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Does Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT) really work?

There is a lot of hype around Bacillus Thuringiensis, more commonly referred to as BT, but what is it and does it actually work? In this video and article I talk through topics such as “What is Bacillus Thuringiensis?”, “How does Bacillus Thuringiensis work?” and then I end off with a show and tell using a control group of plants to show if BT as a insecticide actually works or not.

When using preventative measures, sprays or insecticides be very sure that you understand the implications of applying certain products on other insects and the wider ecosystem you are using in your garden. Even though BT is used for specific caterpillars, it should not be used as a widespread application to keep birds and other beneficial partners in the garden controlling pest populations naturally. 

What is Bacillus Thuringiensis?


BT is a naturally occurring soil bacteria found in soils throughout the world and is known as a bioinsecticide. It reproduces through spores that grow into new bacteria and there are many different types of BT. Each strain targets different insect groups. E.g. caterpillars, mosquitos, beetles and can offer very specific insect group targeting.


How does BT work?


BT has to be consumed in order for it to work. It is NOT a contact-based insecticide, which is why it is such an effective control measure. This is also the reason why bees and other beneficial insects are not impacted by the use of BT in the home garden. When caterpillars and larvae eat the leaves, which introduces BT into their gut BT then activates toxins that break down the gut wall. It takes anything from 1-5 days for the BT to take effect, after which the caterpillar will stop eating altogether. BT works by damaging the gut of the target insect through proteins that produce toxins.


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