Pesticide Formulations

- The physical "form" of a pesticide product -

Summary: The same pesticide ingredient is often available in different physical forms, or formulations. The best choice is generally determined by the size of the area to be treated and the available application equipment.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Modern pesticides are supplied in a number of different physical forms, or formulations. Products may be in the physical form of a dust, aerosol spray, wettable powder (see definition below), emulsifiable concentrate (see definition below) or granule and a few others. The pesticide itself is made of one or more active ingredients (the poison) plus inactive carriers like clay or oil. Aerosol sprays also contain a propellant that pressurizes the spray can.

Pesticide product names often contain clues to the product's formulation. For example, a dust formulation may have a "D" in the product name such as "Alpine D". Likewise "EC" in the product name would indicate an emulsifiable concentrate or "WP" for wettable powder, and "G" for granules.

Dust (D) formulations are dry with the active ingredient bound to clay or some other fine powder, or made entirely from pure active ingredient such as silica or borate. The problem with dust formulations is they are difficult to apply evenly in large areas. A "bulb duster" is often used to apply dust formulated pesticides.

Aerosols sprays (spray can formulations) are popular with homeowners because they are convenient. The active ingredient is pre-mixed and you don't need a separate pump sprayer. Aerosols are very expensive, however, on a per volume basis and so are best used only for small areas. Also, because they produce a fine mist they tend to be more hazardous from an inhalation standpoint

Wettable powder (WP) pesticides are dust-like formulations that can be mixed with water, or sometimes oil, and sprayed through a sprayer of some kind. Wettable powders are economical and solve the application problems inherent with dust formulations.

Emulsifiable concentrate (EC) pesticides are formulated from an active ingredient that is not normally soluble in water but in the presence of an "emulsifier" can be diluted with water. Once dilutered they can be applied though some type of sprayer. Emulsifiable concentrates are economical and generally easy to apply but you will need a separate sprayer.

The final commonly used formulation is granular pesticides (G). Granules are course, dry pellets that are applied through some type of spreader. Turf and lawn care pesticides are often applied as granules.

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