Don't Bug Out! Educate Yourself!
Posted by: Sherie Caffey, Horticulture Coordinator, CSU Extension-Pueblo County
I’m sure at some time in most of our lives, we have reached for a pesticide to help us out with a yard or garden pest. Being a new homeowner, I found that I had a lot to learn about the proper use of pesticides. Here’s some of the most important things I have discovered:
|The new EPA advisory box|
Most people think of pesticides to be insecticides, but the actual definition of a pesticide is any chemical that controls a pest, whether it is an insect, a weed, a fungus, a rodent, or any other thing that is “pest”ering you.
There are many categories that pesticides fall into. One of the broadest is natural or synthetic. Natural pesticides are derived from biological ingredients, and synthetics are man made. If keeping your garden organic is important to you, look for an OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) label on the product you are using, this means it is certified to be used in organic production. Even though a product may be natural or organic, it may still be harmful to humans and beneficial critters in high concentrations, which brings me to the most important point about using pesticides, ALWAYS read the label! We will come back to this…
|Too late for pre-emergents on this guy|
There are a couple of other categories that pesticides are separated into. For herbicides in particular, they may be pre-emergent, meaning they can only control weeds before they germinate, or post-emergent, meaning you use them after the weeds have sprouted. Broad spectrum products are not picky, they kill everything, whereas selective products are meant to control one certain pest. Some pesticides are soil applied, and others need to be applied to the actual plant. Finally, protective pesticides prevent the pest of interest, and eradicants get rid of pests that are already present.
The most important information that you can get about safely and properly using a pesticide is on the label. It is against the law to use any pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. There are many things that you will generally find on the product label. First of all, there will be the product name. There is usually a brand name (e.g. Roundup), and a common name (e.g. Glyphosate).
The next thing you should look for is the signal word, which tells you how hazardous the product is. These are the signal words you will see, in order from least toxic to most: Caution, Warning, and Danger/Poison. 1 to 3 drops of a product labeled Danger/Poison can kill an adult. You should also pay attention to any hazard or precautionary statements. These statements are meant to protect the applicator and the environment.
Last but not least, you will see the directions for use. You must use the product as directed on the label. The directions will tell you which plants it can be used on, which pests it is for, application rates, re-application times, and how long to wait until you harvest if you are using it in a vegetable garden.
So next time you reach for a pesticide to control a pesky garden problem, educate yourself before you use it, and remember, the label is the law!