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Is Spinosad Insecticide Safe? Pros & Cons and How To Use It

Many gardeners and farmers view insecticides as essential, even if they are not enthusiastic about using them. This is because they serve an important purpose.

Insecticides can be quite toxic for humans and animals alike and most often would end up in our food, but one natural insecticide stands out among the group. That insecticide is spinosad.

How safe is spinosad? Spinosad is a natural insecticide that is safe for both humans and pets. It’s also quite safe for good insects such as adult butterflies and bees. Even when consumed with food, spinosad breaks down easily and comes out of the body naturally within a day or two without having any harmful effects.

As with other insecticides, it’s better to err on the side of caution. Read more to find out about spinosad and how to use it safely in your garden.

Is Spinosad Insecticide Safe?

To say that an insecticide is safe to use sounds like a risky generalization, but spinosad is one of those insecticides that have been used for many years by farmers and are considered quite effective against caterpillars and other pests without harming humans or pets.

What Is Spinosad?

Spinosad is a natural compound produced by bacteria in the soil. The compound contains mainly two chemicals: spinosyn A and spinosyn D.

When combined together, those two chemicals are quite toxic to a wide variety of pests including caterpillars, thrips, ants, mosquitoes, leafminers, spider mites, and fruit flies.

While these chemicals are toxic to insects, they don’t affect humans, pets, or wildlife.

For that reason and because of its efficiency as an insecticide, it was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1997.  

You can find spinosad here in a ready-to-use spray at a terrific price.

Is Spinosad Organic?

Spinosad is the product of natural bacteria in the soil. The two chemicals that the bacteria produce target specific pests.

As such, spinosad is fully organic since it wasn’t designed or developed in a laboratory. It doesn’t contain harmful chemicals that impact plants, animals, or humans.

So, if you have an organic garden, you can safely use spinosad to repel insects without affecting the quality of your produce.

Moreover, spinosad was awarded organic status by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).

Is Spinosad Toxic for Humans?

One of the main advantages of using spinosad in the garden to fight off pests is that it doesn’t pose any danger to humans and animals.

Even if the natural compound gets into the food and is consumed, it doesn’t have a negative impact on the body.

Most often, the natural chemical will break down inside the digestive system and will exit the body naturally within one or two days.

Vegetables and fruits sprayed with this organic insecticide are safe to consume by humans.

Is Spinosad Safe for Pets?

Much like humans, pets are quite safe around a patch of veggies or a lawn sprayed with spinosad.

Since the compound is only toxic to certain pests, there’s no risk in having your dog or cat play in or around an area recently sprayed with the organic compound. 

Spinosad is not absorbed by the skin, and if a dog chews on a leaf covered with spinosad, it will not have a negative effect on the dog’s health.

Even small pets like rabbits can safely ingest veggies sprayed with spinosad. 

Is Spinosad Safe for Bees?

In the war against pests, bees often suffer high losses as the insecticides that kill bugs also kill bees, but not in the case of spinosad.

One of the reasons farmers near and far have embraced this organic insecticide is that it doesn’t harm good insects such as bees.

If you raise bees or you have bees visiting your garden to pollinate flowers, you might think twice before spraying a commercial pesticide in the garden.

With spinosad, you have nothing to worry about, and your bees can feed on the nectar and pollen without any risk.

Is Spinosad Safe To Use Indoors?

When your houseplants are infected with thrips, ants, or other pests, you try to use an insecticide spray as the last resort as there’s a compound risk of inhaling the dangerous chemicals not just by you but by your pets.

With spinosad, you don’t have to think twice about spraying it indoors. The organic insecticide doesn’t have any effect on the lungs or respiratory system of animals, birds, or humans.

However, if someone in the household has some respiratory condition, you should refrain from spraying any chemical indoors, including spinosad.

Is Spinosad Safe for All Plants?

Many studies have shown that spinosad is safe to apply to all plants including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants.

The chemicals in the insecticide are only toxic to certain pests, but they have no effect on the plants you spray, and since it’s not toxic to humans, you don’t have to worry about the chemicals getting into your food.

A gardener using a sprayer attachment to spray outdoor plants.

Spinosad Side Effects

Like many other chemicals, spinosad can have some side effects on certain people. High exposure to the spray can cause some people to suffer from skin redness and irritation of the area exposed to the insecticide.

Other side effects include dry skin, exfoliation, hair loss, and eye redness and irritation.

Spinosad Uses

Besides the obvious uses in the garden and to kill pests on houseplants, spinosad is also used to kill lice and nits.

Lice are small insects that hide at the roots of the hair in humans and bite the scalp. They lay eggs, called nits, which hatch and become a nuisance and a health risk.

Spinosad is effective in killing both the lice and their eggs. However, you shouldn’t spray the head of a baby under 6 months with it.

Benefits of Using Spinosad

Applying spinosad in your garden can have many benefits. Here are some of these benefits:

  • Safe: Spinosad is safe to use, has no serious side effects, and doesn’t pose any risk to humans, pets, good insects, or the plants themselves. 
  • Mild Side Effects: Unlike commercial pesticides, spinosad passes through the body when ingested and breaks down without impacting the system. It passes out naturally within a day or two of ingestion.
  • Kills Pests: Spinosad is quite selective in the insects it targets. It is very toxic to thrips, caterpillars, fire ants, leafminers, spider mites, and fruit flies, but it’s quite harmless to bees, adult butterflies, and other good insects.
  • Used Indoors: You can safely spray spinosad on your houseplants indoors without risking either your health or that of the children and pets in the house.
  • Organic: Spinosad was awarded organic status by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP).

Drawbacks of Using Spinosad

While using spinosad has proven to be effective against caterpillars and other pests, some insects like butterflies go through a caterpillar phase in their lives.

Spraying those caterpillars would impact the population of butterflies in your area.

The organic insecticide can have some side effects on some people who are allergic to its components. However, those side effects are mostly mild.

How To Apply Spinosad

When applying spinosad as an insecticide in the garden, you need to spray it once every 7 days.

The organic compound loses its toxicity within 24 hours, so repeat applications for up to 6 weeks are required to eliminate all pests in the garden.

For lice applications, apply spinosad to dry hair, and rub it into the scalp. Don’t wet the hair before applications as it will dilute the topical medicine.

Related Questions:

Will Spinosad Burn Plants?

Spinosad will not burn plants. However, it might clog the surface of the leaves and stems if used excessively.

It’s recommended to spray the foliage with plain water after each application to flush the insecticide out. Other than that, it’s perfectly safe to use spinosad on all types of vegetables and ornamental plants.

Does Spinosad Kill Aphids?

While spinosad is quite effective against caterpillars and other insects, it doesn’t have the same effect on aphids and other sucking insects.

If you have an aphid infestation, you can try neem oil, another natural insecticide (I use this organic neem routinely), or just blast the insects with a strong stream of water to dislodge them.

Conclusion

Spinosad is a natural insecticide produced by bacteria in the soil. It’s quite toxic to caterpillars, fruit flies, spider mites, and fire ants among other pests.

At the same time, it’s quite harmless to humans, pets, wildlife, plants, and good insects such as bees and adult butterflies.