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What is rotenone?

What is rotenone?

Rotenone is a naturally occurring chemical with insecticidal, acaricidal (mite and spider-killing) and piscicidal (fish-killing) properties, obtained from the roots of several tropical and subtropical plant species belonging to the genus Lonchocarpus or Derris. It is a selective, non-specific insecticide, used in home gardens for insect control, for lice and tick control on pets, and for fish eradications as part of water body management. Both a contact and stomach poison to insects, it kills them slowly, but causes them to stop their feeding almost immediately. It exerts its toxic action by acting as a general inhibitor of cellular respiration.


Rotenoids, the rotenone-related materials, have been used as crop insecticides since 1848, when they were applied to plants to control leaf-eating caterpillars. However, they have been used for centuries (at least since 1649) in South America to paralyse fish, causing them to surface. Derris root has long been used as a fish poison and its insecticidal properties were known to the Chinese well before it was isolated by E. Geoffrey in 1895. The use of the ground root of certain species of Derris was patented in 1912, since when it has been established that the active compounds are rotenoids, of which the main insecticide is rotenone powder.

Rotenone is sold in dispersible powder, emulsifiable concentrate, and wettable powder formulations. In the UK, two professional products are registered: Devcol Liquid Derris, and Liquid Derris, and nine amateur products, including two wasp-killers. Another product marketed by pbi contains a mixture of rotenone and sulphur, both a fungicide and insecticide.

Products containing rotenone are registered in Denmark, Ireland, UK, France, Spain, Italy. One product for fisheries management is also approved in Sweden, for restricted use.


In the UK, rotenone products are approved for use against aphids on flowers, ornamentals, protected crops, soft fruit, top fruit, and vegetables, and against sawflies in gooseberries, and slug sawflies in pears and roses. 

Very little rotenone is used in commercial fruit and vegetable production in the UK. The average annual total – all crops – is just three kilograms, used to treat 93 hectares. Since 1983, the minimum area treated annually was 22 hectares in 1985/86, and the maximum was 165 hectares in 1991. No data is collected for amateur usage, and total stocks for amateur products (in garden sheds and amongst wholesalers and retailers) are likely to be considerably greater than for professional use.

Other target organisms of rotenone include maggots, bagworms, codling moths, Japanese beetles, leaf hoppers, Mexican bean beetles, cabbage worms, thrips, stinkbugs, flea beetles, and vegetable weevils.

The UK Environment Agency, responsible for granting licences for the use of noxious substances for the taking or destroying of fish, under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975, and rotenone is by far the most common chemical used for this purpose.

Xi'an Fengzu Biological Technology Co.,Ltd
Manufacturer Add: Industrial Park in Wugong County, Xianyang City,Shaanxi Province, China.
Office Add: 21F, Tangfengguoji,No.18 Fenghuinanlu, Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, China.
Office Tel: 86-029-89561932/86-135-7248-9476             Office Fax: 86-029-8918-9705
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