organ similar to the human pituitary, which controls the secretion of hormones. Metamorphosis requires the careful synchrony of many hormones and other physiological changes to be successful, and azadirachtin seems to be an "ecdysone blocker." It blocks the insect's production and release of these vital hormones. Insects then will not molt. This of course breaks their life cycle.

On average, neem kernels contain between 2 and 4 mg of azadirachtin per gram of kernel. The highest figure so far reported—9 mg per g—was measured in samples from Senegal.


Another feeding inhibitor, meliantriol, is able, in extremely low concentrations, to cause insects to cease eating. The demonstration of its ability to prevent locusts chewing on crops was the first scientific proof for neem's traditional use for insect control on India's crops.


Yet a third triterpenoid isolated from neem is salannin. Studies indicate that this compound also powerfully inhibits feeding, but does not influence insect molts. The migratory locust, California red scale, striped cucumber beetle, houseflies, and the Japanese beetle have been strongly deterred in both laboratory and field tests.

Nimbin and Nimbidin

Two more neem components, nimbin and nimbidin, have been found to have antiviral activity. They affect potato virus X, vaccinia virus, and fowl pox virus. They could perhaps open a way to control these and other viral diseases of crops and livestock.

Nimbidin is the primary component of the bitter principles obtained when neem seeds are extracted with alcohol. It occurs in sizable quantities—about 2 percent of the kernel.


Certain minor ingredients also work as antihormones. Research has shown that some of these minor neem chemicals even paralyze the "swallowing mechanism" and so prevent insects from eating. Examples of these newly found limonoids from neem include deacetylazadirachtinol. This ingredient, isolated from fresh fruits, appears to be as effective as azadirachtin in assays against the tobacco budworm, but it has not yet been widely tested in field practice.1


Jacobson, 1986b.

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