Azadirachtin Vs. Neem Oil – Are Azadirachtin And Neem Oil The Same Thing

Azadirachtin Vs. Neem Oil – Are Azadirachtin And Neem Oil The Same Thing

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

What is azadirachtin insecticide? Are azadirachtin and neem oil the same? These are two common questions for gardeners seeking organic or less toxic solutions to pest control. Let’s explore the relationship between neem oil and azadirachtin insecticide in the garden.

Are Azadirachtin and Neem Oil the Same?

Neem oil and azadirachtin aren’t the same, but the two are closely related. Both come from the neem tree, native to India but now grown in warm climates around the world. Both substances are effective for repelling and killing insect pests and also interfere with feeding, mating and egg laying.

Both are safe for humans, wildlife and the environment when used properly. Bees and other pollinators are also unharmed. However, neem oil and azadirachtin insecticide may be slightly to moderately harmful to fish and aquatic mammals.

Neem oil is a mixture of several components, many of which have insecticidal qualities. Azadirachtin, a substance extracted from neem seeds, is the primary insecticidal compound found in neem oil.

Azadirachtin vs. Neem Oil

Azadirachtin has proven to be effective against at least 200 insect species, including common pests such as:

  • Mites
  • Aphids
  • Mealybugs
  • Japanese beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Thrips
  • Whiteflies

Some growers prefer to alternate azadirachtin with other pesticides because doing so decreases the risk that pests will become resistant to frequently used chemical pesticides. Azadirachtin is available in sprays, cakes, water-soluble powder and as a soil drench.

When azadirachtin is extracted from neem oil, the substance left over is known as clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil, commonly known simply as neem oil or neem oil extract.

Neem oil extract contains a lower concentration of azadirachtin, and is less effective against insects. However, unlike azadirachtin, neem oil is effective not only for insect control, but is also effective against rust, powdery mildew, sooty mold, and other fungal diseases.

Non-insecticidal neem oil is sometimes incorporated into soaps, toothpaste, cosmetics and medicine.

Sources for information:

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What Is Azadirachtin Insecticide: Using Neem Oil And Azadirachtin For Pest Control - garden

Backyard gardeners are always looking for pesticides that are less toxic or "organic". I recently had a client question about neem products and if it would control fig beetles (the green and yellow beetles that love ripe peaches and other stone fruits). Not having personal familiarity, I embarked on some research. One thing I do know: adult beetles of any species can be tough to control.

Neem pesticide products are extracted from the neem tree (Azadirachta indica). Neem trees are native to India and Burma and are a botanical relative of mahogany. The main active ingredient of neem oil is Azadirachtin. Neem has been used for centuries in India for pest control and some references call it "nature's pharmacy". Neem products are labeled for the control of insects, mites, and fungi. Neem products are sold under many product names and brands. However, neem products are often not readily available at the local garden center and may need to be mail ordered.

Neem manufacturers say that it works as an insecticide in two ways: as a growth regulator and as a feeding deterrent. As a growth regulator, neem products prevent insects from maturing. When immature insects contact certain neem products, either through ingestion or external contact, the molting process of the insect is disrupted. As a feeding deterrent, it simply reduces damage by repelling adult insects.

Neem products are labeled for use on many herb, vegetable, vine, and tree fruit and nut crops. The lists of insects controlled includes many aphids, whiteflies, caterpillars, beetle larvae, fly larvae, leaf miners, weevils, Phylloxera, and squash bugs. Unfortunately, I did not see adult fig beetles on the list (it would certainly control fig beetle larvae). Information on neem insecticides also indicated they usually work best as a preventative rather than as a control measure for management of adult insects. This means applying prior to any outbreak. One product label also included a cautionary warning that neem products could adversely affect honeybees and other beneficial insects.

Some of the neem product names that I came found were Azatin, Neemazad, Ornazin, Neemix, Agroneem, and Aza-direct. The active ingredient was most often Azadirachtin. These products work primarily as insect growth regulators. Different manufacturers also indicated patented extraction processes. One product, Trilogy, listed clarified hydrophobic extract of neem oil as the active ingredient. The Trilogy label indicated it controls aphids, scale, and mites and suppresses whiteflies and thrips. Remember that oil-based products can cause phytotoxicity (plant damage) if applied during periods of high temperatures.

As I indicated, I have little experience with neem products, but they appear very promising for home use. This is especially encouraging since some pesticides are being phased out and many home gardeners are seeking less toxic pest control alternatives. Rose growers may also want to explore neem products. To learn more about neem products, go to the Certis USA web site ( or a reputable organic gardening supplier (Harmony Farm Supply or Peaceful Valley Farm Supply).

Remember that any pesticide product should be treated with respect and caution. Just because it is extracted from a plant, does not mean that it is harmless. Always read the product label before purchasing, mixing, applying, and after clean up when using any pesticide.

Naming of companies or products is neither meant to imply endorsement by the author nor criticism of similar companies or products not mentioned.

Why Is Pest Control Important?

Pest control does not necessarily mean you have to call the professionals to get rid of pests. Even you, as the homeowner, can do it by yourself. It also does not mean that you have to wait for these pests to actually show up. Prevention is also part of pest-proofing your home.

All pests are a nuisance to have once they are inside your home. They disturb homeowners by affecting their daily activities. Aside from that, they transmit several nasty diseases, a lot of these are life-threatening. Other pests can make asthma much worse.

Simply put, pests should have no space in your house. Some people can tolerate the presence of these pests and some cannot. But with the dangers, these pests pose, cohabitating should be out of the question. This is why pest control is such an important activity.

Neem Oil

One of the most versatile pest control tools in the garden is Neem Oil. As an insecticide Neem kills small soft-bodied insects like Aphids, Mealybugs, Mites, Thrips and Whiteflies on contact. Spraying Neem Oil as a knockdown followed by releases of generalist beneficial insects, like Green Lacewing, is a good way to minimize pest populations that are already present in the growing area. For organic growers, Neem Oil allows spot treatment to occur with minimal impact on the "good bugs" or surrounding environment.

How Does Neem Oil Work?

One of the main components of Neem Oil is the chemical Azadirachtin (from the latin name for the tree itself), but it also contains other active compounds. As an insecticide, Neem Oil works in two main ways:

  1. It serves as an anti-feedant when insects come in contact with or ingest it. Using a surfactant (spreader/sticker) when applying Neem Oil will increase spray coverage.
  2. Neem functions as a hormone disruptor and growth regulator to affected insects. This property disrupts natural development of the insect by preventing normal hormone releases that trigger growth and maturation.

Neem Oil has many other functions - it serves as a fungicide, a bactericide, and it kills Plant Parasitic Nematodes but is compatible with Beneficial Nematodes.

Neem Oil is extracted from the seeds of Azadirachta indica (Indian Neem Tree), which is native to India and other parts of Southeast Asia. The fruit of this prolific tree is harvested and the seeds are sold to facilities where the oil is pressed out and the remnants are sold as "neem cake" or "neem seed meal" for use as organic fertilizer and nematicide.