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Natural Alternatives

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Naturally derived products are everywhere. The market has exploded with food items claiming all natural ingredients, clothing that uses no chemically processed fabrics or inks, and household cleaning products with no artificial ingredients. And, lest we not forget, there now exists a whole plethora of all natural fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides.

Keep in mind, as you examine your natural options, just because they're "all natural," that doesn't mean they're safe. Moreover, thanks to 'greenwashing' (an unfortunate trend of promoting supposed eco-safe products that may not actually be ecologically sensible or effective by using very sneaky descriptions, measurements and marketing), it's hard to tell what's what. You should do some homework with any product advertised to kill insects. As I've mentioned on this site, there are cases in which using natural products may be your best bet. The push to remove heavy metals, CFCs and asbestos from household products and environments illustrate the benefit of removing certain chemical additives in the hopes of improving health. However, plenty of natural and organic substances can be just as toxic and dangerous as their chemical cousins. (Ever hear of arsenic? Of course you have. It's natural! And it's everywhere - soil, water,'s one of the most common elements on our planet, and in large doses, it'll kill-ya-dead.)

So. You wanna use natural alternatives. Let's get down to it.


Pyrethrumpyrethrum is the general name used to describe the compounds derived from natural insecticides within chrysanthemum flowers (collectively known as "pyrethroids"). Varying in toxicity, this option has become quite popular for gardeners and nature lovers looking to utilize an option that may have less environmental impact. However, don't assume that because a product is of natural derivation that it's any safer than the synthetic options created in a lab. In fact, many people exhibit allergic reactions to pyrethroid compounds, and high doses of the natural toxin is lethal to a number of mammals, birds, fish, and desirable insects like bees. (For more information on Pyrethrumpyrethrum, see our Chemicals and Pesticides article.)

Insecticidal Soap

Many new Insecticidal Soapsinsecticidal soap are available, touting a natural means of killing and/or repelling stink bugs and other insects. Most of these soaps use an ingredient consisting of potassium salts of fatty acids. This can be highly effective at killing particular insects through dehydration, with high levels of efficacy in killing eggs and larvae. Of course, the trick there is finding the eggs and larvae.

Orange & Citrus Extract Sprays

The makers of Orange GuardOrange Guard , Home Pest Control, claim their products' ingredients are all safe to be used around food, humans and pets. The primary, active ingredient seems to be a solvent called d-Limonene, a "steam-distilled byproduct of citrus peels, entirely of natural origin." Reviews of this product on the web seem to be mostly positive.

Sugar Esters

Products like SucraShieldSucraShield have recently become available, which use an extracted sugar ester which coats and suffocates soft-bodied insects. Unfortunately, that means this product will have little to no effectiveness in killing adult stink bugs, but it should work well in killing eggs, larvae and pupae. Pairing a product like SucraShieldSucraShield with Orange GuardOrange Guard could prove highly effective in combatting the brown marmorated at any age.

Neem Oil

Neem, or Indian Lilac, is a type of evergreen tree that that produces fruit and seed from which an oil can be extracted. This extract, neem oil, has proven effective in repelling a variety of insects including bedbugs, roaches and anecdotally, stink bugs. Neem Oilneem oil is commercially available under a few names, but one of the more popular products is the Garden Plus Neem Oil Extract . While not known to be harmful to mammals, some evidence shows that it may be associated with liver damage and pregnant women should avoid handling neem products.

Lemon Grass Oil

More commonly known as an herb and seasoning for teas and soups, lemon grass oil (or Cymbopogon) is commonly used as a pesticide. The EPA has listed lemongrass oil as a registered pesticide since 1962, and several commercial products like Hot Shot's Natural Home Insect Control Sprayslemongrass Hot Shot are now available for insect repellants using lemon grass extract as the primary ingredient.

Hot Pepper Wax

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The same ingredient that burns your tongue when you dig into a plate of wings or nachos can be used to repel insects. Capsaicin, the substance in peppers that gives them their heat, can be extracted and concentrated into sprays and waxes to prevent plants and surfaces from being disturbed by both insects and other animals. There are recipes online for whipping up your own solution, or you can try the Hot Pepper Wax™hot pepper wax brand sprays.

Canola Oil

Canola oil, derived from the rapeseed (in Latin, "rape" means "turnip"), has become a popular ingredient in the new wave of natural insecticides. Rapeseed naturally contains a compound known as erucic acid, which is highly much so, it was banned from human consumption by the FDA in the 1950s. However, a team of Canadian agriculturalists managed to breed much of the toxic acid out of the seed. This "Canadian Oil" with "Low Acid" was dubbed "canola oil" and has since found its way into many of our food products. And although most of the erucic acid is gone, the trace amounts (2% or less) remaining are enough to kill pesky insects. Lilly Miller Vegol Year-Round Pesticidal Oilcanola insecticide is made from canola oil.

Options from the Pantry

Though much of the following are not proven, many people claim they have bug-repelling properties. If you're like most, you'll stop at anything to get rid of your stink bug problem, so trying out a few unconventional options shouldn't turn you off. The following have are all purported to a variety of repel pesky insects. Give them a try, and let us know about their efficacy in combating stink bugs:

  • Vinegar
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Lemongrass
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic
  • Citronella
  • Marigolds
  • Cinnamon
  • Baby Powder
  • Chalk
  • Onion
  • Citrus Peel
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tansy
  • Bergamot
  • Sagebrush

Diatomaceous Earth

It's debatable as to whether diatomaceous earth really works in combating stink bugs, but some folks have reported success. DE is a naturally occurring powder created from the fossilized remains of diatoms (a fancy word for hard-shelled algae). Here's how it works: when a bug wanders through diatomaceous earth, the particles absorb into the insect's exoskeleton. If exposed to enough, the insect will die as a result of dehydration as the particles pull lipids from the chitin-walls of the exoskeleton. Neato, huh? It's nearly harmless to humans and animals (some varieties come with inhalation hazards)...but to bugs, it's like walking through a pile of salt-crusted razor blades. A 10-lb. food grade bag of Diatomaceous Earthdiatomaceous earth is available for around $12.


Yep. It would seem that chickens are quite fond of stink bugs as a snack. This, of course, is really only an outdoor solution, but hey, incorporating a chicken into your bag of stink bug fighting tricks might go a long way. And, bonus! Fresh eggs right in your backyard!

See the next article, "Stink Bug Traps" »

Sources used in the research for this article:

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At a glance

Natural Solutions:

  • Pyrethrum
  • Insecticidal Soap
  • Citrus Products
  • Sugar Esters
  • Neem Oil
  • Lemongrass Oil
  • Hot Pepper Wax
  • Canola Oil
  • Pantry Options
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Chickens