5 Green Tips for Home and Garden Pest Control
78 million households in the U.S. use home and garden pesticides. Suburban lawns and gardens receive more pesticide applications per acre (3.2-9.8 lbs) than agriculture (2.7 lbs per acre on average).
Insecticides are poisons designed to kill insects. Insecticides include active ingredients (chemical compounds designed to kill the target organisms) and inert ingredients which may be carcinogens or toxic substances. They also include rodenticides and wood preservatives.
By following the tips below, you can reduce the effect of insecticides on your health and the environment.
✔ Understand the dangers of insecticides – Insecticides are very toxic and can pose a direct threat to human health. They can be absorbed through the skin, swallowed or inhaled (most toxic). People and pets can also track insecticide residue into the house. They have been linked to the following health problems: increased risk of leukemia cancers; increase in spontaneous abortions; decreased fertility; liver and pancreatic damage; neuropathy; disturbances to immune systems (asthma/ allergies) and many others.
✔ Practice Integrated Pest Management (IPM) – Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to insect management that can reduce or eliminate the need to apply insecticides. IPM is not a single pest control method, but rather a four-step process which contains a series of pest management evaluations, decisions, and controls. The steps include setting action thresholds, monitoring and identifying pests, prevention measures and control. An IPM provider will use all nontoxic methods available before suggesting the use of insecticides. By taking this approach, your exposure to toxic chemicals will be minimized and possibly completely eliminated.
✔ Use nontoxic or all-natural insecticides, but with caution – Many all-natural or nontoxic insecticides contain essential oils, which have the potential to cause eye, skin and gastrointestinal irritation, as well as central nervous system depression. It’s important to keep in mind that while there may be certain benefits to using this category of products, natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe. In fact, many plants, animals and other organisms found in nature can be highly toxic. Therefore, any insecticide needs to be used per label directions to avoid accidental overexposure.
✔ Choose nontoxic pest control devices – There are a variety of pest control devices on the market that are completely free of toxins. These devices may be candles that give off a repellent odor or a trap that catches the pest. You can find devices for most all pests, including ants, mosquitos, flies, beetles, snails, and slugs.
✔ Introduce beneficial predators by planting an insectary – An insectary is a small area of flowering plants designed to attract and harbor beneficial insects. Introducing beneficial predators to keep insects away from your garden has been used since ancient times. Below is a list of some common pests and the predators you can introduce or attract to control them:
- aphids – aphidius, hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs, pirate bugs
- caterpillars – ground beetles, tachinid flies, braconids, chalcids,
- fungus gnats – beneficial mites
- grubs – ground beetles, spring tiphia wasps
- mites – lacewings, ladybugs, pirate bugs
- scales – lacewings, ladybugs, pirate bugs
- slugs – ground beetles
- spider mites – beneficial mites
- thrips – beneficial mites, dicyphus, pirate bugs
- whiteflies – dicyphus, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, pirate bugs
Many beneficial predators can be attracted simply by growing the plants that they prefer. Here is a list of beneficial predators and the plants that attract them:
- aphidius – lupin, sunflowers
- beneficial mites – helianthus annulus, shasta daisy
- dicyphus – digitalis, verbascum thaspus
- ground beetles – amaranthus
- hoverflies – alyssum, convulvulus minor, coreopsis, cosmos, bipinnatus, Iberis umbellata, Lupin, parsley, pincushion flower, queen anne’s lace, statice, yarrow
- lacewings – angelica gigas, dill, cosmos bipinnate, fennel,
- ladybugs – angelica gigas, dill, convolvulus minor, fennel, queen Anne’s lace, tansy, yarrow
- parasitic wasps – statice, lemon balm, parsley, yarrow
- pirate bugs – helianthus annulus, shasta daisy, sunflowers