Thursday, July 7, 2011

Got cigarette butts?

Something productive has come out of the business of tobacco cultivation: an organic insecticide.

Spraying our cukes
According to our gardening guru, John Seymour, nicotine spray is one of the most powerful organic sprays out there for getting rid of insects. Get a smoker you love to save their butts for you, boil 4 ounces of butts to 1.2 gallons of water, strain and dilute to a 1:2 solution of nicotine:water. Spray this solution on plant foliage and stems (and even fruits since it degrades so quickly, but we're not comfortable doing that yet) and you'll witness the insects dropping like flies... not dead, but knocked out and not wanting to get back onto the plant. The main caution of such an insecticide is that it gets rid of both pests and beneficial insects. Therefore, Seymour recommends using it only if the manual picking-and-crushing-between-your-fingers-method is getting out of control...

... as it was with our curcurbits (cucumber, melon, squash, zucchini). The black and yellow-striped cucumber beetles were shamelessly mating on the leaves, even in some of the blossoms.

Nicotine spray is considered a natural insecticide because it is derived from a plant (others include pyrethrum and neem, for example). Nicotine is found in the nightshade family of plants (solanaceae), predominantly in tobacco, and in lower quantities in tomato, potato, eggplant and pepper. Nicotine-based sprays appear to be in the process of being banned as insecticides in the U.S. (if only it could be banned as a cancer-and-disease-causing stick as well) because of its potential link to bee susceptibility to disease, which has now made me think twice about using it again. Back to the old manual removal method.


  1. So do you want my butts or what???

  2. Yours were the first batch! But we've got another container if we need to make another batch.

  3. I have plenty where those came from!