Chemical pesticides: Use caution and follow all directions

As the weather gets warmer, people are planting their gardens and tending to their lawns. Many pests are also present that can create a multitude of problems in the home landscape. The extension office receives many calls regarding these pests, and the use of chemical pesticides to mitigate these problems. Pesticides, if used properly, can be effective in controlling the targeted pest. The improper application and usage of pesticides is the cause of many problems in the landscape.

It is not the use of the pesticides that cause problems but the abuse of them.

Pesticides are poisons, and can be harmful if not used properly. The label gives you important information on using the pesticide effectively and safely. Read the label before you buy the product, and each time before its use. It gives directions on the rate of application, the proper storage of the product, and the necessary safety precautions and protection equipment to use. You can only use the pesticide on crops and sites listed on the label. If it says do not use indoors, then you can not apply it inside your home or business.

Some pesticides can be used on ornamental and turf plants, but can not be used on vegetables or on fruit trees. The label tells if the pesticide should not be applied due to the chance of injuring the plant, or the environmental conditions you may or may not, apply the pesticide.

For example, some lawn weed control pesticides should not be applied to turf grasses when the temperature is higher than 85 degrees, or the grass will be damaged. Also, at higher temperatures, the chemicals can vaporize and damage adjacent plants. Please note that failure to follow label directions is against federal and state laws.

Pesticide applicators should wear protective chemical-resistant gloves and other protection listed on the label when handling pesticides. Be careful about the drifting of pesticides, especially on windy days. This is especially true for herbicides, weed killers, since the chemicals can drift and significantly harm or kill nontarget plants. If applying pesticides to anything over your head, such as a tree branch, eave or ceiling, do not stand under it. After treating lawns or other surfaces, do not walk over the area. Do not eat, drink or smoke when applying pesticides, and thoroughly wash hands after each use. Keep pesticides out of water bodies, such as lakes, streams and rivers, and never dump them down drains or storm sewers. Follow label directions on the proper disposal of the pesticides and its container.

Store pesticides in a safe, secure location protected from weather extremes, moisture and where the container will not be damaged. Keep out of reach of children and pets. Always store them in the original container they came in with the label intact. Never transfer pesticides to other containers, and absolutely never store them in food or drink containers. There have been some serious incidences of people accidentally consuming what they thought was food or drink from one of these containers and becoming seriously ill or even have died as a result of being poisoned.

Pesticides are classified as general use, where any adult can purchase and apply them, or restricted use, meaning the applicator has to have a special license issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. The restricted-use pesticides are not available to the homeowner, and can only be applied by someone has the restricted-use license. They are more hazardous to use and the licensed applicators have had special training.

Pesticides are somewhat analogous to drugs. If used properly they can be effective, but if misused, they can be detrimental. Remember it is not the use of pesticides that cause the problems, but the abuse. The most important aspect of applying any pesticide is to follow all label directions. By not following the precautionary statements on the label, the applicator places himself in danger along with other people and the environment.

For more information on pesticides, refer to the Georgia Pest management Handbook available at www.ent.uga.edu/pmh, the Georgia department of Agriculture at www.agr.georgia.gov, or contact the Extension office.

Timothy Daly is an agricultural and natural resource agent with the Gwinnett County Extension Service. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or timothy.daly@gwinnettcounty.com.