Pesticide Formulation Demonstration

Find information about formulations, what common household products can be used to represent pesticide formulations, and exercise sheets.
Pesticide Formulation Demonstration - Articles
In This Article

Terms to Know

Common pesticide terms with their definition

Formulation

A pesticide product as sold. Usually, a formulated product contains both active and inert ingredients. (Many formulations also contain one or more adjuvants - chemicals added to increase the effectiveness or safety of the product.)

Active Ingredient

the chemical in a pesticide product that affects/controls the target pest.

Inert ingredients

"inactive" components of a pesticide formulation that are used to dilute or extend the pesticide; make it more effective; and/or make it safer or easier to handle (measure, mix, and apply.) Inert ingredients have no direct affect on target pests.

Adjuvant

a substance added to a pesticide formulation or tank mix to increase effectiveness or safety. Examples include emulsifiers and wetting agents.

Emulsion

one liquid dispersed (as droplets) in another. Each retains its identity/properties, and agitation is usually necessary to prevent separation.

Mixture

two or more substances that are not chemically bound to one another. Mixtures may be separated by physical (not chemical) processes. Mixtures may be uniform and homogeneous (ex. a dilute solution of salt-water) OR non-uniform and heterogeneous (like a piece of granite rock, a bag of M&Ms, or oil and vinegar salad dressing).

Solution

a homogenous (uniform) mixture of two or more substances; no settling; clear/transparent.

Soluble

able to dissolve in another substance (usually a liquid).

Solvent

a liquid that will dissolve a substance and form a true solution. Common solvents include water, kerosene, acetone, refined oil, and alcohol.

Suspension

a non-uniform (noncolloidal) dispersion of relatively coarse particles in a solvent; usually, suspension mixtures will settle without agitation or some other treatment; cloudy.

  • An emulsion is a type of suspension; it is a mixture of two or more liquids that are not soluble in one another. One is suspended as small droplets in the other (like the fat in homogenized whole milk.)

Formulation Properties

Common Formulations and their Properties

Emulsifiable Concentrate (EC)

an oil-soluble active ingredient, dissolved in one or more organic solvents; when added to water, form an emulsion (fine liquid particles suspended in another liquid) (ex. homogenized milk: in this case, milk fats and other compounds are suspended - but not dissolved - in a water-based medium)

Solution / Concentrated Sol'n (S, C, or LC)

liquid that will form a true solution by dissolving in water (or oil); cannot be separated by mechanical means (ex. filtration)

Flowable (F or L)

fine solid particles dispersed (suspended) in a liquid

Invert Emulsion

an emulsion in which the a.i. is dispersed in oil (vs. water); usually a thick mixture

Dust (D)

active ingredient bound to a finely-ground inert solid (ex. talc, clay, or chalk); fine particles; ready-to-use; not water-soluble

Granule (G)

active ingredient bound to inert solid particles (ex. a mineral or ground plant material); coarse particles; ready-to-use; not water-soluble

Pellet (P or PS)

uniform (extruded) small- to medium-sized particles that are round in cross-section; ready-to-use; not water-soluble

Wettable Powder (W or WP)

insoluble fine-particle solid that forms a suspension (not a true solution) when mixed with water

Water-Dispersible Granule (WDG)

aggregated particles of a WP; form a suspension (not a true solution) when mixed with water

Dry Flowable (DF)

aggregated particles of a WP; form a suspension when mixed with water (see WDG)

Water-Soluble Powder (or "Granule") (SP or WSP)

a fine- or medium-sized solid particles that will dissolve in water to form a true solution (ex. RoundUp Pro/Dry)

Common Packaging and Delivery Methods

Aerosol (A)

fine airborne particles/droplets + propellant

Bait (B)

attractant/feeding stimulant + food + pesticide

Microencapsulated (M)

coated or encased units - time-release

Tablet

dry material, formulated in "pill" form

Water-Soluble Packaging

formulated products (usually dry or gelatinous materials) packaged in water-soluble film

Ready-To-Use (RTU) sprayable liquid

liquid solution (or suspension) diluted to use rate and ready to apply

ULV/Fog/Smoke

fine particles/droplets suspended in air

Fumigant

a gas or vapor, or something that forms a gas

Pros, Cons, and Substitutes

Information about various pesticide formulations include examples, basic description, pros, cons, and substitutes (household products that resemble the formulation). Used for Self-paced learning stations.

Water-Soluble Concentrates (WSC, WSL)

Concentrated water-based solutions.

Pros

  • Relatively easy to handle, transport, and store; easy to pour and measure.
  • Water-soluble.
  • No agitation necessary.
  • Not abrasive.
  • Do not plug sprayer screens or nozzles.
  • Do not usually leave visible residues on surfaces.

Cons

  • Limited availability.
  • Spills and splashes may be difficult to clean up and/or decontaminate.
  • Some are easily absorbed through skin.

Substitutes

  • Household Ammonia
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate that produces a clear solution when mixed with water, e.g. white grape or apple.

Flowable Liquids (F, L, or FL)

A thick, liquid suspension of a finely-ground active ingredient, suspended in a small amount of liquid (w/ inert ingredients, to facilitate further dilution with water prior to application).

Pros

  • Relatively easy to handle, transport, and store; to pour and measure.
  • Generally won't clog sprayer screens or nozzles.
  • Splashes less likely than w/ other liquid formulations.
  • Usually not phytotoxic.

Cons

  • Difficult to remove product from container; containers hard to rinse.
  • Moderate agitation required.
  • May leave visible residue on treated surfaces.
  • Can be abrasive to equipment.

Substitutes

  • Pepto Bismol

Emulsifiable Concentrates (EC or E)

Liquid in which the active ingredient is dissolved in oil or another organic solvent, with emulsifier(s) added to make it easier to mix with water. EC's usually turn white or cloudy when mixed with water.

Pros

  • Relatively easy to handle, transport, and store; easy to pour and measure.
  • Not abrasive.
  • Little agitation required.
  • Do not usually plug sprayer screens or nozzles.
  • Leave little or no visible residues on surfaces.

Cons

  • Easily absorbed through the skin.
  • Solvents can cause rubber or plastic hoses, seals, and gaskets to deteriorate.
  • May damage treated surfaces; may be phytotoxic.
  • Some are corrosive, some are flammable.
  • Some have a distinctive odor.

Substitutes

  • Lestoil
  • Pine oil-type cleaners

Wettable Powders (WP or W)

Fine particles that look like a dust, but have wetting and dispersing agents; not water-soluble.

Pros

  • Easy to store, handle, and transport.
  • Low dermal (skin exposure) hazard.
  • Not likely to harm surfaces; not phytotoxic.

Cons

  • Often very concentrated (> 50% a.i.).
  • Not easy to measure (must be weighed).
  • Not easy to mix with water (especially if hard/alkaline).
  • Inhalation risk due to small particle size.
  • Can be abrasive to equipment; may clog nozzles and screens.
  • Require good and constant agitation.
  • May leave visible residues on treated surfaces.

Substitutes

  • Flour

Soluble or Water-Soluble Powders (SP or WSP)

Look like wettable powders or dusts, but will dissolve completely in water.

Pros

  • Easy to store, handle, and transport.
  • Easy to mix with (dissolve in) water.
  • Relatively low dermal (skin exposure) hazard.
  • No agitation needed once in solution.
  • Tend to not be abrasive to equipment; do not usually clog filters or screens.

Cons

  • Not many pesticides available in this form.

Substitutes

  • Cornstarch
  • Powdered sugar

Dry Flowables / Water-Dispersible Granules (DF or WDG)

Pesticides that look like small granules, but are NOT ready-to-use; are mixed with water and applied as a spray. Like wettable powders, they suspend--but do not dissolve--in water. DFs & WDGs are basically WPs compressed into small, "dust-free" particles. DF/WDG products are sold with a pre-calibrated measuring device. They are measured by weight, not volume.

Pros

  • Easy to store, handle, and transport.
  • Low dermal (skin exposure) and inhalation hazard.
  • Easy to pour and measure IF a product-specific device is used.
  • Not likely to harm surfaces; not phytotoxic.

Cons

  • Agitation required.
  • Can be abrasive to equipment; may clog nozzles and screens.
  • May leave visible residues on treated surfaces.

Substitutes

  • Powdered milk

Dust (D)

Fine-textured dry substance; low % active ingredient extended by / bound to a very fine, dry, inert carrier (ex. talc, chalk, clay).

Pros

  • Ready to use.
  • Can be applied to sites where moisture from a spray application might cause damage or to hard-to-reach places.
  • Properly-applied, small particles give good coverage.

Cons

  • Off-target drift.
  • Residues do not adhere to treated surface and may wash off or blow away.
  • Can be difficult to apply in a uniform, even manner.
  • Pose an inhalation risk; may irritate eyes, nose, or throat.

Substitutes

  • Talcum powder
  • Fine dry clay

Granule (G)

Coarse dry particles; carrier made from adsorptive or absorptive inert materials (ex. clay, corn cobs, nut shells).

Pros

  • Ready to use.
  • Low risk of drift.
  • Low risk of handler exposure.
  • Simple equipment for application.
  • Can pass through foliage to soil/target.

Cons

  • Particles do not stick to foliage or nonlevel surfaces.
  • May need to be incorporated into soil.
  • May need to be "watered-in" (moisture activated).
  • Bulky.
  • Application equipment may not distribute particles evenly.
  • Rates given in weight (vs. volume) of product per unit area; measuring not as simple as w/ liquids.
  • Application equipment must be calibrated often.

Substitutes

  • Kitty litter
  • Grape Nuts cereal.

Pellet (P)

Coarse, dry, uniform extruded particles; all particles are (more or less) the same weight and shape; carrier made from inert materials (ex. clay, corn cobs, nut shells).

Pros

  • Ready to use.
  • Low risk of drift.
  • Low risk of handler exposure.
  • Simple equipment for application.
  • Can pass through foliage to soil/target.

Cons

  • Do not stick to foliage or nonlevel surfaces.
  • May need to be incorporated into soil.
  • May need to be "watered-in" (moisture activated).
  • Bulky.
  • Rates given in weight (vs. volume) of product per unit area; measuring not as simple as w/ liquids.

Substitutes

  • Animal feed pellets
  • Dog litter

Substitute Examples

Listing of common household products that can be used to represent examples of pesticide formulations.

Formulation and Substitute(s)

Emulsifiable Concentrate (EC)

pine oil type cleaner*, Lestoil, Murphy's Oil Soap, oil-based paints, and some salad dressings (*Check ahead of time to ensure the product + water mixture is cloudy/milky, like an EC + water mixture would be. Many liquid cleaners on the market have been reformulated to form true solutions when mixed with water.)

Solution / Concentrated Solution (S, C or LC)

juice concentrate that will form clear juice (ex. apple, white grape); concentrated household ammonia

Flowable (F or L)

Pepto Bismol; cloudy juice (ex. V-8, orange) - in a clear container, if possible

Invert Emulsion

mayonnaise, some salad dressings (ex. French)

Dust (D)

talc, talcum powder, fine dry clay

Granule (G)

kitty litter, Grape Nuts cereal

Pellet (P or PS)

paper pellets, dog litter, feed pellets

Wettable Powder (W or WP)

flour, cocoa

Water-Dispersible Granule (WDG)

grits and/or dry ("powdered") milk

Dry Flowable (DF)

see WDG

Water-Soluble Powder (or "granule") (SP or WSP)

cornstarch, powdered sugar, jello, powdered drink mix (ex. Kool Aid)

Packaging/ Delivery and Substitute(s)

Aerosol (A)

hair spray

Bait (B)

granola bar, toothpaste, gel cake icing in plastic tube

Microencapsulated (M)

time-release formulation fertilizer or medicine/pill (ex. Osmocote or Contac)

Tablet

antacid / calcium / vitamin pill

Water-soluble packaging (ex. Gel Pack)

liquid Advil gel-cap, bath oil beads, dishwasher detergent in water-soluble bags

Ready-To-Use (RTU) sprayable liquid

Windex (vs. household ammonia); diluted ready-to-drink juice (vs. concentrate)

ULV/Fog/Smoke

vaporizer "medicines" (ex. Kaz, SudaCare); some air freshener systems (ex. Oust)

Fumigant

moth balls, flakes, or crystals

PowerPoint and Exercise Sheets

Formulations and Packaging Exercise

This exercise sheet challenges you to identify the formulation and/or packaging of pesticide product examples, as well as list properties of each formulation and/or packaging. This exercise sheet was developed by Pat Hipkins from Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs.

Substitutes for Common Pesticide Formulations Presentation

This is an updated PowerPoint presentation that goes along with the Formulation Matching Exercise.

Formulation Matching Exercise

Use this exercise sheet to list common household products with similar characteristics to 16 formulations. This sheet can be used with the above PowerPoint: Pesticide Formulations: Substitutes for Common Pesticide Formulations.

Incompatibility Activities

Incompatibility Overview and Activities

This worksheet contains terms to know, an overview on incompatibility, a pesticide label exercise, and incompatibility activities with instructions and questions.

Incompatibility Self-paced Learning Stations

These cards list the materials and steps for an incompatibility demonstration, including six different tests to try and follow-up questions.

Authors

Patricia A. Hipkins