The Q&A Archives: Control Of Insects

Question: My cabbage and pepper leaves are being eaten by something. I wish to spray something on them to help prevent any further damage, but I do not want to use any harsh chemicals. What would a solution of dish soap and water do?

Answer: Some gardeners use a soapy water solution to eliminate soft-bodied insects like aphids. While dish soap and water sounds harmless, the soap contains degreasers and other chemicals that can harm plant tissues. A better approach is to discover what critter is feeding on your plant leaves, and treat it by picking it off of your plants, or using an appropriate chemical to eliminate it. There are a number of botanicals available that are acceptable to organic growers. Commercially prepared insecticidal soaps are useful against soft-bodied insects, but not effective against beetles or caterpillars. Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) is effective against caterpillars, but not beetles. Rotenone will eliminate some beetles, but not all insects. So, the best solution is to identify the pest and treat it accordingly.

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