Looking for an effective pesticide that won't harm plants

Asked July 5, 2019, 1:26 PM EDT

I used a household/garden insect spray on our garden flowers that were getting chewed up by insects. The spray contains Pyrithrins (0.02%) and Piperonyl Butoxide0.20%). Unfortunately, it also damaged the petals of the flowers, mostly pansies. I need an effective insecticide that won't damage flowers, please. Can you recommend one? I have used something (can't remember what) that touted being a safe insecticide and caused the insects to essentially blow up. Can you tell me what that might have been? It worked great. Thanks Mike Reding

Multnomah County Oregon

3 Responses

Hello Mike,

Sometimes a pesticide can burn plant tissue if it is used in hot weather. Even water can be harmful when the sun is blazing above. I wonder if that's what happened to your pansies. Consider checking the label for temperature restrictions.

Nothing rings a bell, concerning a pesticide that causes bugs to blow up. Ladybird beetles (aka ladybugs) can rip aphids to shreds, though!

Your first step in getting those insects under control, is identifying the insects. Take a close look. This is a list of common pests in flowers, specifically pansies, in the western United States: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/FLOWERS/pansy.html

I can't make a recommendation without knowing more about the problem, unfortunately.

Hope to hear from you again - Kaci

Hi, Kaci. I uncovered the info I had on the exploding bug stuff. It's actually a bacillus in a product by SAFER called "Caterpiller Killer." I found some at Ace Hardware today. Apparently, the bacillus causes the caterpillars to be unable to process what they eat so they eat until they can't and die from malnutrition. Anyway, it worked great last year and we're trying it again. The buggers are eating our geraniums and pansies.


PS, we have little, white worms in our raspberries (gross). Any advice on what to do to keep this from happening?

Hello Mike,

Neat! That bacillus product is pretty selective. It is only effective when eaten by caterpillars (Order: Lepidoptera). So you must have some munching caterpillars in your pansies. Nice work. It's also very low risk for pollinators because... they don't eat foliage. Handy.

Little tiny white worms in your raspberries? They might be young maggots of the invasive species of fruit flies: Spotted-Wing Drosophila. We have a whole fact sheet about this topic:

Enjoy reading up!
Thanks again for your questions.