Pesticides and Alternatives

Pesticides are substances that kill or physiologically inhibit pests, such as insects, weeds, vertebrates, disease-causing organisms, and other living "pests".
Pesticides and Alternatives - Articles


The pyramid explains some of the different tactics used in an IPM approach.

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 article, What You Need to Know about 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

AntsSticky Barriers
CockroachesSticky trap, or sticky trap with pheromone attractant
FleasFlea 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 pestsYellow sticky trap
General garden pest controlFloating row cover
Kitchen & pantry pestsPantry light trap
Slugs & snailsCopper 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
WeedsAsphalt crack filler
Yellow jacketsYellow 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 PestProduct TypeActive Ingredient(s)Brand name examples
Aphids, scales, mites, leafhoppers, hemlock woolly adelgid, mealybugs and powdery mildewHorticultural oil (dormant oil for winter season, summer oils for growing season)Highly refined paraffinic oil or petroleum oilSunSpray
Aphids, ants, scales, mites, mealybugs, small caterpillars, and other soft-bodied insects, weedsInsecticidal soapPotassium salts of fatty acidsSafer's Soap, Garden Safe
Aphids, whiteflies, mites, extract of black spot, powdery mildew, rust, anthracnose, grubs and moreNeem OilClarified hydrophobic neem oilSafer BioNeem,
Azatin, Greenlight brand

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


3.Fipronil ant and roach baits

4.Hydramethylnon baits


2.Sodium tetrahydrate decahydrate



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


2.Silicon dioxide

1.Orange Guard,
Concern Citrus Home Pest Control

2.Diatomaceous earth

Ants, cockroaches, fleas, silverfish, termitesBoric acid/ borate productsOrthoboric acidBoric acid
Borax laundry detergent
Fleas & ticks (on pets)

1.Fipronil topical or spray

2.Insect growth regulator topical

3.Lufenuron pills





2.Frontline Plus (contains both fipronil & methoprene)


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)



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

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 thuringiensisMosquito 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

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,


4.Quick Weed Killer
White grubs


Also see Neem above

Yellow jackets and other flying insectsMint oilMint oil, sodium lauryl sulfateVictor Poison-Free Wasp & Hornet Killer Spray