With reference to this question: Insect infestation on my pepper plant, what do I do?

I have these insects in my indoor "kitchen window sill" basil and they do seem to be chewing it fast enough to slow new growth, which is annoying.

The first suggested solution to getting rid of the insects is to spray them off the plant outside and then submerge the plant for long enough to drown any remaining. If I did this to my basil, wouldn't it drown the basil too? As I understand it, basil doesn't like wet feet.

What is the best solution to getting rid of such insects and still being able to use the leaves in food without hassle? Maybe the water spraying and drowning as suggested in related question is still the best?

ADDITION: The insects I'm dealing with are definitely not white fly, which is why I posted a separate question from this: How do I get rid of white flies on my basil?

UPDATE (9/Aug): I tried the detergent spray twice (per GardeningDirections user) without any apparent effect by the next morning. I then tried drowning the bastards last night (per Mikey) and hopefully it has been more effective, but I still saw two which I squashed this morning. I'll whether I can just kill off the remaining ones by hand. Any other suggestions at this point before I try to figure out what to do to close the question?

UPDATE (24/Aug): I have taken the whole planter container outside and picked off the individual larvae from the underside of the leaves in bright sunlight so none would be missed. Now I am hoping the insects' natural predators will keep them down for long enough for the basil to recover and then I'll bring the plant back inside. I still haven't ruled out trying pyrethrum spray but that's a last resort.

UPDATE (15/Sep): I have used a pyrethrum-based spray to kill perhaps 90% of the bugs while the planter box was outside but it also knocked the basil plants themselves so I did not respray. Now I notice there are still one or two insects left which have laid new larvae all over the undersides of the leaves... and I've also put these creatures through an evolutionary bottleneck so no doubt they'll be tougher to kill than ever! So I officially give up. These basil plants will be transferred to the garden outside, to survive or not. I will get new plants for my indoor planter box.

UPDATE (19/Oct): Transplanted outdoors a month ago the basil is still surviving, even thriving and the insects formerly dominating them are clearly being eaten by proper predators, which hints to me that the best possible way to control the insects would perhaps be to introduce a few friendly predators into the kitchen!

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    Before drowning the little buggers, did you take a hose nozzle that delivers a sharp stream of water to the plant? If yes, did you ensure to take your time and blast the whole plant (eg underside of the leaves)?
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 9, 2011 at 0:07
  • Kind of. I did it in the bath and held my finger over the bath spout like you do over the end of a hose to make it a real high pressure squirt. Maybe I didn't do a 5-star job and get the underside of the leaves, but I couldn't see anything on the undersides after I sprayed it
    – Lisa
    Commented Aug 9, 2011 at 5:17
  • I'm sure you did a "5-star job" :) But there wouldn't be any harm giving it another "good" spray in 5 to 7 days time, or look into "winwaed's" answer. I can't give an honest opinion on it, as I've not personally used a pyrethrum spray.
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 9, 2011 at 14:51
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    I think the drowning was somewhat successful as the numbers appear to be reduced. Still I catch the odd one and squish it, including what appeared to be a mating pair (one would think I had nothing better to do!!)
    – Lisa
    Commented Aug 10, 2011 at 1:25

6 Answers 6


IMHO that answer should work fine in your situation. It's a pretty "standard" procedure for dealing with such pests on potted plants.

Submerging the pot in water for an hour or two, then allowing it to dry out will not have any adverse effects on your Basil plant (or any other "common" potted plant I can think of). It's not like you're keeping the roots submerged for days & days...

  • Okay thanks, Mike. Maybe I should have just asked it on the other question but didn't want to hijack it.
    – Lisa
    Commented Aug 2, 2011 at 23:57
  • @Lisa, no worries & good luck getting rid of your unwanted house guests. If you do decide to go with that option, could you please post back & let us know if it works or doesn't...
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 3, 2011 at 0:06
  • Marking as answer because it had the greatest effect on insect numbers. Also probably would have been more successful had I actually followed instructions and taken plant outside into sunlight to spray off larvae from the underside of leaves.
    – Lisa
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 23:48

If the detergent and drowning solutions don't work, then there is still a pyrethrum spray. Pyrethrum is made from chrysanthemums and is considered relatively benign - eg. It is used for orchids, carnivorous plants, and recommended for food plants. One treatment should be sufficient. Breaks down quickly but probably still best to wait a day or two before harvesting, and wash food before cooking/eating.

  • Thanks so much for this tip. We are going on holiday to day. May ask house sitter to do us a big favour while we're away! I'll let you know if success.
    – Lisa
    Commented Aug 10, 2011 at 1:23
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    One of the problems I found with this is that it hurt the newly sprouted growth like a toxin. But I had to spray it there because the insects also favour eating that delicious new growth. See update above - I have now given up because there's seems to be no answer.
    – Lisa
    Commented Sep 15, 2011 at 1:04

Since they are in your kitchen, why not just treat it with something that is handy. This is liquid dish detergent. Put a few drops in a spray bottle with water and give the plants a good shower on the tops and underneath the leaves. If the soap does not work sufficiently then add a bit of hot pepper and see if the bugs don't just disappear. Good luck.

  • Okay sounds easy enough, but won't the basil then taste like dish detergent or hot chillies?
    – Lisa
    Commented Aug 4, 2011 at 23:43
  • @Gardening Directions, how is that not considered a "herbicidal soap"? Only asking because as far as I'm aware "herbicidal soap" isn't selective ie I will "smother & kill" what is touches (plants, insects, etc).
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 15:43
  • @Gardening Directions, ok! I've read up a little bit more on "herbicidal soap" & "insecticidal soap", & the only real difference seems to be the amount of soap used in the formula. "Insecticidal soap" has a very! low soap content compared to "herbicidal soap". That said, this is worth reading, though I fully acknowledge it comes from Wikipedia, therefore should be taken with a pinch of salt...
    – Mike Perry
    Commented Aug 5, 2011 at 23:31
  • I only used to two gentle squirts of dish detergent in a 300mL water squirter. Fortunately it doesn't seem to have harmed the basil but neither was it effective. I didn't try "hot pepper" because I don't know how to obtain that in liquid or soluble form or whether that means chillies or actual pepper.
    – Lisa
    Commented Aug 8, 2011 at 23:19

So happy ! I just cured my indoor basil plant which was suffering from white little aphids all over it!! All I did was dunk the stem and leaves of the plant into a solution of Oak leaves and water. I did this once a day for 2 days. ( 99.99% cure after the first dunk !) (I had a bunch of oak leaves which I had previously torn up in to shreds and soaked overnight in a large bowl of water .) Also I changed the plants location to the bathroom (away from 2 other plants it was with ?not sure if relevant??!)

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    The "control group" for your experiment might be simply dunking the affected leaves into plain old water.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Sep 22, 2012 at 2:52

there is a powder called diatomaceous earth that you purchase which has microscopic edges that cut the insects' waxy coat and dehydrates them. It's also edible so don't worry about it getting on your plants. It can also be ingested daily to reduce waste in the colon and gives you glowing skin.

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    Do you have support for that last statement?
    – wax eagle
    Commented Feb 19, 2013 at 21:18
  • 2
    I just looked this up (Absorbent Products) and the moderator for the site said that NO diatomaceous earth products have been tested for consumption by humans. Testing is expensive and no one has been able to put up the money. Be more skeptical. The colon's function to get rid of waste. Fiber helps keep waste moving out of the body. Glowing skin? So far, with all our science, there are no miracle pills. People want to make money more than they care about what happens to you down the road. Even tested, be skeptical. How exactly does this stuff make your skin glow?
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 24, 2014 at 18:20
  • Upvoting only because diatomaceous earth is actually useful for killing pests on plants and is safe. That last sentence should really not be part of this answer, though. It isn't relevant.
    – beta
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 0:15

Diatomaceous Earth is harmless to anything with bones. It affects exoskeleton creatures. Birds, fish, dogs, cats, even my dragon, Unaffected. Use it and have so for years. There are two kinds, the one for pool filters is NOT for consumption nor plants/bugs. I agree the intestinal part of the answer is n/a but it is in fact used to rid people of internal pests that usually are contracted in third world country's however one can get them in US through contaminated water/foods. Dunno why the skin is helped but shown to help. Anyway, mites, bedbugs (the most effective overall for their treatment), caterpillars, wasps, all the bugs are destroyed by DME. The only known problem is dust for sensitive people like asthmatics but a simple dust mask and in case of very sensitive eyes, safety glasses. My eyeglass work for that and my little Chihuahua is kept away until dust settles because of her bug (lol) eyes. My lizard is fine in a screened cage and I do not wear the dust mask. No biggy to me as I'm not hyper sensitive to it. I use everywhere inside and out. Just don't use in daylight if you have honey bees so they'll not be murdered by it. Flying insects are not as affected unless they walk in it so because they're not high consumers of non flowering plants/herbs, not so much a concern. Use DME after plants who bloom before producing fruit, blooms have began to produce the fruits. I suffer from many illness and DME had not one contra affect on any of them. Yes, I'm sure. I haven't eggs, slugs, earwigs, etc. It looks like what a catapiller would do but again, I see nada (?). Maybe they feed at night? It's the munching marks that make me feel that way but I'm in and it throughout the day and see no one. It's not all the way to the veins/spine/stems either as someone spoke toward.No browning, yellowing, eggs, etc. Only Basil too. Not mint, carrot, flowers, etc. Mine is in a rolling cart that is called The Urban Gardner where an under water retention system is utilized. It is on wheels with a watering tube leads underneath the soil from which the roots drink as needed. I have organic soil with earthworms and therfore castings are distributed. I keep mosquito dunks pieces in the water trough to prevent their eggs and use DIY Castille Soap/Water/Cayenne for anyone that wants to lay eggs, diatomaceous dusting and something is munching the basil. Hey, cats try crapping in soil and coffee grounds have shooed them so could they like basil. Reaching up from outside the planter, avoiding coffee grounds is feasible due to their height relative to planter. .... Do cats like basil? They like spearmint, this I suffered until coffee grounds there as well! ?! TY

  • Hi Alicia, There is a lot in your answer. I advise you use formatting to avoid text wall. Could you be a little more concise and avoid further questions in your answer? Read How to Ask and use the "Ask Question" button. This is how it works here.
    – J. Chomel
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 6:22

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