A pest is any unwanted organism that causes problems. Most organisms are not pests or are pests only in certain conditions. Many insects, pathogens (disease-causing organisms), weeds, mollusks (slugs and snails), fish, birds, and a variety of mammals, from rats to deer, are competitors for our food and other resources. Some pests destroy buildings and other structures and reduce the aesthetic and recreational value of the landscape. Others transmit diseases or just annoy us or our domestic animals.
Pesticides are used to kill a pest in order to prevent or reduce damage. Pesticides should be considered tools or steps in a process. Before using a pesticide, we encourage you to read the section on Understanding Pest Management, and learn about integrated pest management strategies to help prevent and control pest problems.
Pesticides available at your local stores are registered with the EPA as “general-use” pesticides. While you do not need certification to apply these pesticides to your property, it is still important that you read and follow the label directions closely. Pesticides are often categorized according to the pest or problem that they control. Pesticides are not just insecticides, but a whole realm of different products and pesticide-treated products. Because of this it is important to identify the problem before buying a pesticide. Common pesticides include:
bleach, ammonia, kitchen/bathroom cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, disinfectant aerosols, tub & tile cleaners, pool and spa cleaners
Fungicides--kill fungi and mildew
rose and flower sprays, treated seeds, paint additives that prevent mildew growth
Herbicides--kill unwanted plants
weed killers, cut-stump treatments, weed-and-feed lawn care products
Insecticides--kill/repel insects, ticks, and mites
garden dusts, soap sprays, mosquito repellents, bug sprays, ant and roach baits, flea shampoos, flea and tick collars, moth balls
Rodenticides--kills rats and mice
mouse and rat bait stations
Wood preservatives--protect wood from insects and fungi
keep deer, raccoons, and rabbits away from your garden
Know the Law: How to Identify a Pesticide--The sale and use of pesticides is regulated federally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An EPA Registration number is printed on the label of most pesticides (e.g., EPA Reg. No. 1234-567); the number automatically identifies the product as a pesticide (see Reading the Pesticide Label). Some products may contain active ingredients that are considered “minimum risk”. These products will not have an EPA registration number, but must still comply with minimum EPA standards regarding labeling information. Pesticides must be sold in the manufacturer’s original container with a complete label. If you have doubts that a pesticide is legal, contact your State Lead (Pesticide) Agency. In most states, pesticide regulation is part of the Department of Agriculture.