Wet leafMany gardeners use an “insecticidal soap” to battle infestations. The right insecticidal soap is safe to humans, plants, animals and the ecosystem. It kills bugs by dissolving their cuticle or protective covering and entering their vulnerable cells. Insecticidal soaps work best on small soft-bodied insects like aphids thrips, mealy bugs, but not so well on the large ones like slugs and caterpillars. The soap must the cover pest while it’s wet. If the soap dries before the insects arrive, gardeners lose. Don’t bother applying if it’s about to rain either.

Insecticidal soap is commercially available, but you can make an effective, homemade version very inexpensively. The key is getting the right soap. Your dish soap may be a harmful detergent rather than a true soap.


·        1 tsp. Dr. Bronner’s Soap or Murphy’s Oil Soap (true soaps rather than potentially harmful detergents; it’s the fatty acids from animal fats that kill the bugs; don’t just grab your liquid dish soap.)

·        3 TBSP Cayenne pepper 

·        1 TBSP vegetable oil (helps the soap to stick to the critter).

·        1 quart warm water


Pour mixture into a spray bottle, shake to combine.


Additional tips:

·        Apply before 9:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. for best results.

·        Apply insecticidal soap only to healthy, well-nourished and watered plants. Consider spraying soap off plants after application.

·        Test the insecticidal soap on a small part of the plant to make sure it doesn’t cause any damage.