Plant owners always need trusty chemicals to eliminate or prevent pest infestation in their gardens. Neem oil has become widely popular in this regard. However, will neem oil kill ladybugs too?
This shared concern amongst new and experienced plant owners is discussed in this article. Keep reading to learn more about the effects of neem oil on the ladybug and other pests.
The simplest way to answer “Will neem oil kill ladybugs?” is no. How pests and sneaky bugs interact with plants is massively different from how ladybugs interact. Therefore, the chances of neem oil treatment killing ladybugs are next to none.
Common garden pests feed on the plant’s foliage, stem, and roots. They mostly suck away the sap of the leaves, leaving holes in them and causing discoloration. Due to this gradual death, leaves wilt and shed.
When plant owners treat plants with neem oil, a thin film of oil covers the leaves. That layer eventually breaks down and clears through rain and sunlight within seven days. However, during the period it is present, it eliminates pests effectively.
The pests feeding on the leaves also ingest neem oil which contains azadirachtin. This compound is cytotoxic and disrupts the cells and hormones of the pests. So, the pests either lose their ability to reproduce, lay eggs, feed, or move on to a new life stage.
Since ladybugs don’t feed on leaves, there aren’t many chances of ingesting the neem oil or getting affected by azadirachtin. Hence, neem oil doesn’t kill ladybugs or drive them away. The same phenomenon is true for other pollinators, such as butterflies and bees.
Will neem oil kill ladybugs? No, unless it’s directly sprayed on them. Here’s how you might mistakenly hurt, scare away or even kill ladybugs.
Pollinators like ladybugs and bees are most active during the daytime. That’s when you’ll find their population in your garden, beginning early morning. Spraying neem oil during those hours is highly hazardous to ladybugs as the excessive spray might smother them.
Since neem oil forms a thin film, it covers up the ladybug’s body with spiracles, the part from which they breathe, if you directly spray them. This coating might block their gaseous exchange and smother them. Moreover, concentrated neem oil is also dangerous for ladybugs and your plants as it might cause burns.
So, does neem oil affect ladybugs? Yes, it certainly does. However, it’s not the chemical’s potency but your treatment habits that can prevent this issue.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when using neem oil. Adhering to these tips will keep your plants and ladybugs safe.
Using Diluted Neem Oil Solution
Will neem oil hurt ladybugs if you use a concentrated solution? Indeed, it will. Furthermore, it’s also extremely dangerous for your plants as they become prone to burns.
So, always use diluted neem oil solution on your plants. You will require the following to prepare this solution:
- One gallon of water
- Two tablespoons of neem oil
- Three teaspoons of an emulsifying agent, such as liquid dishwashing soap
Mix the three ingredients and shake them well. Use mild dishwashing soap to protect the plants from hazardous chemicals.
Using a Spray to Treat the Plants
You might come across several methods of treating plants with neem oil. However, spraying is the most effective and safest method. Sporadic spraying of diluted neem oil will keep the ladybugs safe as they won’t come in contact with the toxic chemical.
Treating the Plants with Neem Oil in the Evenings
One thing you must remember after reading this article is this golden nugget: NEVER treat your plants with neem oil during the daytime. The harsh ultraviolet rays break down the oil and cause it to cook the leaves, which results in plant burn.
Moreover, as we discussed, pollinators such as ladybugs are active during the daytime. Hence, any spraying or treatment during that time can affect the ladybugs.
To ensure your plant’s health and the safety of ladybugs, treat your plants with neem oil only in the evening or early morning.
Don’t Overdo It
Your plants need some time to breathe in between treatments. So, wait every seven days after treatment.
Will neem oil hurt ladybugs if sprayed in excess? Overdoing your neem oil treatment might affect the ladybug larvae that are relatively weaker than adults and can’t stand the toxins. Spraying too much of the solution, especially when a population of ladybugs is present on your plants, can also scare them away.
Will neem oil kill ladybugs? No, but you’ll have to be vigilant. Treat your plants well and be gentle with the neem oil treatments to keep the plants and pollinators safe.
Since ladybugs don’t feed on foliage, they don’t ingest the cytotoxic chemical: azadirachtin. However, spraying directly onto ladybugs and their larvae may smother the tiny pollinators or scare them away. Hence, shift your treatment schedule and habits and follow the guidelines for effective treatments. Good luck!