A pesticide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is, “Any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.”
How Does Pesticide Work?
Insecticides are a form of pesticide which typically work by affecting the nervous system of insects. However, they can also affect energy production, cuticle production, the endocrine system and water balance. These chemical formulations can enter through the body, ingestion and inhalation.
Pesticides are used as part of an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, which is a more environmentally-friendly pest control philosophy. The principles of this approach, as laid out by the EPA, state that IPM “focuses on pest prevention and uses pesticides only as needed.”
Types of Pesticide
There is a wide range of pesticides available for residential and commercial applications. Some target insects, while others target algae (algaecides), germs (disinfectants) or weeds (herbicides). The National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) categorizes the types of pesticides based on the organism they are developed to target:
- Antimicrobial products are considered pesticides because they kill germs and microorganisms.
- Biopesticides are “made of living things, come from living things or they are found in nature”, according to NPIC.
- Fungicides kill or prevent the growth of fungi and their spores. Typically this type of pesticide is what you look for when you want to get rid of mold and mildew.
- Herbicides can either kill selective plants (like weeds) or all kinds of flora.
- Insecticides, using the NPIC’s definition, are used to “kill, harm, repel or mitigate one or more species of insect”. Mothballs, moth flakes, crystals and bars are also insecticides.
- Organic pesticides can be used to control pests as well. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an extensive ingredient list which dictates what substances can be used on crops with an organic label and what cannot.
- Molluscicides are used to control slugs and snails.
- Rodenticides are used to kill rodents such as mice and rats. They are typically in the form of bait.
What Are Pesticides Used For
In a nutshell, pesticides are used to increase our quality of life. These substances help control many unwanted insects and other pests. To minimize the impact on humans, pesticides which are formulated for residential use contain low concentrations of chemicals and are only made available to companies which are licensed to handle and apply these solutions responsibly. Reputable pest control companies provide customers with a report showing what kind of pest was observed at each visit, as well as what pesticide or treatment was applied or given.
After applied, insecticides leave behind a “residual” to allow them to work over time. Some pesticides last longer than others, which is a characteristic called “residual effectiveness.” The type of surface a particular solution is applied to can also be a factor in how long a pesticide will do its job. Some insecticides work better for some environments than others. A professional exterminator can make recommendations on what will work best in each situation.
Termites alone are blamed for billions of dollars of damage in the United States each year. Pests can contaminate the water we drink and the food we eat, destroy our homes and living structures and spread deadly diseases.
Different types of pesticides can help protect against these losses by encouraging:
Increased Crop Production
Practicing pest control management in an agricultural setting can increase the amount of arable space by controlling weeds that reduce land for crops. In this setting, solutions can keep pests from eating the crops and prevent plants from being destroyed by diseases.
Pest control products can control bacteria in drinking water, which can prevent the spread of waterborne illness. By using pesticides to control rodents, you can protect your family against the diseases that these species can transmit.
In homes and schools, pesticides can be used to control vector-borne diseases such as the West Nile virus, Lyme disease and rabies, which are carried by mosquitoes, ticks and rodents. It is used to control many indoor pests, such as cockroaches, which can contribute to allergies and asthma problems.
Property Loss And Repair Prevention
Pesticides can also help protect a new home from future pest problems. Builders who use pesticide-treated lumber can make a property less vulnerable to termite damage.
Homeowner Pest Prevention Tips
There are many things homeowners can do to help prevent common household pests from coming into your home, such as making sure food isn’t left out and garbage is removed in a timely fashion.
The EPA offers the following suggestions:
- Make sure food containers are tightly sealed, food scraps are cleaned up and that garbage is regularly removed from the home.
- Avoid leaving pet food and water out overnight. Also, if you do apply pesticides on your own, remove pet food and water from the area first.
- Fix leaky plumbing and look for other sources of water, such as trays under house plants, that can attract pests.
- Eliminate standing water in rain gutters, buckets, plastic covers, bird baths, fountains, wading pools, potted plant trays or any other containers where mosquitoes can breed.
- Keep swimming pool water treated and circulating.
- Drain temporary pools of water or fill them with dirt.
- Close off entryways and potential hiding and nesting places (e.g., caulking cracks and crevices around cabinets or baseboards).
- Ensure window and door screens are “bug tight.”
- Replace your outdoor lights with yellow “bug” lights which tend to attract fewer mosquitoes than ordinary lights. However, keep in mind that the yellow lights are NOT repellents.
If there are problem areas in your home, a professional pest control company can point them out to you to help you control your pest population, in addition to making recommendations on pesticide treatments.
Benefits of Pesticides
Pesticides are typically used to control pests in homes and offices, but their greatest benefit is increased food production, increased profits for farmers and the prevention of diseases. These formulations were once even used to control malaria and typhus. Since the 1960s, synthetic insecticides, carbamates, pyrethroids, herbicides and fungicides have all been introduced to help pests for homes and crops.
When pesticides are used and crop yield is higher, there is more food and farmers typically see a higher quality of food. That results in more money for the farmer, who can pay for family needs such as education and medical costs. It also results in more produce at the grocery store, which leads to a healthier population and lower prices. Pesticides reduce crop loss by targeting weeds and insects and reducing diseases on the crop.
A study by Purdue University explains that the benefits of pesticide can outweigh the costs of uncontrolled pests. The resulting paper states that “a person bitten by mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus may die. A homeowner may have to spend thousands of dollars to repair structural damage caused by termites.”
Herbicides are also used to control vegetation along roadsides to increase visibility. These products are also used by utility companies to prevent vegetation from causing power outages and so that workers can have unobstructed access to power lines for maintenance and repairs.
Some pesticides are used unnoticed. Fungicides are used in plastics, paints and caulks to prevent mold. Even our grocery stores use them to protect the food before it ends up in your shopping cart.
The study concludes with the following statement: “There is little doubt that the proper use of pesticides improves our quality of life, protects our property and promotes a better environment.”
Pesticides and Insecticides Regulation
Regulation of pesticides falls under EPA’s responsibility under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). FIFRA requires registration of pesticides so that new products can be evaluated to see if they pose an unreasonable risk to people and the environment. The act allows the EPA to give label directions, authorization limiting use of the pesticide, suspension or cancellation of a product registration and to require training and certification for pesticide applicators.
The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) requires the EPA to “set pesticide tolerances for all pesticides used in or on food or in a manner that will result in a residue in or on food or animal feed. A tolerance is the maximum permissible level for pesticide residues allowed in or on human food and animal feed.”
The FQPA of 1996 amended the previous acts and tasks the EPA with ensuring that a pesticide poses a “reasonable certainty of no harm” before it can be registered for use on food or feed. It also requires the EPA to review pesticides every 15 years.
The agency’s process includes an examination of the ingredients of the pesticide, where it is to be used, how often it is to be used and the disposal and storage practices. Scientists have developed risk assessments to evaluate the potential risks for, “harm to humans, wildlife, fish, and plants, including endangered species and non-target organisms and contamination of surface water or groundwater from leaching, runoff, and spray drift.”
The Agency staff also evaluate the language on the pesticides and make policies to protect pesticide worker safety and provide certification standards for pesticide applicators.
When It Comes To Pest Control, Trust ABC
Unwanted pests can pose health risks for you and your family and cause significant damage to your home, your largest investment. The professionals at ABC Home & Commercial Services are experts at controlling all types of pests using a variety of tactics and the Integrated Pest Management approach. Our professionals will recommend a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs and concerns to keep unwanted pests away for good. When and if a situation warrants the use of a pesticide, our technicians will apply these products responsibly with the utmost care and concern for your family and your well-being.