Do You Like The Smell Of Petunias? It turns out that neither do a large number of insects and in fact, it turns out that the isolated compound that forms that smell will kill several important garden pests
“You probably know methyl benzoate when you smell it. The natural compound’s wintergreen-spicy, floral-fruity aromas make it a popular ingredient in perfumes, soaps, and shampoos.
Snapdragons and petunias emit methyl benzoate to attract bees for pollination. Many insects also produce it as an attractant.
But not all insects like this compound.
Zhang (the head research lead on this study) says. “But we found one compound—No. 19—that strongly repelled SWD (spotted wing drosophila fly ), and we later showed that it killed SWD as well.” (Note: Number 19 was the methyl benzoate.)
According to Zhang’s tests, methyl benzoate is 5 to 20 times more toxic to eggs of BMSB, diamondback moth, and tobacco hornworm than a conventional pyrethroid insecticide, a sulfur and pyrethrin mixture, and some organic products currently on the market.”
Note that the Tobacco Hornworm and the Tomato Hornworm both eat tomatoes and other garden crops.
Also, I’ve had two folks ask about this – just planting petunias next to another plant will have absolutely no impact on that plant. That would be considered Companion Planting is pretty much an old wive’s tale. You’re going to need the active ingredient and as I point out, the jury is still well out whether you can make a “tea” of some kind to create that effect on the home scale garden.