No garden is immune to the threat of pests and insects. While many gardeners choose to avoid all pesticides (and lose their entire harvest as a consequence), I prefer to have eco-friendly options in my tool belt like Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). 

What is Bacillus thuringiensis?

Bacillus thuringiensis, often referred to as Bt, is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. First discovered in the early 1900’s, this bacterium produces crystalline proteins called delta-endotoxins, or simply Bt toxins. These toxins are lethal to specific insect larvae, particularly those belonging to the order Lepidoptera (e.g., caterpillars and moths), Diptera (e.g., mosquitoes and flies), and Coleoptera (e.g., beetles).

How does Bacillus thuringiensis work?

When Bt spores or Bt toxin residues are ingested by susceptible insect larvae, they paralyze the insect’s digestive system and form pores in the gut wall, leading to a bacterial infection. This results in the eventual death of the pest, usually within a few days. A huge benefit to Bt is that it is harmless to humans, animals, and beneficial insects such as bees, ladybugs, and butterflies, making it an ideal choice for environmentally-conscious gardeners.

Using Bacillus thuringiensis in your garden

Bt is highly specific in its action, targeting only certain insect species, depending on the Bt strain used. The Bt that controls cabbage moths is different from the one that controls fungus gnats.  Ensure the Bt product you purchase targets the pest you want to rid your garden of.  The specific action of Bt allows you to control pests while sparing beneficial insects that play a crucial role in pollination and maintaining ecological balance.  Bt is commonly used on Brassica crops like cabbage to prevent the cabbage moth from ruining a whole harvest.  Bt can also be used to control fungus gnats in houseplants, mosquitos in bird baths or other standing water where humans or animals may come in contact with.  Another benefit of Bt is that it is an organic approved input. Several brands provide Bt products carrying the OMRI certification.  If you are a certified organic grower, always be sure to check with you certifying agency before spraying any product.  

Bacillus thuringiensis stands as a shining example of the wonders that nature offers for sustainable and eco-friendly pest control in your garden. Its targeted approach, safety for beneficial insects, and non-toxicity to humans and pets make it a perfect choice for conscientious gardeners. By incorporating Bt into your gardening practices, you can protect your plants from pests while safeguarding the delicate balance of the natural world.  Bt allows the gardener to preserve their harvest without compromising their environmental ethics. 

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