Throughout the year, a variety of pests can potentially plague both our homes and gardens. To remedy the problem, homeowners will purchase chemical pesticides.
When using these products, remember they are poisons designed to kill or adversely affect living organisms in some way. If used properly, they can be effective in controlling the targeted pest. However, the improper usage of pesticides is dangerous and illegal. It can potentially cause harm to the user, other people and the environment.
The most important aspect of safely using pesticides is to follow all label directions. The label gives the names and percentages of the active ingredients, the type of plant material or areas where the pesticide can be applied, and the specific pests controlled. It also provides important information on how to apply the chemical and all the necessary safety precautions. It will also tell when the pesticide should not be applied due to environmental conditions or other factors.
For example, some pesticides for lawns should not be applied when the temperature is over 80 degrees. It can cause damage to the grass. You can only use the pesticide on plant material and in places listed on the label. For example, if it is labeled for use on turfgrass only, it cannot be used on fruits and vegetable plants. If the product is only labeled to control insect pests outdoors, then you can not use it indoors.
Before using pesticides, you need to correctly identify the problem in order to determine how it should be controlled. For example, if you notice brown rings in your fescue turf during the early summer, chances are the problem is brown patch fungus. Applying an insecticide, such as one for grubs or fire ants, will have no control the brown patch since the cause is a fungus and not an insect. Also, when using herbicides (chemical weed killers), remember some are nonselective such as Round-Up, meaning they potentially will kill any plant material they touch. Others are selective. They will target certain types of weeds but not harm other plant material. An example is an herbicide labeled to control broadleaf weeds in lawns. It will kill broadleaf weeds, such as clover and chickweed, but will not harm the turfgrass that are listed on the label.
Pesticide applicators should wear protective chemical resistant gloves and other protection listed on the label when handling them. Avoid applications on windy days. Be careful about the drifting of pesticides, especially with herbicides, since the chemicals can drift and significantly harm or kill nontarget plants.
Do not eat, drink or smoke when applying pesticides, and thoroughly wash hands after each use. Avoid getting pesticides in bodies of water, like lakes, streams and rivers. Never dump chemicals down drains or storm sewers. Make sure you properly dispose of the pesticide and its container. Always store them in a safe, secure location protected from weather extremes, moisture and damage.
Remember, the most important aspect of applying any pesticide is to follow all label directions and safety precautions. Thoroughly read and understand the product label before you select, buy and apply it. By not following all the precautionary statements on the label, the applicator places himself in danger along with other people and the environment.
Timothy Daly is Agricultural and Natural Resource Agent with the Gwinnett County Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at 678-377-4010 or firstname.lastname@example.org.