Use Lake Friendly Pesticides and Herbicides

Toxic chemicals are entering your drinking water and Torch Lake, plus more than 40 tributary streams in the Torch Lake Watershed.

“Homeowners use 10x more chemicals per acre than farmers do,” according to the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Chemical pesticides and herbicides can cause problems:

  • They contain toxins.
  • They are not selective or effective in killing insects.
  • They kill beneficial insects along with the pests.
  • When you spray a chemical pesticide, less than 1% reaches a target.
  • They have been linked to cancer and other health problems in humans.
  • They decrease the number of insects impacts the number of birds and fish.

Natural pesticides prevent problems:

  • They do not contain toxins.
  • They are not harmful to native birds, bees or butterflies.
  • They are not harmful to humans.

Photo: Torch Conservation Center

What are the benefits to you and our water?

  • Keeps toxins out of Torch Lake, so they won’t harm fish and aquatic creatures
  • Keeps drinking water safe from toxins
  • Keeps you and your family away from chemicals that can cause health issues-neurologic disorders, endocrine system disorders, birth defects and cancer including prostrate, leukemia, lymphoma

What can you do?

Use natural pesticides to control unwanted insects in your garden.

Not all insects are pests.

Some insects are beneficial in gardens. Native lady bugs, lacewings, and hover flies feed on unwanted insects like aphids, mites, whiteflies and scale.

Insects serve an important role in the breeding season of birds. Insects provide a high protein, high fat diet for fast growing baby birds.

Insects are important food for native fish.

  • Mayflies hatch in the spring, rising from the bottom sediment in the lake and flying above the water to mate.
  • Smallmouth bass, lake perch and lake trout feast on mayflies.

Natural Pesticides

STEP 1. Do a little research to identify your insect pest.

Visit the Michigan State University Extension office in the Antrim County Building in Bellaire or call (231) 533-8818.

STEP 2. Use a natural pesticide that targets the insect.


  • Spread diatomaceous earth around your garden plants. Diatomaceous earth is ground up rock containing fossilized algae or diatoms.
  • Set out beer traps. Bury half of a smooth plastic container/ tuna fish can in the soil and fill it half full with beer.

CHEWING INSECTS like aphids, mites, white flies, beetles

  • Make a 2% solution of insecticidal soap.

5 Tablespoons of liquid soap—Ivory or castile soap

2 Tablespoons of vegetable oil

1 gallon of water

  • Spray in morning or evenings, shaking bottle often.
  • Or purchase a bottle of Neem Oil and follow directions. Neem Oil is a gum extracted from an evergreen tree. Neem oil is non-toxic to pets, birds, fish and wildlife.

CUTTING INSECTS such as cabbage worms and tomato hornworms

  • Purchase a bottle of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT). Spray according to directions.
  • Bacillus thuringiensis a naturally occurring bacteria and is non-toxic to humans, pets and beneficial insects.

STEP 3. Grow companion native plants in your garden.

  • Plant native plants: yarrow, black-eyed Susan’s, asters, coreopsis to attract beneficial insects: lady bugs, lace wings and hover flies.
  • In your vegetable garden plant marigolds, chamomile, daisy, onion, garlic, parsley and nasturtiums to attract native insects that eat non-native pests.

STEP 4. Properly dispose of leftover chemical pesticides.


Photo: Torch Conservation Center

Photo: Torch Conservation Center

Natural Herbicides


Step 1. After a rain when the soil is soft and moist, pull by hand or use a diamond or a stirrup hoe.

Hold the hoe like a broom and drag the blade under the soil surface.

Step 2. Mulch can keep down weeds.

Spread mulch around your garden plants to keep sunlight from reaching the soil where weed seeds germinate.


These methods are not selective, so be careful where and when you apply.

Step 4. Pour boiling water on weeds.

Step 5. Use a garden sprayer or bottle sprayer filled with this inexpensive weed killer.

Torch Lake Watershed Herbicide

Place 1 gallon distilled white vinegar in a garden sprayer or small household sprayer.

Add 1 tablespoon dishwashing detergent (allows vinegar to coat leaves; prevents beading up).

Shake and spray on a sunny day for quickest results.


Poison Ivy is a prevalent and persistent weed in the Torch Lake Watershed.

It can cause itchy rashes that can last for 7-10+ days.

People can get an allergic reaction from touching poison ivy, carrying sticks that have lain in poison ivy or breathing smoke from wood that has lain in poison ivy.

If you get a severe reaction, go directly to the nearest Emergency Room in Kalkaska, Charlevoix or Traverse City.

Step 1. Protect yourself.

  • Wear long pants, long sleeves and gloves.
  • Tape your pant legs closed and the gloves around your wrists.

Step 2. If there are only a few plants, pull poison ivy and place in trash NOT in the compost pile.

  • Burning can lead to serious eye irritation and respiratory difficulties.

Step 3. Larger patches are too hardy for a vinegar spray.

  • Use a sprayer with Round-Up. It is the only time we recommend this chemical.
  • Watch the 3-day weather forecast. Spray only if rain is NOT in the prevent polluting stormwater runoff.

Photo: Trish Narwold


Check out Organic Pesticides.

Don't just wish that Torch Lake will stay blue.
Choose a water-friendly lifestyle - make a difference!