Thursday, October 7, 2010

How Did Colonists Fight Squash Bugs? Can Tansy Be Used?

We have a continuing problem on our little homestead with squash bugs. Every year we battle the little demons, leaving nothing untried. The only sure method of dealing with these bugs and keeping them from killing the precious squash plants is to pick off every little egg we could find. That, along with picking off and stepping on every squash bug we saw. Believe me, the effort always seemed futile. We have even decided to forgo growing squash for a couple of years in hopes of the bugs going away. The trouble is that we always have incidental squash plants popping up in the compost bin or elsewhere. So I am not sure how to get rid of them.

Pesticides are not an option. We like real food. So I got to thinking and wondering how farmers dealt with these squash beetles in colonial times. I am not sure that I found an answer (bummer) but I did come across something interesting and possibly valuable for us homesteaders/survivalists/farmers.

Tansy is a plant that has shown a natural ability as a pesticide and insect repellent. Townsfolk used to put Tansy wreathes on deceased loved ones and pack their coffins with the flower to ward of worms and insects. Colonists and English, alike would place pots of Tansy on window sills to ward off house flies. They would even put sprigs in bed linen to drive away pests and used it for ant control. Colonists went so far as to put Tansy in their shoes to fight off malaria carrying mosquitoes.

Try this one, Common Tansy is often planted along side potatoes to repel Colorado Potato bug. Research has shown that Tansy does, indeed repel mosquitoes, but not as well as the modern chemicals. Research in Sweden has shown a 64%-72% tick repellent from Common Tansy. Interesting, to be sure.

I don't know if I will find an answer to our squash beetle problem, but I love the way we can learn new things from the past. Maybe Common Tansy can find a place around our homestead.

A word of caution: the oils found in Tansy are toxic and can cause contact dermatitis on people with sensitive skin. Although Tansy has been used for centuries by herbalists to kill internal parasites (which is very effective), be careful. In the USA, Tansy has been limited to alcoholic beverages, so do oyur research before taking it internally.


Anonymous said...

Tansey is toxic to cows, so don't let them get at it:)

Scott or Pam said...

Good advice, thanks.