Understanding and Using Rotenone Safely If At All
I believe that Rotenone, one of the more popular of natural insect controls, should be
understood before you go spreading it around. So here's the
details you might find interesting and useful.
is classed as a General Use Pesticide
except for use on cranberries and fish control (these two uses are
restricted). This means that anybody can purchase this product and use
it in their garden without training or licensing.
It can legally be combined with other products such as carbaryl,
lindane, thiram and is in some product packaging. Often
you'll have to read the fine print to discover what you
purchased as an organic control contains something far more of a
This is why it is so important to read the label.
What Does it Kill?
This product is a non-specific botanical insecticide. This means that
it kills off most things that come in contact with it. In general, it
is used in home gardens and to kill lice and fleas on pets.
Where Does it Come From?
Rotenone is a plant extract from members of the pea family
(Leguminosae) such as barbasco, cub, haiari, nekoe and timbo and the
product is taken from the roots, seeds and leaves of these plants.
Is it Dangerous?
To most insects and fish, yes it is dangerous in that it kills them.
humans, it can create dermatitis (mild rash), sore throat and
congestion if skin contact is made. If eaten, it can produce vomiting.
Breathing it can increase your respiration rate and be followed by
Does it kill humans? It is
theoretically possible but because it makes
you vomit when you eat it - not likely. Technically, if you
milligrams of pure rotenone per kilogram of your body weight then you
could have problems. However, please understand that commercially
available product is not 100% pure but rather 1-5% by weight. This is a
lot of this stuff - several retail sized containers
- even for a child
to have to eat to get sick. Animals fed this stuff for up to 2 years
did not die although some at higher and longer levels had
problems (too much throwing up).
indicates that breathing it
will cause more problems than any other method (wear dust masks!)
What about pregnant women? The conclusion of Extoxnet at Cornell is
that "reproductive effects seem unlikely in
Does it Hurt the
Rotenone rapidly breaks down in soil and water - usually
between 1 to 3
days. Because it doesn't leach from the soil and because it
rapidly, it is not a danger to groundwater.
When dusted onto plants, it breaks down rapidly in sunlight exposure.
5-6 days of spring sunlight and 2-3 days of summer sunlight.
This is a highly effective plant-based insecticide that works on a wide
range of insect pests. It breaks down quite quickly in the soil, water
Exposure to it - from skin contact, to eating to inhalation -
should be carefully restricted.
It can be
applied as a dust or as a liquid spray.
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Most products now being sold in garden centers are combination products rather than straight rotenone. Read the label to ensure the product doesn't contain ag-chemicals and qualifies as "organic". Many new products do not qualify.
When you apply
this product, it is recommended you wear long sleeves,
rubber gloves and when dusting - a protective breathing
dustmask is the single most important protective gear to be used when
dusting this product.
Read the label before using
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