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The Neem tree became known in the western world when some European biologists noticed that the dreaded locust swarms in the arid lands of East Africa, which devour everything in their path, left the Neem trees hardly touched. Further research work showed that all parts of the Neem tree have some level of insect repelling ability. This finding drove more interest in the academic as well as industrial establishments leading to many Neem based insect control products.
While Neem oil contains a diverse list of phytochemicals, perhaps the most important of them is Azadirachtin. This compound was established in the 1960s as an insect antifeedant, growth disruptor, and insecticide. It is this Azadirachtin that makes Neem oil a special solution for insect control.
The commonly used insect killing chemicals that one can buy in local stores are Organophosphates and N-methyl Carbamates. They act by damaging the nervous system of the insects leading to paralysis and death. The results are usually quick. In many cases, the bugs don’t even have to ingest the chemical. In the case of contact killers, as soon as the insect comes in contact with the chemical, it enters the body thru the exo-skeleton and attacks the nervous system immediately. Many of these chemicals stay in the environment for many months, providing season long insect control. Their speed and method of action, and the fact that they remain in the environment for long make these chemicals harmful to people, pets and the environment.
Neem oil, due to the Azadirachtin compound present in it, works very differently. It acts in multiple ways:
1. By damaging the bug’s digestive and reproductive systems (when the bug eats the leaves and other plant parts on which the product has been sprayed or, as in the case of Aphids and Mites, when the bug sucks the sap from the plant)
2.By damaging the insect eggs and causing them to under-develop or to not hatch
3.By disrupting the molting of the insects, and
4.By simply acting as a repellant in some cases.
Due to the above methods of action, Neem oil doesn’t normally harm bees and birds. It also degrades quickly when in contact with the soil and under the sun meaning it doesn’t stay in the environment for long. Thus, it is safe for Humans and Pets and a great choice for indoor and outdoor plants. Neem oil can also be used directly as soil-drench to treat soil born infestations like Nematodes.
People have even found it effective against Fungus Gnats, a common houseplant problem by killing the eggs when sprayed directly as a drench on the top surface of the soil in the pots.
In summary, Neem oil is one insecticide spray solution that can be used in indoor and outdoor Home Gardens, in Farms, and around people, children and pets. And it is safe for Bees and Birds.Add to this the fact that Neem oil is very effective against some fungal diseases common in plants such as Powdery Mildew and Fusarium. No wonder it is growing fast as a sought-after Natural Spray for Plants in the last 30 years.