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Organic Gardening: Rotenone/Pyrethrin Smells Like Gasoline

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dividedsky
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

June 30, 2010
9:10 AM

Post #7932925

I got this stuff for a particularly difficult and persistent pest problem. I know it's lethal, but I thought it might be a little more environmentally friendly than something like Sevin. I didn't expect it to smell like gasoline, though. I'm pretty sure it's the Bonide brand. Has anyone used it and had a similar experience?

I'll have to look back at the label when I get a chance. This doesn't seem right.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 30, 2010
4:02 PM

Post #7933728

What kind of pest problem do you have? Personally, I try to avoid biocides. There are many more options in organic gardening than switching out manmade for natural chemicals.

dividedsky
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

June 30, 2010
5:04 PM

Post #7933925

I agree with you, and I'd like to avoid it. I use companion planting with herbs and such to try to confuse the pests. Handpicking, blasting with the hose, row covers . . . And it works really well, and I'm really happy about it.

But I just can't beat the Japanese beetle. Last year, I let them have the pole beans, picking them off when I had the chance (busy summer). I smashed every grub I found while working in the garden this spring. But they're just getting worse. I can't even describe to you how many of them there are, and they probably aren't all up yet. I'd planned to give them some 4-O'clocks to munch on and hopefully die, but I didn't get them seeded early enough. My brother owns the land where I garden, and milky spore for 7 acres just isn't in the budget right now. The ones in the garden have concentrated on the June-bearing strawberries in the middle, luckily. But they're gradually spreading out, naturally. And they'll just get worse every year, right? I figure if I can put a dent in the population, that should help. My brother is skeptical of this "organic stuff" and no doubt is putting Sevin on grandma's rose and the coneflowers and other perennials. Trees will have to fend for themselves.

I don't want to kill the beneficials, but I can't even imagine how long it would take to handpick these nasty things out of 300 square feet of strawberry plants, in addition to the handpicking I'm also doing on the corn and sunflowers, etc. etc. I debated about this and read as much as I could, and I really didn't expect this stuff to smell like gasoline. This seems to have turned out to be almost a trap crop situation because the strawberries are done for the year. A lot of the good guys have moved on to the other plants, which I'm not spraying. I'm trying to do this in the most responsible way possible. I don't know what else to do.

Last year I sprayed them with hot pepper spray. Didn't bother them one bit.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

June 30, 2010
5:48 PM

Post #7934025

Have you been able to try traps? They like to fly in groups and are suppose to be easy to catch in a line of traps put out in the evening.
dividedsky
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

June 30, 2010
6:33 PM

Post #7934136

He did a couple years ago. They just filled up and filled up and he got tired of buying them.
paracelsus
Elmira, NY
(Zone 6a)

July 3, 2010
8:17 AM

Post #7940187

I've heard of people vacuuming them off with a shop-vac, but you have to experiment so you don't just rip your plants apart. They also make special bug vacs that are not too expensive. It would be faster than hand picking.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

July 3, 2010
12:21 PM

Post #7940627

I know that I do prefer to not use biocides. Yet, if you need to use something and traps and other controls don't work, its still better than the manmade stuff. At least biocides breakdown quickly (few days to a few weeks) and a low potential to leach or drift.
dividedsky
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

July 4, 2010
1:33 PM

Post #7942975

Hmmm. Shop vac might work.
dividedsky
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

July 14, 2010
12:34 PM

Post #7968338

This product has been discontinued, but I thought I'd post a followup anyway. I know that it is still on the shelves, for now, because I just bought it.

I called the manufacturer back, and they did the best to answer my questions. She said it smells like gasoline because the plant smells like that. Normally, I wouldn't believe that, but I picked up an epazote plant at the farmer's market this spring. Yuck. Not sure why anyone would eat it. It smells and tastes like gasoline. Maybe I should rip it out before it starts dropping seeds.

So that's the answer. It also says "cube extracts" on the label, but no one at the call center knows what that is. Still a mystery. I asked her why it's discontinued, and she said that the rotenone is too harmful to bees. From what I've read about the substance, I'd imagine that there are other reasons, too. But that's good enough. The reason I sought it out (and researched it online before buying) was because an organic gardening book I'm reading recommended it - as a last resort, of course. The latest edition was published 6 years ago, but a lot can change in 6 years.
paracelsus
Elmira, NY
(Zone 6a)

July 14, 2010
3:31 PM

Post #7968710

Weird. I just did a search for "cube extracts" and got results that said that it was a rotenone extract and other results that said it was a non-rotenone extract(!). Seems odd that there's no definition out there.

My understanding is that rotenone used to be okay for certified organic but isn't anymore. Here's a thing about it:

http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/pp/resourceguide/mfs/11rotenone.php
dividedsky
Indianapolis, IN
(Zone 5b)

July 14, 2010
5:48 PM

Post #7969047

The best guess I can make on why that is would be its toxicity to fish, its suspected toxicity to mammals, and its general lethalness. You wouldn't want someone who doesn't know better picking some up at the big box store and thinking it's ok to spray it anywhere and everywhere because it's organic. It's lethal, for sure. It was like a Japanese beetle holocaust. Dead.

Interesting what they said about the dust formulations being under consideration. When the woman at Bonide was recommending an alternative (spinosad) to me, she made the point that it would be slightly safer for bees in the liquid form than powder form - because the powder would hang around longer and the bees might accidentally pick it up like pollen and take it back to the hive.

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