In answer to Sister Claffey’s plea for help to identify and cure the cause of a new disease affecting Prosopis (commonly known as iron tree) and Parkia (locust bean) in Benue State, Nigeria, I think I can help.

From the 1980s, plants in this area have been affected by mealy bugs which the local people call apollo. They attack cassava, citrus, okra, peppers and pineapple and other plants. They attack the young leaves and fruits. The leaves wither and die, eventually killing the plants. They are spread by wind. Insecticides can be sprayed on to control the mealy bugs – get local advice on which are effective and safe. Control would be easier if the trees were planted together in plantations.

Akaa Ijir, PO Box 491, Makurdi, Benue State, Nigeria.


Here are two ideas for controlling mealy bugs:

  • Simmer 50gm of quassia wood chips in a litre of water for an hour. Then add a few tobacco leaves or cigarette butts and allow to stand for a day. Strain, add a little soap solution and 5 litres of water and spray.
  • Collect cow’s urine. This can only be done if cows are kept overnight in a pen with a concrete floor sloping into a tank. Allow collected urine to stand for 2 weeks in the sun. (This solution can be strengthened by adding tobacco leaves (or cigarette butts) and neem leaves or fruits during this time). Dilute with 4 parts of water and spray.

Castor oil

I read with interest the letter from Mr Ishenge about castor oil. In addition to the Editor’s reply, I would like to add that the seeds make an excellent insecticide in producing organic cotton.

In this area of Benin it is recommended to use six treatments of insecticide to produce good quality cotton. However, the last two treatments can be made using castor oil seeds in the following way:

Take four cups (500gm) of fresh seeds with their husks removed. Crush them and soak them in two litres of water. Heat for 10 minutes and add two small spoonfuls of household soap. When cool, strain through cotton to remove the seeds and dilute with 10 litres of water and add two small spoonfuls of kerosene.

This amount of solution is enough to treat one hectare of cotton, killing insects and aphids. The results are immediate and spectacular. We found this recipe in the book, Natural Protection of Crops and Harvests by Berthold Schrimpe. It could also be used for protecting other nonfood crops, but so far we have only experimented with it on cotton in our village groups.

Ir Célestin G A D Tognon, Ingénieur des Travaux d’Elevage, BP 102, Save, Benin.



Castor oil seeds are very poisonous and should never be left near children. Take great care in preparing and using this product.

Red ants

In our home we spray turmeric powder onto red ants and they immediately run away because of its strong smell. Please tell your reader (Footsteps 40) not to kill these ants because they are environmentally friendly!

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