Spinosad Insecticide

- A natural pesticide from soil microbes -

Summary: Spinosad is a natural insecticide. The active ingredients in spinosad, spinosyn A and spinosyn D, are complex organic compounds made by soil microbes. Spinosad is a broad-spectrum pesticide but is only active if ingested or contacted while in liquid form, so has little residual effect on most beneficial species.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)
my resume

Spinosad is a natural insecticide

Spinosad is a relatively new insecticide that is made up of two complex organic compounds, spinosyn A (right) and spinosyn D. These compounds are produced by certain microbes that were first discovered in soil found at an abandoned rum factory.

Spinosad is a broad-spectrum, organic insecticide. The term "broad-spectrum" means that it is toxic to a wide variety of insects. It is, however, relatively non-toxic to mammals and beneficial insects.

If used carefully only insects that actually eat something that has been treated, such as a leaf, are affected. This is different than a lot of other broad-spectrum insecticides that are toxic if the insect merely comes in contact with dry insecticide residues.

Chemical structure of spinosyn A, a component of spinosad insecticide. Modified from wikipedia.org.

An alternative to conventional garden insecticides

Spinosad is an excellent natural, organic alternative to conventional synthetic insecticides like Sevin in many garden situations. Spinosad is not approved for use on as many crops and pests as some of the older insecticides but where it is approved it may be a better choice (see product label and fact sheet below).

Products that contain spinosad

There are a number of products currently on the market that contain spinosad, and more are being developed every year. Some widely used products are Conserve SC, for the commercial turf and ornamental market, Entrust Naturalyte, for the commercial organic grower market, Comfortis, for the flea control market, and an insecticide for home gardeners called Monterey Garden Insect Spray (see product label and fact sheet below). A variety of spinosad-based products are available here (DoMyOwn.com, our affiliate).

Spinosad insecticide in home gardens

Depending on the product (and please, always check the product label!) spinosad insecticides can be used on lawns, ornamental plants, some garden vegetables and fruit trees to control a variety of important pests (see product label and fact sheet below).

Advantages of spinosad

  • low mammal, bird, and aquatic toxicity
  • easy on beneficial insects and mites
  • certified organic

Disadvantages of spinosad

  • none

Related Articles

Monterey Garden Insect Spray product label (2004) - The product label contains all of the information required for registration in the US. This label is for general information only. Product labels can change so be sure to follow the instructions attached to the product you are actually using.

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