What is Insecticidal Soap?

What is Insecticidal Soap?

If you have a garden, insects may be a problem. It’s exactly why you might want to reach for an insecticidal soap. Insecticidal soap, also called horticultural soap, uses potassium fatty acids to control arthropods and soft-bodied insects.

It’s very simple to use: Just spray it on affected plants. Ideally, avoid spraying during the hottest part of the day. Wet the affected plant until you can see the liquid running off, being sure to cover the top and bottom of leaves. As long as you see bugs, keep applying every five to seven days.

natural insecticidal soap that won't hurt beneficial insects like bees and butterflies

How Insecticidal Soap Protects Your Garden

Insecticidal soap can help control populations of a variety of insects, including: Aphids, Earwigs, Mites, Mealybugs, Grasshoppers, Adelgids, Harlequin bugs, Leafhoppers, Scale insects, Jumping plant lice, Spider mites, Squash bugs, Thrips, Whiteflies, Plant bugs, Psyllids, and Sawfly larvae.

Insecticidal soaps work on insects at specific stages of development. For example, the soap will work on azalea lace bug nymphs but not as well on eggs. Always read the label to find out which insect stage will be most susceptible to the soap.

Insecticides vs. Insecticidal Soap: Which One Is Right for Your Plants?

In one survey, 85% of consumers said they were concerned about pesticides. They may be right to be worried, too. Studies have linked insecticide use with human health concerns, including an increased risk of some cancers. Indoor insecticide use, for example, was linked to a 47% increase in risk for leukemia and a 43% increase in risk for lymphoma in children, according to a 2015 study.

Another issue is effectiveness. A number of insects — including aphids — can develop resistance, making insecticides less effective. In addition, use of insecticides can harm beneficial insects.

Insecticides work by either poisoning insects or by disrupting transmissions between synapses, much like nerve gas does. Some types of insecticides can stay on plants for some time, affecting insects landing on plants long after application.

Insecticide soaps, on the other hand, work by breaking down the outer shell of the insect. It is a contact solution, meaning if an insect lands on the plant after the soap solution has dried, the insect will not be affected. Insecticide soaps have been shown to break down in nature and contain no synthetic chemicals. They can address some of the concerns you have about children and pets being exposed to insecticides.

 

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Is DIY Horticultural Soap as Useful?

Plenty of recipes for homemade aphid spray exist, and you may wonder whether to try a DIY mix or invest in a commercial spray. Most recipes for homemade aphid spray are attractive because they’re inexpensive and simple. In most cases, you may already have the ingredients in your home.

The problem is the recipes are open to interpretation. Most recipes for DIY insecticidal soap ask you to combine any natural oil with a teaspoon or more of gentle soap. Some soaps and even oils, however, can cause damage to your plants. Unless you’re a chemist, you may not realize what extra ingredients, including colorants, scents and other products, are in your soap. You also may not be able to predict how certain oils — including coconut oil — could harm your plants.

The benefits of homemade horticultural soaps can also vary widely. Commercial brands are carefully calibrated and tested for efficiency, but with a homemade mixture, you might just end up with cleaner insects — not exactly your goal.

If you’re looking for an OMRI®-listed and compliant horticultural soap, read the reviews and specs of Safer® Brand Insect Killing Soap to find out why gardeners love this product. Or find out more about how to fight insects in your garden or how to figure out what bugs are invading your garden. Safer® Brand offers a range of insect control products — all made with ingredients that are compliant for use in organic production, for your peace of mind.

 

Spraying for Insects