the weed or pest you are trying to kill? When was the last time you saw
these weeds or pests and where? Consider if you really need to use
pesticides. Do you have a bug problem? Don’t just have the exterminator
come once a month. If you do have a bug problem is it a threat to your
health and the structural integrity of the building or just a nuisance?
Spiders, for example, except for Black-widows and the brown recluse, do
not pose a threat to humans. Chemicals are not effective in combating
Five simple steps to reduce or
eliminate pesticide use18
ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Think about what
conditions encourage pests in your yard, lawn, or garden. Change
those conditions so pests don’t thrive.
varieties that grow well in your area.
Encourage beneficial insects and birds that can naturally control
how much damage from insects, diseases, or weeds you can tolerate.
Don’t take control measures until that level has been reached.
controls are necessary consider pesticide-free solutions first.
that 24 of 25 common pests are only a problem because their natural
predators have been killed by pesticides19. If you have bugs, formulate
a strategy to combat the bug for which you have the problem. Don’t apply
a blanket pesticide to kill everything. You don’t want to start new bug
infestation problem by killing natural predators.
If you have a bug problem, start with the least toxic method. This may
be some sort of trap or bait. Sticky bait traps have pheromones to
attract particular pests. Monitor the effectiveness of these and only
proceed to something more toxic, including pesticides, if other methods
If you need to use pesticides, try the least-toxic pesticide first. Look
for a product for which all of the ingredients are listed on the label.
Be wary of products with “inert” ingredients. There should be no inert
ingredients. Ask to see the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). It should
list all of the ingredients. If any of the ingredients are not listed or
are classified as “inerts” consider not using the product. Having a
product EPA approved does not make it safe. The EPA approves pesticides
based on “efficacy”, not safety. Efficacy means that the pesticide does
what it claims it will do – kill the bugs, weed and pests20.
If a product is very effective the EPA will tolerate higher health and
environmental risks and approve the product. The manufacturer, not the
EPA, tests the products and provides the data during the approval
process to support this. The EPA takes their word for it.
Least-toxic pesticide ingredients include:
Boric acid to combat ants,
termites, and fleas (also a good mold-inhibitor)
Diatomaceous earth to kill
scorpions, crickets and other insects
Sticky traps for controlling ants
is commonly known as Borax and can be purchased in detergent section of
the grocery store. It is in Mule Team laundry detergent. Boric acid
breaks down the exoskeleton, outside shell of fleas, roaches, etc. It is
good for flea control. Sprinkle on rugs not on dog.
The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (NCAP) has free
fact sheets on non-toxic & natural alternatives to pesticides for
various pests listed on their web site,
They may also be contacted at (541) 344-5044.
Reducing Pesticide Use - Integrated Pest
There are some professional pest
control companies that specialize in Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
However, it can be difficult to locate a company that performs this
correctly. Many pest control companies are worried that a client won’t
use them again unless they make sure all the bugs are killed after the
first visit. They therefore tend to apply a mixture of chemicals that is
sure to do the job. If your intention is to minimize the use of
chemicals, let them know that you understand the process and are willing
to be patient. Participate in the process yourself. Choose
pesticide-free options first. Never store unused pesticides indoors or
in the garage. Pesticides become more toxic under storage conditions,
especially in hot weather22.