Friday, June 26, 2020

Oils For Pest Control - Essential, Botanical, Whatever...

Bottles, bowls and flowers, the origins of essential oilsEssential oils are the driving force behind many of the nature-based pest control and fungicide products in the retail world today. Sometimes called botanical oils or horticultural oils, the distinctions between essential and botanicals can be semantic, non-existent, or formulation-driven. Horticultural oils, on the other hand, are generally mineral oils and not plant-based. Essential oils are derived from various plants and have been used to combat pests for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Neem oil, for instance, is a product of the Neem tree and has been used in India since ancient times. Essential oils work in many ways to control pest creatures and fight pathogens: they smother insect pests, they coat plant surfaces and suppress fungal growth, they breakdown insect exoskeletons, they disrupt reproductive cycles and they are excellent repellents. Sometimes all the different oils can be overwhelming to consider; I’m going to go over some of the products we carry to (hopefully) ease some of that.

A cartoon of a mad scientist with wild white hair and goggles holding a vial of smoking green liquid in his hand. On the table in front of him are more colored bottles.Before I go any further, I’d like to address the seemingly infinite websites and articles devoted to essential oils. A quick search will show that most of these relate to health and beauty usages, but there are also a great many that tout DIY essential oils for pest control. I am personally a big fan of most DIY projects, but there are several good reasons that this is not the way to go with pest control:
When it comes to insect control, oils need to come into contact with the insects and their larvae in order to be effective. This is just not practical, or even possible, when trying to apply via droppers, cotton balls, etc. Additionally, most insects are small and really good at hiding and running, so just finding them can be tricky. Not to mention that, once you have an infestation you need much more than spot treatments.
To use essential oils as a fungicide, you need to cover all the plant surfaces. Without using the proper formulation and spraying techniques this type of application is impractical and possibly harmful to plants.
In order to get to all the insects and pathogens as described above, you need to get your oil to spread. Essential oils are not necessarily runny in the right ways. You may need to add a spreader-sticker or similar adjuvant to get it to all the right places. This means an extra step, additional expenses, and real formulation skills.
Many of these oils are toxic. When used in their undiluted state they can cause skin problems and can be very dangerous to pets (especially cats).
Essential oils are expensive. Additionally, most essential oils work best when using in combination with other oils. You could spend a not-so-small fortune in oils trying to come up with the right formula.
Leaves and beans and a vial of yellow liquid - the elements of Castor Oil. Mass-produced essential oils are not regulated, so their inputs and formulation processes cannot be relied upon to be as pure as you might like, much less organic.

The solution to all of the above concerns is to know an oil's strengths and weaknesses and then choose a well-vetted, professionally-developed oil product that has been designed for maximum efficiency, ease of use, and affordability. Luckily, there are lots of good choices out there that you can rely on worry-free.

Castor Oil: This oil is derived from Castor Beans from the Ricinus communis plant and has been used as a repellent for a very long time. These days, Castor Oil is used as the main ingredient in the most popular mammal repellents out there, but it also appears on the ingredient lists of some insecticides as a deterrent ingredient. We carry a number of products with Castor Oil in it (see here), including IV Organic 3-in-1 Plant Guard, which protects trees and plants from environmental extremes and mammal and insect pests. To read a profile of Castor Oil from Cornell University, go here.

Cedarwood Oil: 
Pine cones, greenery and a bottle full of yellow liquid with a cork stopper - the elements of Cedarwood Oil.This powerfully aromatic oil comes from the wood of two different tree species, Junipers (Juniperus spp.) and Cypresses (Cupressus spp.). While most people find this particular smell appealing, this is not the case for many crawling and flying creatures; they simply don’t like it. Take a look at our products that contain Cedarwood Oil here to see the variety of pests it repels. For example, Mosquito Magician relies on 3% Cedarwood Oil in its highly effective formulation. To read a profile of Cedarwood Oil from Cornell University, go here.
Some bits of grass  around a cork-stoppered yellow vial - the elements of Lemongrass Oil.
Lemongrass Oil:
This is another extremely fragrant oil, so much so that you can find it in perfumes and air fresheners. Produced from the perennial grass Cymbopogon, this oil has insecticidal, fungicidal, and repellent properties. Within our product offerings, Lemongrass Oil is rampant in our mosquito control products. With its pleasant scent and powerful repelling capabilities, it makes a great alternative to the nasty chemical smells of traditional mosquito repellent. Medella Naturals™ Insect & Mosquito Repellent Spray is a great example of this, it smells so good you will want to spray it everywhere you go. To read a profile of Lemongrass Oil from Cornell University, go here.

Peppermint Oil:
Greenery with small flowers and a green liquid in a glass jar with a cork stopper - the elements of Peppermint Oil.Peppermint is a natural hybrid that is a cross between Spearmint and Watermint. The distinctive smell of oil from these leaves is another example of a scent that humans enjoy but insects and mammals find quite the opposite. Peppermint is often touted as a repellent for everything from mice to spiders, but in truth, it has limited efficacy on its own; it’s best when combined thoughtfully with other essential oils. Review some of our products that contain Peppermint Oil (here) to see the ways in which this is done. For instance, Essentria IC-3, a highly popular and extremely effective insecticide, contains 1% Peppermint Oil in combination with Rosemary Oil and Geraniol. To read a profile of Peppermint Oil from Cornell University, go here.

Foliage with small purple flowers by a glass bottle with a handle - the elements of Rosemary Oil
Rosemary Oil:
This particular oil comes from the same plant (Rosmarinus officinalis) as the seasoning you may have in your kitchen. While it undoubtedly adds deliciousness to your food (yum, Rosemary Chicken!), it is also a potent insecticide for soft-bodied insects. Rosemary Oil works a suffocant and will also breakdown the body of the insect. Like Peppermint Oil, Rosemary Oil is enhanced in blends with other oils. Here are some of our best products containing this useful oil. In particular, I recommend that you take note of SNS 217; it contains a lively amount of Rosemary Oil at 10%. To read a profile of Rosemary Oil from Cornell University, go here.

Thyme Oil:

Leaves next to a vial full of yellow liquid with a cork stopper - the elements of Thyme OilThis is another oil from a kitchen-familiar herb, Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). This oil has multiple amazing abilities – it works much the same as Rosemary Oil, but it also does all that to fungal pathogens. In recent years, we have come across some outstanding Thyme Oil products, notably Thyme Guard and Trifecta. Thyme Guard is a first-rate pesticide/fungicide/bactericide that contains 23% Thyme Oil (the highest of any comparable product out there) and lets the strength of that carry it as its sole active ingredient. Trifecta is also a 3-action product, but it contains 14% Thyme Oil in a medley of other oils. Both are excellent choices to get control of hundreds of insects and pathogens on plants. To read a profile of Thyme Oil from Cornell University, go here.

Dark-haired lady in a blue suit dancing while the graphics read, "Essential Oils Rock!"You may have noticed the lack of organic certifications on the products I’ve mentioned. There are some certified organic essential oil products available (here are some of ours), but the lack of regulations that I mentioned before makes it difficult for manufacturers to source and develop wholly organic oils. While many do, the process is complicated and costly enough to keep others out of that fray. What reputable developers do instead is craft their products as sustainably and cleanly as they can. If this is a concern for you, your best bet is to do your homework on any product and/or manufacturer.
Take care out there.         
    Submitted by Pam                                                                                                                                                            

Monday, June 15, 2020

We All Need A Good Laugh

Dr. Evil and 3 other characters from the Austin Powers movies laughing it up.There is no doubt about it – 2020 has been a nightmare. A global pandemic, civil unrest, economic misery and political disasters have all been on the menu this year. And now, here in Tucson, we are dealing with a massive wildfire in our beloved Santa Catalina Mountains. Sparked by a lightning fire 10 days ago, the Bighorn Fire has been getting worse every day. In started in the Pusch Ridge section and our offices sit right at the base there. For most of last week, we were all mesmerized and horrified as we watched the mountain burn across the street while helicopters, planes, and men on the ground valiantly tried to control it. I have never been so close to such a fire and I do not recommend it for the faint of heart. The fire has now moved a bit away from our offices but has grown to over 20,000 acres and is threatening many homes. At this point in 2020, I am afraid to think, “What can happen next?” In light of all these soul-crushing events, I have decided to try to find some humor to share. It’s all I can think to do and it’s good for us to laugh in the face of pain.

Humor is so subjective – there just isn’t a one-size-fits-all when it comes to funny. So, I am offering a medley of humor to you with the hope that something in here will get that laugh we all so desperately need.
An orange and white cat sitting in a little terracotta pot.For my first offering, I am presenting something that is more “Awwww” than “Hahaha” – cats in pots. I didn’t even know that this is a thing, but apparently it is. It may not be funny for people who are trying to defend their plants from intrusive cats, but I think most people can enjoy the distraction that looking at this ridiculousness provides. Here are some of the best images.

An orange flower on a green background behind the words, "Unemployment is capitalism's way of getting you to plant a garden".
Here at ARBICO, gardening is what we do. Gardeners can be a colorful and diverse lot, from the big-time greenhouse growers with their high-value crops to the family with a backyard plot. But what these people all have in common is their love for and frustrations with growing things. There is a great deal of gardening humor that covers those things and more and if you are a gardener, you should be able to find a laugh in there somewhere. Check out some here and here.

A cartoon of 4 flies sitting at a table and drinking DDT-2 appear to be knocked out-with the caption, "Of course, that's the problem with the older generation  - they're so intolerant".Another huge part of what we do here is insects – providing beneficial insects as well as providing products that fend off insect pests. Like gardeners, insect people have their own world of humor. Here is a lively Pinterest board with (mostly) insect cartoons. Even academics have tried their hand at curating insect humor, here is Purdue University’s attempt.

Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie SimpsonWe’ve all been staying home and TV/screen watching has become a competitive sport instead of a shamefully lazy and couch-potato-ish thing to do. The “what did you do this weekend?” kind of conversation has morphed into the “Did you see the latest episode of…” kind of conversation. If you are feeling down and anxiety-ridden, I’d like to propose less of Game of Thrones-type of violence and betrayal (even though I do love GOT) and more straight-up comedy. But nothing satirical or thought-provoking, just something plain ole silly. Another option is always The Simpsons, which regularly features a blend of the seven deadly sins wrapped in absurdity. Here is a list of one person’s choice for the best comedies on Netflix and here is one that purports to list the best movies of 2020.

A cartoon of 2 people in a kitchen. She is drinking wine from the bottle and he is reading a book. The caption says, " I'm not sure that's what they mean by 'now reduce the wine'".Recently I stumbled across a TV show that really took me out of my doldrums – Amy Schumer Learns to Cook. I think this Food Network show is genius and it makes me burst-laugh and just feel better all around. The premise is that Amy’s husband (a chef) is teaching her to cook. But what they are really doing is showing how silly and messy quarantining with your loved ones can get. This is the antidote to slick cooking shows in gleaming kitchens, here we have dogs underfoot-using your hands-dropping stuff on the floor-while annoying in your spouse cooking. Just like in regular folks’ homes. Oh, and you can watch full episodes on the Food Network site.

If your entertainment choices are more talk-based, you have probably been on the podcast train for a while now. This genre has been a great source for information and mysteries, but there is also a lot of comedy to be found there. So, why not indulge in a little pod-based laughing? Here is a list of some great podcasts that should provide that for you.
A black and white cartoon from the 1920s of 2 women in a boat. The caption reads, "We're really awfully cynical, I guess. We can't help it, dear-it's the Age".

Now let’s go Old School: Reader’s Digest humor. For those boomers out there, this little magazine was ubiquitous in their doctor’s offices and grandmas’ houses. And it was always known for its corny/classic/Dad-type jokes. Well, it’s still around and putting out humor. Here is a list of some of their funniest jokes courtesy of Reader’s Digest Canada.

Another stalwart provider of humor is the New Yorker magazine. They have been lightening the mood since the Roaring ’20s (1925, in fact). As the cartoon to the right shows, a sampling of their cartoons illustrates that, while time may pass, people remain the same and what was once relevant often still is. Here is a selection of their current humor.

A meme of movie star Tom Hardy laughing.I’ll leave you here and encourage you to venture fearlessly into the world of humor. Try something new and perhaps even a little outside your lines. It can make you feel better, if only for a moment.

Submitted by Pam

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