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Recycle A to Z

Alternatives to pesticides - bugs/pests

Ants                              Aphids                          Apple Maggots
Boxelder Bugs              Cabbage Worm            Carpenter Ant
Carpet Beetle               Cockroaches                 Codling Moths
Crane Fly Larvae          Cutworms                     Earwigs
Elm Leaf Beetle             Fleas                            Flies                 Honeybee Swarm         Houseplant (Infested)  Indian Meal Moths
Leaf Miners                   Leaf Rollers                   Mice
Moles                            Mosquitoes                   Moths (Clothing)Root Weevils                 Scale                             Silverfish
Slugs                             Sod Webworms            Spider Mites     Spiders                          Symphylans                  Tent Caterpillars
Termites, Dampwood    Thrips                            Yellow Jackets

There are many strategies for controlling house pests upsetting the local ecology of your garden. These strategies include barriers (to prevent pests from entering a home), traps (to collection pests that have entered a home), biological controls (attracting beneficial predator and parasitic insects) and the use of non-toxic or less toxic alternatives to pesticides.

Identify the problem
Before considering what control measure to use, correctly
identify the pest, disease or weed you are facing. Nursery personnel are a good resource, as are many books in garden stores and the library. WSU Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners or a county extension agent can be helpful. Keep in mind that most plant problems are not caused by insects or diseases at all, but are caused by inappropriate growing
conditions. Furthermore, insects and diseases often attack plants
that are already stressed from poor growing conditions.

Use appropriate controls
The choice of controls depends on the problem. Generally, options fall into the categories of hand removal, barriers, traps, biological control and least-toxic chemical control. Once you understand how each tactic works, you can make informed decisions on their best use.

Remember that every weed you pull and every insect you smash
is one less to deal with later on. A sturdy blast of water can take out aphid populations, and pruning shears are all you need to control tent caterpillars. Removing diseased leaves, either by hand or rake, can help slow the spread of diseases. These leaves should not go to the compost pile, however, since diseases may not be destroyed in the composting process. However, diseased leaves can go into curbside yard debris containers for recycling.

Barriers do not kill pests. They simply keep pests away from the places you do not want them. A good example is a screen door, which keeps flies out. Following are brief descriptions of common types of barriers:
Floating row covers: These are thin, lightweight fabrics or plastics that are placed over growing plants. They allow light, air and water to reach plants, but keep insects off. They are simply draped over the plants and secured on the sides with stones or soil. As plants grow, they push the fabric up.
Netting: Netting is good for keeping birds off plants, especially as
they come into fruit.
Copper slug barrier: Slugs cannot cross a three-inch-wide sheet of copper. Sheet copper can be cut to size and attached to raised beds or planters, keeping slugs out. This method can also keep slugs in, so be sure to remove all slugs before banding. Apply banding vertically (like a fence) rather than horizontally (like a deck). It will continue to be effective after it has turned green. Despite the initial investment, this is an effective, inexpensive and long-lasting slug control tactic.
Sticky barrier: Marketed under the trade name Tanglefoot or
Tangletrap, a sticky barrier will prevent insects and mites from walking up trunks of trees or shrubs. Note that root weevils walk, rather than fly, to the leaves of their hosts, so it can be used around the trunks of rhododendrons (as long as there are no branches touching the ground) to stop their movement. Apply the sticky material to a wide piece of tape that is first wrapped around the trunk.
All traps work by attracting a target pest into a container from which it cannot escape. Traps work best when there isn’t much competition. For example, a slug might smell a slug trap in the middle of the garden, but it will also smell – and eat – many other tasty things along the way. Following are brief descriptions of common types of traps:
Sticky traps: These use a sticky barrier, such as Tanglefoot, with one or more attractants such as color, smell or shape, to bring the target pest in and keep it there. Yellow is a color commonly used since many insects associate yellow with flowers and, hence, plants.
Beer-filled slug traps: These bring slugs out of the woodwork, so to speak. Just be sure to place them away from the garden and refill daily.


Some of your garden’s best friends are natural enemies.
Biological controls, also called beneficials, are “the good guys” that are hard at work eating insects, slugs, mites and other creatures in your landscape. Some have very specialized tastes; others will eat just about anything smaller and slower than they are. In all cases, beneficials will come to your landscape and set up housekeeping if you provide them with the following basics. Put your energy into attracting them naturally rather than purchasing them at a nursery and releasing them. If conditions are not right to begin with, they will move on anyway.
Water: This could be as small as a jar or bird bath or as large as a pond, just as long as it is available and filled with fresh water all year.
A place to live: Every animal needs a home to protect it from enemies and raise its young. Although you can not build little beneficial insect houses, you can grow them. Simply allow a variety of plants, including annual flowers, perennial flowers, bulbs, grasses, small shrubs, large shrubs, deciduous trees, and evergreen trees, to grow in your landscape. The beneficials will find their niches.
An alternate food source: Pollen and nectar, mainly produced by
flowers, sustain insect predators and parasites when insect food is not available. Vertebrates, such as birds and squirrels, will enjoy fruits, grain, seeds and other things, especially during the winter when other foods are scarce. Once the beneficials get to know your landscape as a place to find food all year, they will keep coming back for the food you provide or the insects they pick off your plants.


Although using the practices mentioned previously will minimize,
and possibly eliminate, the need for pesticides, there may be times when you choose to use them. In order to make informed decisions, it is important to understand them.

A few words about toxicity
All pesticides (synthetic and organic) are, by definition, toxic to some living thing – insecticides to insects, herbicides to weeds, fungicides to fungi, and so on. When a pesticide or any other material is described as “toxic,” it often makes people think of the effects the material has on human health. However, pesticides (and other chemicals) can also have toxic effects on the environment in which they are released.

There are many different ways to describe the toxicity of a material. For example, toxic effects on living organisms can be either acute (occurring immediately after the material is ingested or absorbed) or chronic (occurring after long-term exposure to the material). A substance may be short-lived (breaking down to harmless elements in a matter of hours or days) or persistent (remaining in their original state for months or years).

Materials may bind readily to soil (making them more likely to remain in the site where they were applied) or may be very mobile (making them more likely to travel into surface or groundwater). Still others may be very soluble (dissolvable in water), volatile (likely to explode), or flammable (able to burn). In addition, some can cause secondary poisoning (direct or
indirect effects on other living things that eat the original target).

Is “organic pesticide” an oxymoron? How about “synthetic organic?” 
Ask a chemist what “organic” means, and he or she is likely to say, “contains carbon.”All living things contain carbon, so organic matter is simply the stuff that at one time was part of a living plant or animal. Some fertilizers and pesticides can be produced from animal and plant parts, thus they can be called organic as well. The word “synthetic,” when referring to garden products, means “created by humans: not occurring in nature.” Synthetic pesticides are chemical compounds invented in a laboratory.
Ironically, those synthetic compounds that contain carbon can, technically, be called “synthetic organic.”

Note that although the word organic, when it is used to describe the way foods are grown, has come to imply “pesticide-free,” a more accurate definition of the term in this case might be “grown without synthetic pesticides.” Note also that some pesticides are not derived from plants or animals yet are still considered safe to use, and they are allowed in organic food production. Examples include insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, copper and sulfur.

The bottom line is this: no pesticide, synthetic or organic, is considered “safe.” But, because of the effects on other living things, some are safer to use than others.

Read the label. Before selecting a pesticide, become informed about all the effects it may have.

Use a pesticide properly once you purchase it.

Dispose of pesticides safely. Because pesticides are hazardous, they should never be disposed of in your garbage can or poured down the drain, into storm drains or onto the ground. In Clark County, call Environmental Services at 397-6118, ext. 4016 for more information about proper disposal options.

Banned or Restricted Pesticides
Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and rodenticides, which are designed to kill insects, weeds, disease and rodents. Using pesticides may be necessary at times, but in many cases there are alternatives that are often more effective in the long run and less harmful to public health and the environment. If you choose to use a pesticide be aware that a number of pesticides that were once legal to use are now banned or restricted from household use. Some of the pesticides you should NOT use are: Aldrin, Arsenates, Benzene Carbon Tetrachloride, Chlordane, Creosote, DBCP, DDT, Diazinon, Dieldrin, Heptachlor, Kepone, Lindane, Mirex, Pentachlorophenol (PCP) Silvex, Sodium Arsenite, Sodium Cyanide, 2,4,5-T, Toxaphene, and Vinyl Chloride.


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