Slow as Molasses

Fire ants hate it. Stink bugs explode from the inside out…And yes, it hits the beneficials as well, but doesn’t linger the way the chemicals do…

What is the best secret weapon you can use against insect invasions in your garden?

Molassas!

The way the expert nurserywoman at RCW Nurseries in NW Houston explained it to me, insects cannot digest this particular form of sugar. As it moves through their digestive system, it gives them gas. With the hard exoskeleton, this means the critter is smushed from the inside out. Almost seems mean doesn’t it? Color me bloodthirsty, but I really don’t miss having ant bites on my hands and legs all the time.

This all sounds great — no residue in the soil from chemicals with unknown side-effects, exploding those fire ants from the inside out, but what the heck is agricultural Molassas and is there scientific proof behind the practice?

From the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, CO (US), an abstract on the use of agricultural molasses by P. Simon mentions how the lack of runoff of nitrogen-based fertilizers would benefit ground water and cut the cost of chemical fertilizers. Molasses unlocks nutrients stored within the soil itself – a idea which really appeals to me.

According to material from Hawaii’s Agricultural Research Center:

It was added to soil as a fertilizer from time to time when the price happened to be low and served to increase sugarcane yields, particularly in low potassium areas (Anon. 1939, Story 1939). It soon became apparent that molasses was providing greater benefits to the crop in addition to nutrition. During the process of decomposition, molasses appeared to reduce damage to roots caused by root parasites (Anon. 1939, Story 1939).

In other words, it works. I decided to give this a try and trotted myself down to the local garden center. (See my Nursery page on my website for great resources in the Houston area.)

Here is RCW’s recipe for Insecticide:

  • 3 Tbsp Agricultural Molassas
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic Barrier
  • 1 Tbsp any organic liquid fertilizer

– Mix into one gallon of water and spray. For hose end prayers, add multiples of the recipe and set the dial to 5 Tbsp per gallon. Controls mosquitos up to 2 wks.”

I sprayed it directly on the garden bed before planting, and will reapply as needed for pesky repeat offender insects.

Happy Gardening!

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Wait, wait. Is agricultural molasses just anything I wouldn’t want to eat? Can I use the molasses I do eat? I’m excited about this, especially since the stink bugs pretty much ruled my garden this year!

    1. Unsulferated blackstrap molasses is the best choice for gardening. It’s not so much about the sugar as it is about the trace minerals — potash, iron, micronutrients — and blackstrap has the highest concentration..

      Molasses is also an excellent chelating agent, which means that it can help convert some chemical nutrients into a form that’s easily available for organisms and plants to use.

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