If I could Live During the Pleistocene Part 13–Making Insecticide from Tobacco

This is the newest installment of an irregular series I write for this blog about my favorite fantasy.  I daydream that I traveled back in time to east central Georgia 36,000 years ago where I enjoy a life of self-sufficiency but with modern conveniences. (See: https://markgelbart.wordpress.com/category/if-i-could-live-during-the-pleistocene/ ) In my fantasy world I have a farm surrounded by a high stone fence that keeps mastodons and bears from raiding my garden and orchard, but it recently occurred to me this wall wouldn’t stop insect pests.  As an experiment in my real world yard, I planted peach trees from seed.  Most fruit sold in grocery stores comes from mutated varieties grafted on root stocks because fruit trees don’t produce the same quality from seed, but peaches reportedly are an exception.  Some sources claim peaches grow true to seed, while others say peaches grown from seed are inferior.  My peach trees started to bear this year, and the ones I salvaged tasted as good as farmer’s market peaches.  Unfortunately, most of the peaches fell off or were ruined because of an insect pest known as plum curculio (Conatrachelus nenophar), a little beetle in the true weevil family.  This experience made me realize I needed to revise my fantasy and make my own insecticide, if I want to have fruit at my Pleistocene homestead.  In the modern world I can buy the most delicious local peaches, nectarines, and plums; but I won’t have any fruit in the Pleistocene without spraying.

This is one of my least damaged peaches.  Most of the others fell off long before they ripened.  In some localities spraying fruit is necessary.

I won’t spray until after the petals fall off because I don’t want to poison the butterflies and bees that pollinate the flowers.

plum curculio

Plum curculio.  This species of beetle destroyed all of my peaches.  It is abundant in my neighborhood probably because of the presence of wild plums and cherries.

Plum curculios are common in areas with wild plum and wild cherry trees.  They readily adapted to fruits introduced by Europeans, especially peaches.  The adult females burrow into unripe fruit and make a crescent shaped hole where eggs are deposited.  The crescent shape keeps the larva from being crushed when the fruit grows.  Most fruit falls off the tree, and any fruit that ripens is blemished so badly it can’t be sold.  The trees must be sprayed as soon as the flower petals fall and again when the fruit is in the shuck stage.








Tobacco plants.

It is easy to make insecticide from tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum).  Tobacco is in the nightshade family, a group of plants that evolved the ability to produce toxins in their leaves.  These poisons prevent insects and other animals from consuming the leaves.  To make insecticide mix 1 cup of dried tobacco leaves with 1 gallon of water and let it sit in the sun for 24 hours.  Then add 3 tablespoons of liquid soap.  (Just think: people who smoke cigarettes are smoking insecticide.)  The nicotine in tobacco destroys an insect’s nervous system.

I’d have to grow tobacco in my Pleistocene world, but I wouldn’t smoke it.  I prefer marijuana.



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One Response to “If I could Live During the Pleistocene Part 13–Making Insecticide from Tobacco”

  1. ina puustinen-westerholm Says:

    Thinking about..the 78 years I have lived..near/in..the wild world..a few thoughts, from oregon. Eat the insects..and spend time..making a few shale-trays..with ‘sticky mucks’..assorted..to trap insects. Eat same..consider the food value..if..you survive..the expir. Save the pits/seeds..from those fruits..that seemed..to survive the best. Here..now..looking at my 3 story , 103 year old barn and thinking about the possibly..imminent arrivel ..of pleist. critters..not so much joy..in that. 😉 many thanks for the informations. ina

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