Are you an organic gardener who’s concerned about using pesticides that could harm beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis?
If so, you may have heard about Neem Oil as a natural insecticide that’s safe for plants and animals.
But what about the Praying Mantis? Will Neem Oil hurt these helpful predators?
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and potential drawbacks of using Neem Oil in your garden, and how it could affect the Praying Mantis and other beneficial insects.
Let’s dive in!
Will Neem Oil Hurt Praying Mantis?
The short answer is that Neem Oil is generally safe for Praying Mantis, as long as it’s used properly.
Neem Oil is made from the seeds of the Neem tree, and contains a chemical compound called azadirachtin that’s been shown to kill or repel over 200 different insect pests. However, it’s important to note that Neem Oil does not have long-lasting residual effects, and dissipates quickly when exposed to rainfall and sunlight. This means that it poses little or no risk to beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis, birds, reptiles, and mammals.
When used as a garden spray or soil drench, Neem Oil’s insect repelling and killing effects are fast acting for soft-bodied pest insects. It’s safe to apply to vegetables, fruits, nuts, and herbs, but should never be sprayed directly on beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis.
The Praying Mantis is a hunter supreme that eats a variety of pests including other insects, caterpillars, and beetles. They like to blend into their surroundings, so tall grasses and small shrubs around the garden provide a good home. They also like to live in plants in the rose and raspberry families. Pesticides, even organic ones like Neem Oil, are not safe around many beneficial insects. Pesticides cannot discern if an insect is a good or bad bug in your garden. It is designed to kill the insect. So even an organic pesticide such as Neem Oil will kill beneficial insects if sprayed directly on them.
For best results, spray Neem Oil in the evening when beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis are least active but insect pests are still feeding. You can also spray in early morning. Midday when butterflies, bees, and ladybugs are very active is not a good time to apply Neem Oil.
What Is Neem Oil And How Does It Work As An Insecticide?
Neem Oil is a natural pesticide that’s derived from the seeds of the Neem tree. It’s been used for hundreds of years in its native range of tropical forests in Burma, India, and Sri Lanka as a botanical insecticide. Neem Oil is effective against some of the most common and difficult-to-control bugs and insects that gardeners face, including the Colorado potato beetle, Mexican corn beetle, whitefly, spotted cucumber beetle, corn earworm, flea beetle, and cabbage looper.
Neem Oil contains a chemical compound called azadirachtin, which is responsible for killing and repelling insects. When applied to foliage, it suffocates insects by covering their bodies with oil that blocks their breathing openings. It’s most effective against immature insects, but can also disrupt the life cycles of spider mites and root-knot nematodes.
Neem Oil is quite selective in that it will not kill or repel beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis. It will only kill any insect that ingests it. However, it’s important to note that Neem Oil can harm beneficial insects if sprayed directly on them. Therefore, it’s best to spray in the evening when beneficial insects are least active but insect pests are still feeding.
The Benefits Of Using Neem Oil In Your Garden
Neem Oil is a versatile and effective pesticide and fungicide that can be used in your garden to control a wide range of insect pests and fungal diseases. It works on arthropod pests that often eat your vegetables, including tomato hornworms, corn earworm, aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. In addition, Neem Oil also controls common fungi that grow on vegetable plants, including mildews, rusts, leaf spots, wilts, and stem rots.
One of the main benefits of using Neem Oil in your garden is that it’s safe for the environment. Unlike many chemical pesticides that can harm beneficial insects like bees, butterflies, lady beetles, and earthworms, Neem Oil does not harm these soil-loving creatures. It’s also safe for birds and mammals.
Another benefit of using Neem Oil is that it’s effective at any time during the planting season because it affects insects during all phases of their development. This means you can use it throughout the growing season to control pests and diseases. Additionally, Neem Oil breaks down quickly in the environment through microbial activity and exposure to light, so it has little to no residual effects.
Using Neem Oil in your garden is also a great way to encourage biodiversity and promote a healthy ecosystem. By controlling harmful pests and diseases with a natural and safe product like Neem Oil, you can create an environment that encourages beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis to thrive. This can help keep your garden healthy and productive without relying on harmful chemical pesticides.
The Potential Drawbacks Of Using Neem Oil
While Neem Oil is generally considered safe for beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis, there are some potential drawbacks to its use. One of the main concerns is that it can harm predatory bugs like green lacewings, which are important natural enemies of many garden pests. Azadirachtin, the active ingredient in Neem Oil, has been shown to increase the mortality rates of these beneficial insects.
Another potential drawback is that Neem Oil’s effects on different insect species can be difficult to predict. Its complexity of ingredients and mixed modes of action make it hard to pinpoint the precise effects on a given insect. While it has been shown to be effective against dozens of species of insects at concentrations in the parts-per-million range, its repellency is likely the weakest effect, except in some locust and grasshopper species.
It’s also important to note that Neem Oil should always be mixed with water exactly as the directions say. Too high a concentrate can harm bees and other beneficial insects. For best results, it should be applied when beneficial insects are least active, but insect pests are still feeding.
How To Use Neem Oil Safely In Your Garden
When using Neem Oil in your garden, it’s important to follow the instructions on the product label carefully. Always wear gloves and protective eyewear to avoid making contact with the oil while applying it.
To mix Neem Oil for use as a spray, combine a drop or two with a small amount of liquid and test it on your plant. Then add commercial insecticidal soap to create a Neem Oil mixture. The soap acts as an emulsifier that helps the Neem Oil work more effectively. Note that the oil’s effectiveness will break down within 8 hours, so don’t make more than you need.
Neem Oil will not readily combine with water and needs an emulsifying agent, like a mild dish detergent, to effectively mix the oil. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of dish detergent to 1 gallon of warm (not hot or cold) water in your sprayer. Mix thoroughly.
When using Neem Oil as a soil drench, it works as a systemic insecticide. The plant roots draw the Neem Oil up into the plant’s vascular system. This means the oil is present throughout the plant structure and insects dining on your plant will consume a dose of Neem Oil. To use the product as a drench, just mix it up exactly as you would a spray and saturate the soil around the affected plant. It’s best to water first, then treat with a Neem Oil drench.
Remember that even organic pesticides like Neem Oil can harm beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis if sprayed directly on them. To avoid harming these helpful insects, spray Neem Oil in the evening when they are least active but insect pests are still feeding. You can also spray in early morning. Midday when butterflies, bees, and ladybugs are very active is not a good time to apply Neem Oil.
By following these guidelines, you can safely use Neem Oil in your garden without harming beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis.
Alternatives To Neem Oil For Organic Pest Control
While Neem Oil is a popular organic pest control solution, there are other alternatives that can be just as effective. Here are some options:
1. Rosemary Oil: In independent tests performed on tomato crops, rosemary oil was found to reduce the population of adult spider mites by 65%. It also achieved 100% mortality within 30 minutes on silverleaf whiteflies. When tested against concentrated neem (Azadirachtin), rosemary oil was found to be more effective at reducing mite populations. Additionally, Earth’s Ally Insect Control with rosemary oil has a pleasant smell and is safe for use around bees.
2. Olive Oil: Mix a couple tablespoons of olive oil and castile soap with about a gallon of water, put it in a spray bottle, and spray the plant where you see the bugs. This mixture can help remove aphids from tomatoes or other herbs.
3. Diatomaceous Earth: Available at garden centers, diatomaceous earth affects crawling insects like snails and slugs by shredding their soft bodies with its shards of glass-like powder. It’s biodegradable, nontoxic to pets and wildlife, won’t pollute ground water or runoff, and won’t harm bees, butterflies, and ladybugs.
4. Peppermint, Thyme, and Rosemary Oil Repellent: Mix equal parts (about 10 drops) of peppermint, thyme, and rosemary essential oil in a spray bottle filled with water. This mixture can help repel insects without harming beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis.
5. Azadirachtin: Separated from Neem Oil, azadirachtin is a somewhat effective insect feeding deterrent and growth regulator. It stops insect feeding and prevents insects from molting into their next life stage, ultimately causing them to die without reproducing. It’s also an egg-laying deterrent.
When using any pesticide or insecticide, it’s important to do your homework and choose the option that is both most effective and least harmful to you and your garden. Remember to avoid spraying directly on beneficial insects like the Praying Mantis and to apply in the evening or early morning when they are least active but insect pests are still feeding.