TX Organic Research Center



Fipronil, Nut Sedge, Mice, Head Lice Solution
February 01, 2002
By Howard Garrett

Q. I have heard of a new fire ant product that is coming out soon called Fipronil made by Aventis Environmental Science. How toxic is this stuff? Also, about a year ago on TV they were talking about a fungus (rust in color) developed by Texas Tech that was like a cancer to fire ants. Have you heard of this? – M.T., Dallas

A. Fipronil is a neurotoxin that does seem to be the best bad choice for termites but for fire ants there are much safer and much more effective products. The orange oil based products top the list. better products. Don’t know about the fungus, but rusty red and black would be the appropriate colors.

Q. I have major growth of nut grass in my vegetable garden. Is there anything that I can do to get rid of it? Will frequent tilling do any good or just spread it more? I hate poisons, but the problem is getting to the point that I won’t be able to plant a garden if I can’t get control. – K.T., Dallas

A. There is only one guaranteed, foolproof method to kill nut sedge. First, dig out every tiny piece of the plant including the seeds and nutlets. Dump the material on the driveway, cover with kerosene and burn. Sweep up all the ashes, drive to the coast, and dump 20 miles off shore in sealed concrete containers. No, there are no consistently effective chemical or organic sprays or any other treatments for nutgrass or nut sedge, especially in turf. Products that are strong enough to kill it will damage the grass as well as the trees on the property. In beds nutgrass should be removed by hand one last time and then the area treated with a strong application of sugar or dry molasses. Use about 10 pounds per 100 sq. ft. This works by causing a rotting of the crowns of the plants and the nutlets. Only problem is that this heavy rate can damage nearby plants. I’ve not yet come up with a formulation that will kill this weed and not damage the grass and other wanted plants -- yet, anyway. Nutgrass can be killed in beds by spot spraying organic herbicides, but be careful to avoid spraying the desirable plants. Vinegar-based herbicides are non-selective. My best nut sedge advice applies to your vegetable garden. Except for areas where you have bulbing plants like onion, garlic or saffron, let the weed grow. It doesn’t hurt the plants or the production at all, in fact, just the opposite. Nut sedge will however grow right through bulbs and corms.

Q. Just like millions of others we have mice in our house. We have outside cats, but not any indoors. In the past we have used stuff you would not approve of. We have a little inside dog who gets great pleasure out of chasing the little rascals so we want to be sure to use something that would not hurt her should she be fast enough to catch one. We have been organic outside the house, on the lawn and in our garden, for about nine years and are very pleased with the results. My husband trusts your judgment and actually takes your advice, something I am envious and in great awe of, so whatever you say to do with the mice situation we will abide with. – B.H., Paris, TX

A. Dusting dry hot pepper like cayenne or even hotter peppers like habanero will repel mice pretty well. It does not seem to work that well on rats. For them you have to go to a non-secondary kill bait like Rampage or Quintox. The old fashioned snap traps are still effective on those rodents that have no problem with the hot spice.

Q. I am an elementary school nurse and I heard you recommend tea tree oil mixed with something else for controlling head lice. Please email me the mixture, so that I can recommend it to parents who have children with chronic head lice problems. – V.B., Dallas

A. No need to mix anything. All you have to use is tea tree oil shampoo, available under several brands at health stores and more and more mainline retailers. There is also a web site www.melaleuca.com. You are very wise to teach parents about this non-toxic solution. Not only do the synthetic pesticide products allow neurotoxins to soak into children’s skin and into their blood streams, they don’t work to control the pests as well as the tree oil products. Tea tree oil is an extract from a tropical tree and is used in many skin care, health and hygiene products.

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