply in the early morning or in the evening to allow the leaves to dry before the sun gets strong.
WHAT INSECTS DOES NEEM OIL AFFECT?
Neem controls the sucking and chewing insects and mites that can ravage your plants in a variety of ways (see below). IT DOES NOT HARM BENEFICIAL INSECTS such as ladybugs, honey bees, or our friends the earthworms, as they do not seek to ingest the treated plant material (however, coating them with spray should be avoided). Some of the insects that Neem Oil helps control are: aphids, spider mites, grasshoppers, leafhoppers, japanese beetles, whiteflies, flea beetles and more. Unfortunately, it does not seem to work very well on slugs and snails.
NEEM OIL AS A REPELLENT
Bradke offers a nice anecdotal story:
How neem oil deters chewing and sucking insects
There is a nice story that demonstrates how grasshoppers react to neem oil insecticide. It goes something like this:
Someone did an experiment. It involved two jars, two leaves, and two grasshoppers. One leaf was sprayed with a chemical insecticide, and one with neem oil. The two grasshoppers were put in the two jars, with one leaf each.
The first grasshopper ate the leaf and died almost instantly. The grasshopper with the neem oil covered leaf did not touch the leaf and lived. At least for a few days. Eventually it starved to death.
What would you prefer? A poisonous half eaten lettuce, or an organic, untouched lettuce? It's a no brainer, isn't it?
Neem Oil is not palatable to insects, and can stop them before they start feeding. It also repels mosquitos and flies from the gardener!
NEEM'S MESSES WITH INSECTS' HORMONES
Bradke explains it like this:
Neem oil has many complex active ingredients. Rather than being simple poisons, those ingredients are similar to the hormones that insects produce. Insects take up the neem oil ingredients just like natural hormones.
Neem enters the system and blocks the real hormones from working properly. Insects "forget" to eat, to mate, or they stop laying eggs. Some forget that they can fly. If eggs are produced they don't hatch, or the larvae don't moult.
Obviously insects that are too confused to eat or breed will not survive. The population eventually plummets, and they disappear. The cycle is broken.
How precisely it works is difficult for scientists to find out. There are too many different active substances in neem oil, and every insect species reacts differently to neem insecticide.
HOW DO WE KNOW NEEM WORKS?
I use Neem Insecticide on my garden. I've been treating my tomatoes, peppers and squash to PREVENT infestation, and I've had no problem thusfar. I had a pretty bad infestation of flea beetles on my turnips, so I sprayed them. A few days after the first treatment, the beetle population was reduced about 75%. A few days later when I went back to spray again, they had not gained any ground. After the second treatment, their presence was negligeable. Bradke offers numerous testimonials on the website.
GET YOUR NEEM HERE!
Atacora Essential produces 100% pure, wild crafted, cold pressed Neem Oil in Benin, West Africa. We source neem seeds directly from small village producers who have never enjoyed good market access for this valuable crop. Our Fair Partnership model helps to channel proceeds directly to the households, schools and hospitals where the neem trees grow, furthering sustainable community development. We've got lots of Baobab Fruit Pulp and Baobab Oil too!