Pyrethrin, also known as Buhach (its most common brand name in the US), is a naturally occurring organic compound from a species of Chrysanthemum flower. Pyrethrin is a highly effective insecticide and pest repellent, yet it’s generally harmless for humans & pets in normal household use.
Pyrethrin isn’t a new discovery; it’s been used since the 1800s. The Buhach company states that pyrethrin is harmless to animals and humans, and is EPA-approved to eliminate pests such as fleas, roaches, lice, ants, spiders, and mosquitos. It’s easily degraded by the stomach acids in mammals, so a human or pet would need to consume a huge amount to be affected (hence its reputation as essentially nontoxic), but pyrethrin is a potent neurotoxin for insects.
Note: Regarding use around pets, some sources report that pyrethrin may cause issues for cats. And inhaling large amounts of pyrethrin powder may cause irritation in humans, so be sure to follow appropriate guidelines for safe use (for more info, see this Cornell University report on pyrethrin’s safety.)
Pyrethrin powder can be sprinkled indoors or outdoors to control pests, or some even apply it directly to animals (for example, some users recommend brushing it through a pet’s fur to remove fleas). It can also be burned like incense, which may be particularly effective against flies and mosquitos. In addition to killing bugs, It has also been shown to repel insects in lower concentrations.
On a side note, pyrethrin shouldn’t be confused with permethrin. Unlike naturally-derived pyrethrin, permethrin is a synthetically manufactured compound, and although it’s quite effective and very common in outdoor sports applications like camping gear, permethrin is potentially much more toxic to humans and other mammals.
Buhach brand pyrethrin powder (pronounced “byew hack”) is produced in Washington state, and bills itself as “the original organic insecticide” – apparently folks in the Northwest have sworn by it since the Alaskan Gold Rush. The Los Angeles Times even reports that Alaskans were beside themselves when droughts and flooding in East Africa caused a serious shortage of Chrysanthemum extract a few years ago. Fortunately, Buhach stocks are replenished now and readily available for your home.
Available directly from the manufacturer:
Buhach Pyrethrin Organic Insecticide/Insect Repellent Powder, $15 (8-oz. can).
Buhach currently seems to be unavailable from online sources like Amazon, or even from the company itself. But we’ve found a couple pyrethrin alternatives that are worth a look:
Bonide Pyrethrin Spray Concentrate, normally $17.10 but currently on sale for $9.63 at Amazon (8-ounce bottle).
Southern AG Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate, $19.75 (8-ounce bottle).