Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fresh sweet corn, but nothing ruins the experience quite like finding a worm inside.
While insecticides like carbaryl can be used to control earworms, many families prefer to avoid toxic chemicals in their gardens. Luckily, there are safer and more natural ways to get rid of these pesky pests.
One such solution is neem oil, which not only works as a pesticide but also as a fungicide. But does it really work on earworms?
In this article, we’ll explore the effectiveness of neem oil in controlling earworms on corn and provide tips on how to prevent them from becoming a major problem in your vegetable garden.
Does Neem Oil Kill Ear Worms On Corn?
Neem oil has been found to be effective in controlling a variety of arthropod pests that often eat vegetables, including tomato hornworms, aphids, whiteflies, and even corn earworms. This natural pesticide works by disrupting the insect’s hormonal balance and preventing it from feeding and reproducing.
When using neem oil on corn, it’s important to spray it in the evening and again in the morning. This helps ensure that you’re not causing any harm to beneficial insects, such as bees, that help pollinate vegetable plants.
To get the best results, mix one part neem oil with 20 parts vegetable or corn oil and add a touch of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk) to the mixture. Btk is a natural bacterial insecticide that is widely used by organic growers and can help enhance the effectiveness of neem oil.
Apply five drops of the mixture from an eyedropper directly to the top of each ear when silks have reached their full length and began to wilt and turn brown. This is typically five to six days after 50% of the corn has begun to show silks.
Timing is critical when it comes to controlling earworms. Earlier applications can interfere with pollination and lead to poorly filled ears, while later applications will lead to poor control as the earworms will have already escaped into the ears by then.
What Are Earworms And How Do They Affect Corn?
Earworms, also known as corn earworms, are a major threat to sweet corn production in many regions, including Kentucky. These pests feed directly on the market product and are difficult to control. They are commonly found in high numbers at the end of the season, making it essential to have an effective insecticide program in place to minimize damage to ears.
Earworms are moderately hairy larvae that vary in color from yellow to green to red to brownish black. They may be found feeding in the ear tips following silking. The larvae are cannibalistic, which is why only one worm is usually found at the tip of each ear. Once earworms become established within the ear, control is impossible.
Currently, the primary insecticides used for corn earworm control in sweet corn belong to the pyrethroid class. However, there is growing concern that corn earworms in some regions of the Midwest have developed resistance to this class of insecticides, and field failures have been reported.
To avoid using toxic chemicals in their gardens, many families prefer to use safer alternatives such as neem oil. Neem oil has been found to be effective in controlling earworms by disrupting their hormonal balance and preventing them from feeding and reproducing. By mixing neem oil with vegetable or corn oil and adding a touch of Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Btk), which is a natural bacterial insecticide widely used by organic growers, you can enhance its effectiveness.
The Dangers Of Chemical Insecticides
While chemical insecticides such as carbaryl (Sevin) can be used to control earworms on corn, there are potential dangers associated with their use. These toxic chemicals can harm not only the pests they are intended to target but also beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, and ladybugs.
Additionally, the overuse of chemical insecticides can lead to the development of resistance in pests, making them even more difficult to control in the future. There is growing concern that corn earworms in some regions of the Midwest have already developed resistance to pyrethroid insecticides, which are commonly used for their control.
Furthermore, chemical insecticides can have negative impacts on human health and the environment. They can contaminate soil and water sources, potentially harming wildlife and polluting our food supply.
For these reasons, many families prefer not to use toxic chemicals in their gardens and opt for natural alternatives such as neem oil and Btk. These organic products are effective in controlling pests while minimizing harm to beneficial insects and the environment.
Neem Oil: A Natural Alternative For Pest Control
Neem oil is a natural alternative for pest control that has been used for centuries in various parts of the world. It is derived from the seeds of the neem tree and is known for its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Neem oil is also an effective insecticide that can control a wide range of pests in gardens and farms.
One of the main benefits of neem oil is that it is safe for humans, pets, and beneficial insects such as bees and ladybugs. Unlike chemical pesticides, neem oil does not harm these organisms and can be used on crops that are meant for consumption.
Neem oil works by disrupting the hormonal balance of insects and preventing them from feeding and reproducing. It can kill insects at all stages of development, including adults, larvae, and eggs. This means that it can effectively control pests such as aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and even corn earworms.
Neem oil does not kill insects on contact but rather alters their behavior over time. This means that it may take a few days or weeks to see the full effects of neem oil on pest populations. However, once the pests are exposed to neem oil, they become less likely to feed, reproduce, or develop into adults.
In addition to its insecticidal properties, neem oil also has antifungal properties that can control fungal diseases such as mildew and rusts. It can be sprayed on plants to protect them from pests, viruses, and fungi while also repelling mosquitoes.
How Does Neem Oil Work On Earworms?
Neem oil works on earworms by disrupting their hormonal balance and preventing them from feeding and reproducing. When an earworm comes into contact with neem oil, it affects the insect’s ability to molt, grow, and reproduce. This ultimately leads to the death of the earworm.
Neem oil is also effective in controlling common fungi that grow on vegetable plants, including mildews, rusts, leaf spots, wilts, and stem rots. Using neem oil on vegetable plants can help protect them from both insect pests and fungal diseases.
To use neem oil effectively on corn, it’s important to mix it with a vegetable or corn oil and add a touch of Btk to enhance its effectiveness. It’s also important to spray the mixture in the evening and again in the morning to avoid harming beneficial insects that help pollinate vegetable plants.
Applying Neem Oil To Corn Plants
To make your own neem oil insecticide spray for corn plants, you’ll need a spray bottle, cold-pressed neem oil, liquid soap, and a gallon of water. Here’s how to make it:
1. Mix together water and a small amount of soap. Mix one gallon of warm water with one teaspoon of liquid soap. It will serve as an emulsifier to help mix the neem oil.
2. Next, add one to two tablespoons of neem oil to the mixture.
3. Apply your neem oil mixture to a small section of your corn plants using a foliar spray bottle. Allow twenty-four hours. If the mixture causes no damage, thoroughly mist your corn plants, spraying directly onto the leaves.
4. As a preventative measure, apply neem oil every two weeks. If you’re trying to control an active pest infestation, spray your corn plants with neem oil once a week.
Neem oil has a dual purpose in the vegetable garden as both a pesticide and a fungicide. In addition to controlling arthropod pests like earworms, it also controls common fungi that grow on vegetable plants, including mildews, rusts, leaf spots, wilts, and stem rots.
By using neem oil on your corn plants, you can effectively control earworms without using toxic chemicals that may harm beneficial insects or contaminate the environment. With proper timing and application, neem oil can help ensure that you enjoy fresh and delicious sweet corn all summer long.
Other Natural Methods For Earworm Prevention
In addition to neem oil, there are several other natural methods for preventing earworms on corn. One effective method is to apply diatomaceous earth, which is made up of the fossilized remains of tiny aquatic creatures called diatoms. The particles in diatomaceous earth are razor sharp and can cut through the soft bodies of sweet corn worms and other pests, making it an effective pesticide. Simply dust your corn plants with it to keep away the earworms.
Another biological answer to controlling earworms is to use Trichogramma, an egg parasite wasp that lays its eggs inside the eggs of the earworm. This method has been found to be 50-100% successful in controlling earworms in corn.
Using mineral oil on the silk where it inserts into the ear is another effective treatment for getting rid of earworms. The oil suffocates the larvae and prevents them from feeding on the kernels. To use this method, fill an ordinary glass medicine dropper about three-fourths full for a large ear and about a quarter of an inch into the silk mass, just inside the tip of the husk. Wait at least three days after the silk first emerges from the tip of the ear before applying the oil to ensure that pollination is not interfered with.
By using these natural methods for preventing earworms, you can protect your sweet corn crop without having to resort to toxic chemicals.