Nothing spoils a summer cookout faster than mosquitoes swarming around guests, making them slap their necks and start to scratch. For that matter, nothing spoils a good night’s sleep in summer than a mosquito you can’t see, buzzing loudly around your head. All night.
Early in the season, when the pesky critters start to show up, you say to yourself, “These blasted things have got to go!” And who do you call? Why, your local neighborhood mosquito control company, that’s who. And when you do call, the voice at the other end of the line is likely to mention pyrethrum, or pyrethrins.
Strictly defined, pyrethrum is an extract of the flower head of a type of chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium. The active ingredients within the pyrethrum, the ingredients with insecticidal qualities, are called pyrethrins.
Pyrethrins are a natural, organic form of pest control, offering a great alternative to harmful pesticides and man made chemicals. They work by attacking the central nervous system of insects such as mosquitoes, killing them and rendering them unable to bite humans.
Pyrethrins have been used as a pesticide for more than 150 years, so they have been widely tested for safety and toxicity. Pyrethrins do not last long in the environment; they break down quickly in UV light and warm temperatures. In small amounts, they also won’t harm most plants or most animals, including birds and family pets or farm animals.
But there is some criticism of this natural pesticide. For one, pyrethrins are considered toxic to fish, so ponds and lakes should be avoided. Some organic gardeners also maintain that pyrethrins kill off not just mosquitoes, but may harm some beneficial insects as well.