Five Common Pest Control Chemicals… But First, Read the Label!

Pest control is an important procedure for crop maintenance. Picking the right pesticide based on your line of work and what you are spraying can take time. We will guide you on how to read consumer product labels and identify the five most common chemicals found in pesticides.

Behind every pesticide, there is an “active ingredient,” which is the solution producing the repelling effect. Before the chemical is sold, it needs to be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based on toxicity levels. How pesticides cause the repelling effect to its target is attributed to a mode of action. For example, most people know that insecticides repel insects, but every chemical compound works in different ways for several situations. We always recommend to first read the label in order to inform yourself. Th​​is will help you save time and also money. It is important to look at a few things when choosing the correct pesticide:

EPA registration number

This number is the most important part of information for tracking pesticide products. It means that the EPA has approved the product, and has determined it can be used with minimal or low risk as long as you follow the directions on the label. The registration number is not a stamp, a guarantee, or approval, but it is normally found on the front panel of the pesticide label. If a non-approved chemical is out in the market severe health effects could occur.

In September 2015, the EPA failed approving the safety of Sulfoxaflor, a systemic insecticide poisonous to insects when is rooted in plant’s tissues. The lack of information on this case study brought a suit from the environmental group Earthjustice against the EPA once the chemical was approved and sold under the trade names Transform and Closer. Commercial beekeeping trade groups warned the manufacturer Dow Agro Sciences was creating a risk to bees populations. As a result a U.S. federal court revoked approval of Sulfoxaflor due to the limited data on the chemical’s effects on bees.

Therefore, there are risk assessments that evaluate the toxicity of pesticides:

-Harm to humans, plants, wildlife species, and endangered species.

-Human health risks from short-term to long-term effects, like the development of cancer and reproductive system orders.

-Potential environmental contamination of surface water or ground water, from discharge, and spray drift.  

Safety information

The EPA also evaluates and approves the language that appears on pesticide labels. To ensure safe use, labels should provide instructions for pesticide use and storage, as well as a mandatory phone number to call for help or more information.

Signal Word

Check for signal words, which refer to the toxicity level of the product to humans and animals. The signal word Danger, indicates the product is corrosive and requires particular care. Warning, is an intermediate level, and can be more harmful than a “Caution” sign. Lastly, the word Caution, appears on products that are least harmful. Pay close attention to directions and warnings. Always double check to follow the correct procedure whenever using the product. Rely on the instructions that are meant to help maximize benefits, and lower risk. This will save you time to understand how and when to use it. Do not forget to check how long to wait before picking crops. Any chemical applied may last longer, requiring you to wait before picking. While the active ingredient in chemicals exist for the sole purpose of preventing or controlling pests, not all products work the same in every situation. Therefore, labels tell specific functionality of the product, and how it should be applied.

Precautionary Statements

When it comes to following instructions, some products require wearing protective clothing like gloves or goggles. Oftentimes the label will recommend to keep away from children or animals. Once the container is completely empty, there are more instructions for proper disposal.

Storage and Disposal

According to the EPA (2017), pesticides and insecticides labels say, “wrap in paper and place in trash.” If the main goal is to protect our crops, reasonably so we want to protect their environment with proper disposal of pesticides. Improper disposal can lead to a possible chemical reaction causing an explosion or fire. Double check, some pesticides include small foldout booklets included with the label information. Overall, pesticides require more care than people think because of the specific demands before, during, and after using them.

Additionally, keep products in their original containers. When throwing away the original bottle you are losing necessary information for the pesticide use, storage, or disposal. In some instances, products indicate to mix pesticides in a different container. Try to use all of the mixture. If you are able to, label the new container with the mixture as it will help you avoid harm in the future.

Five Most Common Pest Control Chemicals

After reading specific instructions and directions of proper use, most people miss reading the “active ingredients.” Without knowing the function of these chemicals, it is hard to know what pesticide is best suites for the goal you are trying to achieve. Let’s take a look at the five most common pest control chemicals found in pesticides:

1. Abamectin:  Most used as an insecticide and anthelmintic for agricultural and residential areas to control pests like mites, leaf miners, pear psylla, cockroaches, and fire ants. It has low toxicity to mammals, and degrades quickly in soil.

2.  Cyfluthrin: Insecticide and also common household pesticide, cyfluthrin is highly toxic to insects, aquatic organisms, and bees and is less toxic to humans. Once cyfluthrin is applied on insects, it binds to their nerve cells. By causing over-stimulation of the nervous system, common activities like feeding or motion are affected leading insects to die.

3. Fipronil: A white powder that works as an insecticide and causes a disruption to insects’ central nervous system. It also has a non-detecting ingredient, meaning insects will not feel or sense the chemical once they move into the treated area. This insecticide is commonly used to control beetles, cockroaches, ticks, termites, weevils, and other insects. In fact, there are more than 50 registered products with fipronil.

4.  Permethrin: An insecticide that belongs to the pyrethroid family. It is a synthetic chemical that is used in numerous ways and areas to control insects, from public health mosquito control programs and food crops. It is commonly used for subterranean termites, bees, beetles, cockroaches, and crickets. Additionally, it works as an insecticide and medication to treat scabies and lice.

5. Bifenthrin: An insecticide mainly used to kill insects, such as fire ants, by affecting in their nervous system. In fact this chemical has low toxicity to birds, but it is highly toxic to fish and bees.

After becoming more aware to the most common chemicals, basic tips on how to read their labels, and how they relate to your work the process of pest control will become easier. Getting familiar with pesticides will always take time and patience, but as a long as you use the right equipment with the best pesticide, you will see better results. If you have questions about pesticides or have any concerns please contact your local provider or call National Pesticide Information Center (NPIC) at 1-800-858-7378 for more information.