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Greenhouse Pest Management with Insecticides


February 14, 2020 - Author: David Smitley

For summaries of research evaluations of insecticides used on ornamentals, go to the IR4 Ornamental Horticulture website:

Starting clean: Do not carry-over insects from one crop to another. Keep thrips numbers down to less than 10/card/week in the fall and winter on poinsettias and cordyline (Dracaena). Avoid keeping houseplants or allowing weeds to grow in the greenhouse. When each batch of growing media arrives for a new crop, check it for fungus gnats by filling a 1 gal Zip-lock bag 1/2-full with moist soil. If fungus gnat adults emerge within 3 weeks, consider applying a fungus gnat treatment at planting time. Check incoming plant material carefully. If insects are found treat them with an appropriate product listed below to start as clean as possible.

Scouting: Monitor thrips and whiteflies with yellow sticky cards. Change cards once per week. Use at least one card per house or one per 2,000 ft2.  Check the first plants to flower for thrips.

For spider mites and aphids, check susceptible plants like marigold (mites) and pepper (aphids), weekly.  Potato wedges can be stuck in soil and checked 24 hours later for fungus gnat larvae.

Which products are neonicotinoids? In this bulletin all neonicotinoid insecticides are listed in italics. Technically, according The IRAC classification system based on mode of action, neonicotinoids are all insecticides in category 4A. This includes acetamaprid (Tristar),clothianidin (Arena), dinotefuran (Safari, Dinotefuran, Sagacity), thiomethoxam (Flagship) and imidacloprid (Marathon, Benefit, Discus, Imigold, Bounty). Flonicamid (Aria) has a related chemical structure but a different mode of action (category 9C).

Systemic insecticides: Altus, Kontos, Mainspring, Imidacloprid, Flagship, Arena and Safari can all be applied to the soil surface as a drench for uptake by plant roots and systemic movement throughout the plant.  Most of these products can also be applie as a foliar spray.

Gaucho can be used as a soil systemic on cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. The only soil systemic insecticides available at this time that are NOT neonicotinoids are Altus, Kontos and Mainspring. Altus is labeled for aphids, mealybugs and whiteflies. Kontos1 is labeled for spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and whitefly.  Mainspring is labeled for thrips, aphids, whiteflies and mealybugs.

Pyrethroid insecticide products: Pyrethroids have been excluded from this list because of documented resistance problems with thrips and some whiteflies and aphids. However, they are still very effective for susceptible populations of whiteflies, aphids, mealybugs, caterpillars, scale crawlers and most other insects. Some pyrethroid insecticide products available for greenhouse use are: Astro, Attain, Bifenthhrin, Talstar, Decathlon, Decathlon, Tame, Scimitar, and Mavrick.

Preventing outbreaks: If yellow sticky cards or scouting indicates an increase in aphids, mites, thrips, fungus gnats or whiteflies, apply one of the following insecticide products once per week as a foliar spray, unless a soil drench application is mentioned.  Products are listed alphabetically, and neonicotinoids are in italics.

Thrips: Aria, BotaniGard ES, Mainspring, Mesurol, Orthene 97, Overture, Pedestal, Pylon, Safari, Tristar, Xxpire.  Also, if Distance is applied as a soil drench it will reduce the number of thrips adults emerging from pupae in the soil.

Aphids: Acephate 97, Altus, Arena, Aria, azadarachtin + M-Pede4 (Aza-Direct, AzaGuard, Azatin), BotaniGard, Distance, Endeavor, Enstar II, Gaucho5, Kontos1, Mainspring, Ornazin, Talstar (but resistance is possible), Tristar (residue not toxic to bees), Xxpire.

Neonicotinoids: Imidacloprid, Safari, or Flagship applied as a soil drench or as a spray. Tristar as a spray.

Whiteflies: Acephate 97, Altus, Arena, azadarachtin (Aza-Direct, AzaGuard, Azatin-O, Azatin XL, Molt-X), Beauveria bassiana spores (BotaniGard ES or 22WP, Mycotrol ES), Distance (not for Q biotype), Endeavor, Enstar (not for Q biotype), Gaucho5, Judo2 (see phytotox footnote), Kontos1 (see phytotox footnote), Mainspring, Ornazin, Pedestal (do not use on poinsettias), pyriproxyfen (Distance, Pyranica or Engulf), Sanmite, Savate, and Talus (not for Q biotype) and Xxpire. Insecticidal soap3 (M-pede) and horticultural oils3 (SuffOil- X, Ultra-Pure Oil, SunSpray Ultra-Fine Oil, Triact70, Saf-T-Side) can be used if care is taken not to exceed label rates and not to spray open flowers, to avoid phytotoxicity. Neonicotinoids:  Imidacloprid, Safari, or Flagship applied as a soil drench or as a spray. Tristar as a spray.

Spider mites: Akari, Applause, Avid, Floramite, Hexygon, Judo2( see phytotox footnote), Kontos, Magus, Ovation, ProMite, Pylon, Sanmite, Savate, Shuttle-O, Sultan6, Ultiflora

Broad mites and cyclamen mites: Avid, Akari, Judo2, Pylon, SanMite, 2 % horticultural oil (oils may be phytotoxic, test first).  Reduce humidity to below 80% if possible.

Fungus gnats: Azadarachtin (Aza-Direct, AzaGuard, Azatin O), Adept (not on poinsettias), Citation, or pyriproxyfen (Distance Pyranica or Engulf) as a soil drench. Allow growing media to dry between waterings, as soon as is possible. Neonicotinoids: Imidacloprid, Safari or Flagship applied as a soil drench.

Leafminers: Arena and Mainspring, applied as a soil drench or foliar spray. Conserve as a foliar spray. As an alternative product, AzaGuard has worked well when sprayed more frequently (once per week).

Mealybugs: Altus, Arena, Aria, Distance, Flagship, Kontos, Orthene 97, Rycar, Talus, Tristar, and Safari. Neonicotinoids:  Imidacloprid, Safari, or Flagship applied as a soil drench or as a spray. Tristar applied as a spray.

Florida fern caterpillar: Because these caterpillars are usually resistant to pyrethroid insecticides try using Adept, Bt, Pedestal, Orthene, Mesurol or Duraguard ME.


1 On the Kontos label: Not recommended for use on geraniums, orchids, hoya, Dracaena, Cordyline, Schefflera, neanthebella palm, and ferns.  Do not make more than one application per season to Hydrangea, Impatens spp., crotons, Fuschia hybrids, Petunia, Peperomia, stock, or cyclamens.

2 On the Judo label: Do not use on geraniums, Peperomia, Dracaena, and ‘Classy’, ‘Attache’or ‘Vogue’ roses. It is not recommended to use Judo on Alstromoeria, Agyranthemum, Bacopa, Matthiola, Lobelia, New Guinea impatiens, ferns, phoz, English ivy, cyclamen, hydrangea, schefflera, fuschia, crotin, neanthebella palm and Primula.

3 In phytotoxicity testing, insecticidal soap and horticultural oil products have been at the top of the list for being the most phytotoxic to greenhouse plants (assuming that plants listed on the label as being sensitive are not included in the test). Do not exceed labeled rates which are usually a 1% concentration of oil or a 2% concentration soap.

4 AzaDirect at 24 oz and M-Pede at 128 oz per 100 gallons.

5 Gaucho is labeled for use as soil systemic only on greenhouse-grown vegetables. Bemesia (silverleaf whitefly) resistance to imidacloprid is common.

6 In IR4 testing Sultan caused significant phytotoxicity to impatiens.


Tags: floriculture, greenhouse pest management

Related Topic Areas

Floriculture & Greenhouse Crop Production

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