Pyrethrin insecticide is a naturally occurring substance (derived from chrysanthemum flowers) that is a highly effective insect repellent and pesticide. Best of all, many consider it one of the safest pest control options available for people, pets, and the environment.
We’ve featured pyrethrin before. But its appeal has grown due to health concerns about potentially toxic pest control products like DEET repellents, coupled with worries about insect-borne diseases like Zika and West Nile. The popular Buhach brand of pyrethrin is no longer on the market, but read on for a few of the top pyrethrin products available now for home and garden use.
Is Pyrethrin Insecticide Nontoxic?
Pyrethrin is biodegradable (it breaks down quickly in the environment, especially when exposed to UV light like sunlight), and research on its low toxicity for humans and other mammals makes it a popular choice for many applications like gardening where toxic chemicals just aren’t an option. Pyrethrin also classified as organic insecticide because it occurs naturally in chrysanthemums (it can also be replicated industrially.)
What’s the Difference Between Pyrethrin and Permethrin?
Pyrethrin insecticide should not be confused with permethrin or similar synthetic compounds called pyrethroids. Pyrethroids like permethrin are commonly used in applications ranging from anti-lice medication to insect-repellent coatings on tents and clothing. They can be very effective, however pyrethroids have been shown to accumulate in the environment and may cause side effects like skin irritation. And what about pyrethrum? Pyrethrum is the extract from the chrysanthemum plant that contains the natural pyrethrin compounds.
So to summarize:
Pyrethrin: Naturally occurring, organic compound derived from chrysanthemum flowers
Pyrethrum: Chrysanthemum flower extract that contains pyrethrin
Pyrethroids: Synthetic compounds that may have health and safety problems not found with natural pyrethrin
Permethrin: A synthetic pyrethroid commonly used in many insect repellent products
What About Piperonyl Butoxide (PBO)?
Many pyrethrin-based products also include a compound called Piperonyl Butoxide (PBO), a waxy substance that functions to improve the effectiveness of pyrethrin’s insecticidal qualities. PBO is not an insecticide on its own, and is generally considered quite safe, but it’s worth noting that pyrethrin formulations that include PBO would not technically be considered organic products.
Ways to Use Pyrethrin for Pest Control
Pyrethrin is available in a variety of products and formulations, including dry powders and liquid sprays. It targets the nervous systems of insects, making it a highly effective insecticide, and it has also been shown to function as an insect repellent in lower concentrations.
Pyrethrin is widely considered to be a very safe alternative to other insecticides and synthetic pest control products, but it’s still important to do your research for specific applications and follow all product usage guidelines. In addition, take care to use pyrethrin products in a manner that only affects target insects, and not other beneficial bugs or aquatic life. For more info, see this Cornell University report on pyrethrin.
Evergreen 1% Pyrethrin Dust Insecticide (10 oz.), $20.45 at Amazon
Riptide 5.0% Pyrethrin Liquid (64 oz.), $120.50 at Amazon
ExciteR 6% Pyrethrin Concentrate (16 oz.), $79.95 at Amazon
Bonide 688 3-in-1 Tomato & Vegetable Pyrethrin Spray (32 oz.), $12.98 at Amazon
Southern Ag Natural Pyrethrin Concentrate (8 oz.), $21.49 at Amazon
Bonide 857 Pyrethrin Spray Concentrate (8 oz.), $17.10 at Amazon
PyGanic Gardening Pyrethrin Concentrate (8 oz.), $24.13 at Amazon
Pyranha Pyrethrin Shampoo for Horses & Dogs (1 quart), $19.35 at Amazon