What is Neem? A Natural
Pesticide for Insect Control and Recipes
What is Neem?
Neem is a
wonderful plant that some of
you may or may not have heard of. However, neem has been around for
thousands of years, and is well-known in India and South–East Asia
where it grows and has been used for many uses, including a way to
control insects naturally. Neem seeds, neem oil and even the neem
leaves can all be used and have many benefits.
Neem today is finally gaining recognition as an organic answer to
controlling insects from locust invasions in Africa to leaf miner
insects that invade and destroy birch trees in the USA.
What Insects can Neem Control?
Neem can control over 200 insects. Crop
insects that have been successfully
controlled by neem are:
- gypsy moths
- leaf miners
- Colorado potato beetles
- flea beetles
- corn earworms
- cucumber beetles
- Mexican bean beetles
Neem is a highly
effective pesticide that once sprayed, will keep the
insects at bay. It works in a variety of ways
from killing all
sucking and chewing insects, keeping insects at bay who refuse to eat
the sprayed foliage and end up dying of starvation, as well as
disrupting the sexual reproduction of insects so that their life cycle
is both disrupted and ended.
Best, of all, neem is
perfectly safe to spray on vegetables and fruit
crops as well as ornamental shrubs and plants. It has also
included in India in toothpaste, soap, shampoo for nits, cosmetics and
However, if neem seeds
are consumed directly, these are highly toxic.
But neem is harmless to other beneficial insects like birds, bees and
ladybirds. Because neem is not toxic to humans and other animals, areas
that are sprayed with neem are not areas to be avoided like other areas
that are sprayed with synthetic pesticides.
The only organisms affected by neem are those that are chewing or
sucking at your plants. Neem is a totally natural product that is
And if you are wondering about your earthworms, it was
found that in areas where neem was sprayed the population of earthworms
increased, as did the size of them.
In addition, bees that were exposed
to neem produced 3 times as much pollen and twice as much honey as
non-treated bees. (Liu et al, 1989). They also showed a better
resistance to mites and other diseases.
This is not surprising when you learn that neem is also used by the
Indians to cure medical conditions; psoriasis, athlete’s foot, warts,
dandruff, cracked heels, and other medical ailments.
Neem can also be used safely by humans as a natural mosquito repellant.
If you live in a mosquito-infested area, this is really good news, as
the alternatives out there in using DEET or AREOGUARD is really not a
Neem is also good for
sand flies and ticks. One application should be
good for up to 12 hours. Livestock, if sprayed with neem oil will be
given the same level of protection against biting flies, ticks and
When a concentration of neem seed extract was given to livestock as
part of their diet, the horn fly was
practically eradicated (Miller and
A light coating of neem oil protects
stored food crops for up to 20
months from all sorts of infestations with no deterioration or loss of
palatability (Dunkle et al, 1995).
Traditional Uses of Neem in Farming
Traditionally, Neem has
been used by farmers for a variety of problems and they have used the
bark, the leaves, the neem oil extracted from the neem seeds, as well
as the residual material left over from the seed pressings called a
- The neem cakes, leaves and
twigs are turned into the ground to be used as a soil enhancer, mulch
and to control soil pests, particularly
nematodes, and soil pests that chew the roots and stems of growing
- Jute bags are treated with neem oil
before stored with grains to protect the grain against
insects. The grain is also mixed with neem leaves as an
- A neem tea is made from the
neem seeds by crushing them, steeping them in water overnight and then
spraying the solution directly onto the crops.
This sort of application will protect the crops for a week, but then
will need to be reapplied for total protection.
- The neem wood, although part
of the Mahogany family, doesn't really polish up well but is still used
traditionally for furniture as the wood is not affected by wood-boring
insects. Neem wood is particularly useful in poles for
fencing as it is not attacked by termites.
Applying Neem to your Crops, Fruit and Vegetables
Neem as a natural insecticide
When using neem as in
insect-repellant on your
plants it quickly breaks
down due to the sunlight over 5-7 days, and therefore should be applied regularly
However, one thing to take into consideration is that
insects do not become immune to neem spray like other insecticides.
Therefore each application makes it just as effective as the last
However, be patient when applying your neem. Once you make your first
spray, don’t expect the insects to drop dead on the spot. They will
remain on your plants for at least 2 weeks.
However, just because the insects are present doesn’t mean that they
are doing any further harm – they are
not. They have definitely been affected.
Using Neem Seeds in Homemade Neem Recipes
For small areas, and if
you have access to neem seeds you can make your
own homemade neem recipe.
Take 1 ounce (25 grams) ground neem seeds and place in a bucket.
Pour over 2 cups (500 ml) of luke wam water. Mix well and let it steep
for up to
4 hours. Filter the mixture through an old nylon stocking to get rid of
any bits, and then use this on your plants immediately. Spray and
repeat the application every 10 days.
Here is another Homemade Neem Recipe Using Seeds on a Larger
seeds depulp and clean. Dry the seeds in the shade for 3-7
days. Discard any that are mouldy. Once dry finely crush in a
mortar or a mill. Mix 1 lb. (500 g) crushed neem seeds with 2.6 gallons
(10 liters) water and leave to sit overnight. The next day filter the
mixture through a piece of fine cloth such as cheesecloth. What is left
can be sprayed directly onto your crops, fruit trees and vegetables.
Apply only once a week and repeat every 10 days for good pest control.
Store any unused neem tea in an air-tight container in a cool, dark
For larger areas buy a commercially prepared neem spray. There are
several around now that can be purchased off the Internet.
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