Use eco-friendly pesticides whenever possible -
Summary: Most pesticides can be
categorized as either synthetic, organic,
inorganic and/or biorational. The
first three indicate the source of the active
ingredient while the term biorational means that the
product is less toxic and has minimal impact on
Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)
The definition of "pesticide" is pretty
simple: Pesticides are chemicals that kill
pests or disrupt pest populations. A pest
is an organism (plant, animal, fungus, or microbe)
that causes some type of damage to something we
value. Furthermore, pesticides can be grouped in a
number of different ways based on their active
ingredients and how they work such as synthetic
pesticides, organic pesticides,
inorganic pesticides and biorational
Pesticides in this group, for example carbaryl
(Termidor) and imidacloprid
(Merit, Bayer Advanced), are manufactured in a
laboratory and marketed/sold by a chemical company.
Synthetic pesticides are further grouped into
similar chemical classes such as
Synthetic pesticides have been widely used
since the end of World War II. During the last 60
years new synthetic pesticides have become more pest
specific, exhibit lower toxicity and are less
environmentally damaging. While synthetic pesticides
have contributed to an abundant and cheap food supply
they still present a certain amount of risk to human
and environmental health.
Pesticides in this group, for example rotenone,
nicotine, neem oil, and
all of the botanical
pesticides are products
of living organisms. Often they are chemicals
that plants and microbes use to protect themselves
from parasites, predators and pathogens.
Nicotine, for example, is produced by plants
in the genus Nicotiana as a powerful herbivore
(plant-feeding) deterrent. Nicotine is also a potent
insecticide and is highly toxic to mammals. In small
doses, delivered by smoking dried tobacco leaves,
nicotine is a stimulant.
Organic pesticides are often lower in
toxicity than older synthetic pesticides but this is
not always the case. Organic
does not necessarily equal low toxicity and
Pesticides in this group, for example
borates, silicates and sulfur, are minerals
that are mined from the earth and ground
into a fine powder. Some work as poisons and some
work by physically interfering with the pest.
Older "inorganics" included such highly toxic
compounds as arsenic, copper, lead and tin salts.
Current inorganic pesticides are
relatively low in toxicity and have low
environmental impact. Borate insecticides, such as
have many uses in structural pest management and
are very safe compared to older conventional
pesticides (see Bora
Care Insecticide and Timbor
This term refers to synthetic, organic,
or inorganic pesticides that are both low
toxicity and exhibit a very low impact
on the environment. "Biorationals" also have
minimal impact on species for which they are not
intended (called non-target species).
Biorational pesticides include oils, insecticidal
soaps, microbials (such as Bacillus
thurengienesis and entomopathogenic
(plant-based) and insect
growth regulators. The biorational
pesticides should therefore be your first choice
whenever a pesticide is needed (see What
are Natural Insecticides?).
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