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Pesticides & Alternatives

Pesticides are substances that kill or physiologically inhibit pests, such as insects, weeds, vertebrates such as rats, mice and certain birds, disease-causing organisms, molds or other living "pests".
The pyramid explains some of the different tactics used in an IPM approach. Think of each level as a labeled drawer full of different types of tools. For example, tools used against pests in "enclosed tamper-proof baits" are low in risk of human chemical exposures. Try to use tactics on the lowest levels if possible.

The pyramid explains some of the different tactics used in an IPM approach. Think of each level as a labeled drawer full of different types of tools. For example, tools used against pests in "enclosed tamper-proof baits" are low in risk of human chemical exposures. Try to use tactics on the lowest levels if possible.

Consequently, pesticides include a large array of chemical types that exhibit many different biological effects (modes of action). By their nature, pesticides are designed to negatively impact various life processes. How toxic a pesticide is to humans is a complicated determination that must include several immediate "acute effects" and multiple long-term "chronic effects". Due to the difficulty of actually identifying and quantifying these effects, it is a good idea to limit exposure to pesticides of all kinds. There are 3 main ways to limit exposure:

  1. Use IPM alternatives to pesticides

  2. If you use pesticides, choose less toxic products
  3. Always read the entire label and follow all instructions exactly (see the Pesticide Education Program, What you need to know: Reading a Pesticide Label)

IPM strategies:

Preventing pests and making the home harder to invade and less desirable for indoor pests is a key part of IPM. Strategies to accomplish this include:

  • caulking cracks & holes
  • removing water sources (leaky faucets, etc)
  • keeping surfaces clean
  • Selecting the best plant for the best location and maintaining plant health
  • Tolerating low levels of pest infestation instead of treating every small nuisance
  • Using the least toxic product that will only kill the targeted pest

IPM Controls

(adapted from Chesapeake Bay Foundation)

Traps, Barriers, and Other Physical Controls

Pest Control
Ants Sticky Barriers
Cockroaches Sticky trap, or sticky trap with pheromone attractant
Fleas Flea comb for use on pets, place fleas in soapy water

Flea traps

Steam clean carpets

Strong vacuum (seal vacuum bags and put in freezer before disposing)
Flying pests
Yellow sticky trap
General garden pest control
Floating row cover
Kitchen & pantry pests
Pantry light trap
Slugs & snails
Copper barrier, copper flashing

Beer/yeast trap - Place a low container on the ground and fill with beer or yeast/water solution. Slugs go in to drink and then drown. Must be emptied each morning.

Board - place a board on the ground in the garden, flip over every morning and remove the slugs that have collected there overnight

Weeds Asphalt crack filler
Yellow jackets
Yellow jacket trap

How to choose a least toxic product:

  1. Packaging and formulation: 
- Choose products that are packaged in child safe packaging. Ant baits are a good example because the poison is enclosed. Be sure products don't look like food or drink and never repackage a pesticide--kids can't tell the difference if it's in an unmarked bottle. 
- Limit your exposure by avoiding products in liquid, concentrate and aerosol form. These linger on surfaces and air and might easily be absorbed through the skin or lungs. See the pyramid below for an illustration. Less dangerous formulations are in the green=go level.
  2. Active ingredient: Available pesticides come with many different active ingredients (poison component). Read the label and look at active ingredients listed before you buy a product! You can look up pesticide active ingredients on the web to learn their toxicity.

Less Toxic Products

Target Pest
Product Type
Active Ingredient(s)
Brand name examples
Aphids, scales, mites, leafhoppers, hemlock woolly adelgid, mealybugs and powdery mildew
Horticultural oil (dormant oil for winter season, summer oils for growing season)
Highly refined paraffinic oil or petroleum oil SunSpray
Aphids, ants, scales, mites, mealybugs, small caterpillars, and other soft-bodied insects, weeds Insecticidal soap
Potassium salts of fatty acids
Safer's Soap, Garden Safe
Aphids, whiteflies, mites, extract of black spot, powdery mildew, rust, anthracnose, grubs and more Neem Oil
Clarified hydrophobic neem oil Safer BioNeem,
Azatin, Greenlight brand
Ants

1.Arsenic ant baits

2.Sulfluramid ant baits

1.Arsenic trioxide

2.N-ethyl perflourooctanesulfonamide

1.Grants Kills Ants

2.Hot Shot Maxattrax Ant Bait

Ants & Cockroaches

1.Abamectin ant & roach baits

2.Borax

3.Fipronil ant and roach baits

4.Hydramethylnon baits

1.Abamectin


2.Sodium tetrahydrate decahydrate

3.Fipronil

4.Hydramethylnon

1.Advance Bait Station, Avert brand, Raid Max House & Yard Roach Bait

3. Combat Quick Kill Formula

4. Combat

Ants, Cockroaches & Fleas

1.Citrus oil spray

2.Diatomaceous earth, Desicating dust, Insecticidal dust

1.d-Limonene

2.Silicon dioxide

1.Orange Guard,
Concern Citrus Home Pest Control

2.Diatomaceous earth

Ants, cockroaches, fleas, silverfish, termites Boric acid/ borate products Orthoboric acid Boric acid
Borax laundry detergent
Fleas & ticks (on pets)

1.Fipronil topical or spray

2.Insect growth regulator topical

3.Lufenuron pills

1.Fipronil

2.Methoprene

3.Lefenuron

1.Frontline

2.Frontline Plus (contains both fipronil & methoprene)

3.Program

Fleas (indoors)

1.Insect growth regulator carpet spray (breaks life cycle, larva can't mature)

2.Boric acid-based carpet treatments (best used with steam cleaner)

1.Methoprene
 
2.Borate

1.Precor
 
2.Fleanix

Mosquitos, aphids, ants, leafhoppers, thrips, whiteflies Garlic
(Concentrated garlic 'clips' to attach to plants OR Garlic oil sprays)
Garlic

Victor Mosquito Barrier

Garlic Barrier Insect Repellent

Mosquitos (kills larvae in standing water for use in ponds, large puddles) Bt mosquito dunks (Small, doughnut-shaped, floating disks) Bacillus thuringiensis
Mosquito Dunks (found at home improvement stores)
Snails & slugs

1.Snail & slug bait

2.Snail & slug barrier

3.Diatomaceous earth

 

1.Iron phosphate

2.Coconut oil soap

3.Silicon dioxide

1.Monterey Sluggo, Escar-go
Weeds

1.Herbicidal (insecticidal) soap

2.Corn gluten meal

3.Vinegar spray

4. Pelargonic acid herbicide

1.Potassium salts of fatty acids

2.Corn gluten

3. 20% Vinegar, put in spray bottle

4.Pelargonic acid

 

1.Safer Superfast Weed & Grass Killer

2.Concern Weed Prevention Plus,
Supressa

3.N/A

4.Quick Weed Killer
White grubs

Imidacloprid

Also see Neem above

Imidacloprid

Yellow jackets and other flying insects
Mint oil
Mint oil, sodium lauryl sulfate Victor Poison-Free Wasp & Hornet Killer Spray