Ammonia is a highly used chemical in industrial applications. In recent years it has also been tested and utilized as a chemical insecticide on limited types of insects. Ammonia can be found in nature as part of the decomposition process for manure and human waste. Ammonia is a caustic chemical, and is usually diluted for safe implementation.
Ammonium bicarbonate is the active ingredient in ammonia. Ammonium bicarbonate in solid form has crystalline properties. The clear white coloring is what gives ammonia its color. Ammonium bicarbonate is a naturally occurring chemical.
Ammonia is used to attract insects. It is combined with pheromones specific to the targeted insect and lambda cyhalothrin to kill the bugs. The smell of the ammonia guides the insects and stimulates feeding so the insects digest the insecticide.
Ammonia insecticides have mainly targeted the olive fly to control damage found in olive orchards, according to the EPA.
According to the EPA, the risk to non-targeted organisms is minimal. No adverse effects have been reported as of 2010 when using a substantially diluted form. However, ammonia in high concentrations or left undiluted will kill most organisms.
Ammonium bicarbonate has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a food additive, and by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as an inert pesticide ingredient. While approved for insecticides, ammonia can cause harm in highly localized concentrations. Some of the effects to humans include cold burns and corrosive injuries to the eyes. Short-term exposure to high ammonia concentrations can cause tightness in the chest, wheezing, reactive hypersecretion causing coughing; Long-term exposure to high concentrations can cause progressive impairment in the lungs.