Pyrethrum refers to the Pyrethrum daisy (Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium) from which the insecticidal compound is extracted. Also nicknamed Dalmatian chrysanthemum, this perennial daisy is loaded with chemicals called pyrethrins that are toxic to insects. Since it is directly extracted from a plant — and since it is considered nontoxic to humans — pyrethrum is approved in the U.S. for use on certified organic farms.

But is pyrethrum a safe organic pesticide? Read on below and find out everything you need to know about pyrethrum before deciding whether or not it’s right for you and your organic farm, garden, or home lawn.

    About Pyrethrum

    If you start reading pesticide labels, all the “P” words will get pretty confusing! Common ingredients in pesticides that start with the letter P include:

    • Permethrin: An example of a synthetic pyrethroid, not to be confused with its natural counterpart.
    • Pyrethrins: The active chemicals in pyrethrum. “Pyrethrum” and “pyrethrin” are often used interchangeably.
    • Pyrethroids: Synthetic pyrethrins. They are much more toxic than natural pyrethrins and are not approved for organic gardening.
    • Pyrethrum: The general name for an insecticide derived from the Pyrethrum daisy.

    Pyrethrum Facts

    Now that you know which “P” words to pay attention to when it comes to pesticides, here are some key properties to consider about pyrethrum and pyrethrins:

    • Best for Spot Spraying: Like any powerful compound, pyrethrum should only be used for spot-spraying, heavily infested areas. You should avoid drenching the entire garden with it.
    • Breaks Down Quickly: Pyrethrins naturally degrade within days in sunlight. They don’t persist in soil or on produce, allowing use around food crops.
    • Grow Your Own: Pyrethrum daisies repel pests. You can grow them yourself and dry the flowers to make your own organic insecticidal powder. The white daisies with yellow centers are quite attractive.
    • Kills Beneficial Insects: Pyrethrum is highly toxic to most insects, including beneficial pollinators. This makes it effective against pests, but it also kills beneficial insects that pollinate vegetables and help control pests.
    • Other Ingredients: Pure pyrethrum is hard to find. It’s often mixed with piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a toxic, non-organic chemical that increases its potency. Pyrethrins may also be blended with neem oil or insecticidal soap. Read labels carefully for 100% organic ingredients.
    • Safety Profile: While touted as “non-toxic,” pyrethrum is not harmless — however, it is one of the least toxic pesticides available. It’s primarily toxic to fish, so keep it out of waterways.

    Using Pyrethrum Safely

    Before you pick pyrethrum-based pesticides for use in your organic garden, flower beds, or backyard, in general,  follow these tips for using pyrethrum safely:

    • Carefully follow all label instructions for dosage, timing, and personal protective equipment needed.
    • Look for OMRI-certified organic pyrethrin products to ensure no toxic synthetic chemicals are added.
    • Mix your own pyrethrum spray using dried pyrethrum daisy flowers and a bit of dish soap.
    • Never use synthetic pyrethroid products labeled permethrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin, or tetramethrin. These are not approved for organic gardening.
    • Spot spray infested plants only, avoiding widespread application that can harm beneficial insects.

    Pyrethrum Insecticide Considerations

    Now that we’ve thoroughly discussed pyrethrum, what it is, and whether or not it’s safe as a pesticide, let’s take a quick recap of everything we’ve learned.

    Here are the most significant considerations you should be aware of when evaluating whether or not to use pyrethrum in your organic garden or landscaping:

    • Effectiveness: Pyrethrum immediately knocks down flying insects. However, pests can revive if the dosage is too low. Added chemicals like PBO increase potency.
    • Environmental Impact: Pyrethrum is highly toxic to fish and aquatic life. Runoff into waterways should be prevented through careful application.
    • Harm to Beneficials: Pyrethrins kill pests and beneficial species indiscriminately. Population resurgence can occur when predator bugs are eliminated.
    • Organic Approval: Made from daisy flowers, pyrethrum qualifies for use on certified organic farms when not blended with synthetics.
    • Safety: Pyrethrins degrade rapidly, limiting accumulation in soil and produce. Toxicity is relatively low compared to synthetic pesticides.

    Overall, pyrethrum offers a powerful natural pesticide option for organic growers willing to use it judiciously. Integrated pest management utilizing multiple low-impact control methods is ideal for an ecological garden.

    So, is Pyrethrum a Safe Organic Pesticide?

    While pyrethrum is organic — coming from daisies — and does indeed work well as a natural pesticide agent, it can have drawbacks if overused. However, when it’s used sparingly by responsible organic growers, though, pyrethrum offers an effective natural pest control option.  

    Today’s Homeowner Tips

    Following all label precautions and avoiding overuse is key to harnessing pyrethrum’s pest-fighting power safely.

    If you’re not sure whether or not you should use pyrethrum in your yard — or don’t have the time to treat your yard, let alone research the subject — I suggest getting in touch with a company like NaturaLawn of America. These professionals keep your organic home lawn looking its best all year round.

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    FAQs About Pyrethrum

    Is pyrethrum allowed for organic gardening?

    Yes, pyrethrum qualifies for use on certified organic farms and gardens when sourced directly from the pyrethrum daisy flower. No synthetic chemicals can be added.

    How quickly does pyrethrum break down?

    Pyrethrins, the active chemicals in pyrethrum, break down within a few days in sunlight. This prevents accumulation in soil or crops.

    What insects does pyrethrum kill?

    Pyrethrum is highly toxic to most insects, including both pests like aphids and beneficials like ladybugs. It should be used cautiously to avoid harming pollinators and natural pest predators.

    Is pyrethrum safe for humans?

    Pyrethrum is relatively non-toxic to humans and pets compared to harsh synthetic pesticides. However, some people may experience skin irritation or breathing issues if exposed.

    Can I make DIY pyrethrum spray?

    Yes, you can grow pyrethrum daisies and dry the flowers yourself. Grind them into a powder and mix them with water and a bit of dish soap to create an organic insecticidal spray.

    Editorial Contributors
    avatar for Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

    Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

    Expert Writer & Reviewer

    Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas is a globetrotting content writer hailing from the USA. With a passion for pest control, he brings a unique perspective to his writing from his early years working for one of the largest pest control companies in America. Throughout his early 20s, Jordan gained valuable experience and knowledge in the field, tackling pest infestations head-on and ensuring the well-being of countless homes.

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    Jeff Zoldy

    Jeff is a writer, editor, and marketer based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He has been editing on the Home Solutions team for over a year and is passionate about getting homeowners the information they need when they need it most. When he’s not working, Jeff can be found at baseball games, golfing, going to the gym, reading, watching movies, and playing video games.

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