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 Reducing Pesticide Use

What is 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 spiders anyhow.

Five simple steps to reduce or eliminate pesticide use18

  1. An 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.

  2. Plant varieties that grow well in your area.

  3. Encourage beneficial insects and birds that can naturally control your pests.

  4. Decide how much damage from insects, diseases, or weeds you can tolerate. Don’t take control measures until that level has been reached.

  5. When controls are necessary consider pesticide-free solutions first.

Consider 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 don’t work.

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 and moths.

Boric Acid 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, www.pesticides.org.

They may also be contacted at (541) 344-5044.

Reducing Pesticide Use - Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

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.

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Revised: July 05, 2017.

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