Pesticides

A "pesticide" includes insecticides, herbicides and fungicides.  Commercial products regulated by the Pesticide Act are now restricted by the Ministry of the Environment Website. Identified natural products, however, can be used at any time.

What can I use instead?

  • Organic soaps
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Borax
  • Vinegar
  • Pyrethrum
  • Mineral oil
  • Sulphur
  • Nematodes
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • And other biological controls

Alternative Techniques

There are a wealth of readily available techniques to avoid infestations as well as natural products that pose less risk to people and the environment.   North Bay endorses options which offer long term solutions and which target lawn care problems and not just symptoms (weeds/pests).   Using healthy lawn and garden practices makes them less vulnerable to weeds, insects and fungus.

For further lawn tips see our Water conservation section for Xerscape gardening which provides education about drought tolerant plants and lawn care.

Step 1 - Avoidance of Pesticides

Maintaining healthy plants and turf can reduce the presence of pests.   For example, proper mowing, watering and fertilization of turf can crowd out weeds and reduce pest damage.   Take advantage of the natural potency of Compost .   Spreading compost on your lawn or garden will improve soil structure, add moisture, add nutrients, stabilizes pH, improve the soils cation exchange capacity and introduce microorganisms that promote root growth and suppress plant diseases.

Step 2 - Avoidance of Synthetic Fertilizers

Apply organic or slow-release fertilizers as they are less likely to wash away and they feed plants and lawns slowly thus reducing the frequency of fertilizing.  The best times to fertilize are mid-to-late May and early September.

Step 3 - Alternatives

Natural pesticide substitutes can accomplish the desired affect with less risk and without the hassle.   A host of natural products and alternative treatments are available for every typical pest problem.   These products are safer to use but still toxic to the pest; have low human toxicological implications and breakdown rapidly in the environment.

General Caution

Even though the products listed in this information guide are less harmful to you and the environment than pesticides, you still have to read labels, take appropriate precautions and use them in the correct manner.   For example, boiling water is a safe product if handled properly but its use also has risks (can scald or will kill vegetation that you didn't want to kill).   Use all products responsibly!

Alternative Products

Acetic Acid (vinegar)

What is it?

Vinegar in the grocery store is about 5% concentration but stronger industrial or horticultural vinegars (up to 20 to 25 % concentration) can be purchased at garden centers and hardware stores.   An industrial vinegar works better (we recommend diluting it to about 10% concentration) and in experiments it worked as well or better than the commercial pesticides.   Use to treat crab grass, plantain and other broadleaf weeds.

How do I apply it?

Spot spray directly on weed.   Repeat about once per week for 3 weeks.

What does it do?

Weeds turn black and wither up in about 2 hours after treatment.

Where do I get it?

Garden Centers and Hardware Stores

 

Boric Acid

What is it?

A white odourless, non-staining powder that is mined in California which has a natural insecticidal property that kills ants, spiders, fleas, centipedes, crickets, earwigs, grasshoppers, millipedes, slugs and many other creepy crawly insects.   Sprinkle as a powder in out of the way locations where insects exist.   Boric acid adheres to the legs of insects that travel through it and they later ingest it when grooming themselves.   Boric acid once ingested is poisonous.  As long as it does not become wet it will linger for a long time and it will work on hatching insects as well.   Be patient, it takes a while to be effective.

How do I apply it?

Apply the powder in places such as cracks, crevices and out of the way places where it will not come in contract with people or pets.   Keep out of the reach of children.

Where do I get it?

Grocery Stores

 

Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis)

What is it?

Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt is naturally occurring bacteria in soil and some stains are toxic to insects.   This microbial insecticide controls caterpillars (including tent caterpillars), moth caterpillars and cutworms.

The derivative (Bti) works on black flies, mosquitoes and larvae of leaf beetles.   Sprinkled as a powder directly on the plant/soil, the Bt proteins, which must be eaten by the targeted insect, paralyzes the digestive system and the insect stops feeding within hours.   However, it takes 24 hours or more for the insect to actually die and often people misperceive that it is not working.  Bt is a good insecticide to target vegetable garden pests.   Note: Bt is susceptible to degradation from direct sunlight.

How do I apply it?

Sprinkle the powdery substance directly on or near the plant that the insect feeds on.

Where do I get it?

Sold as a commercial/retail product at Garden Centers and Hardware Stores

 

Boiling Water

Recommended treatment:

Boiling water is best used directly on the plant to cause it to wilt.   You can use it on cracks in pathways, driveways and in areas that you don't want any vegetation.  

What does it treat?

It treats weeds and insects.   This technique will affect all vegetation so apply it directly on what you want to kill.

 

Corn Gluten (Meal)

What is it?

A by product of wet corn milling, corn gluten meal is a granular natural pre-emergent herbicide that stops root formation in germinating seeds.   It also contains nitrogen and acts as a fertilizer.   Use to treat dandelions, pigweed, crab grass, plantain, lambs quarters and curly dock.   Requires dampening to be effective, but do not over wet.  

How do I apply it?

A pre-emergent means that it has to be put down early.   Apply it in the fall or early spring ideally just prior to seed germination in a granular form using a fertilizer spreader.   Rely on dew or lightly wet applied area.   It will not control already germinated weeds so if a root has already formed it will not work.   Apply at 20 lbs per 1000 ft to reduce weeds by 50 to 60 % in the first year and will virtually eliminate targeted weeds at higher dose rates.

Where do I get it?

Select Garden Centers, Hardware Stores and Grocery Stores

Diatomaceous Earth

What is it?

A powder made from crushed rock containing fossilized siliceous marine and fresh water diatoms.   It feels like talcum powder but the tiny pieces of shell have sharp spines that can pierce the soft body tissues of insects.  The abrasion scratches outer protective wax layers of insect bodies causing the insect to dry up and die.   It can control most insects.   You can lightly dust plants with it and it may be used inside the house.   Place a small amount of the powder in corners, cracks, crevices and other areas where insects might hide.   Care should be used as it is an indiscriminate killer and it will harm beneficial insects.   This substance is virtually non-toxic to humans as it has no chemical properties and is a physical control.   If dusting use a face mask anyway.

How do I apply it?

Make sure that you are using natural DE and not swimming pool DE.   It can be used as a dry dust or wet able powder by mixing with water.   Use to treat for sawfly, coddling moth, twig borer, thrips, mites, cockroach, slugs, snails, aphids, earwigs, silverfish, and ants.  Can be used for bedbugs, cabbage root flies, carrot root flies, fleas, pill bugs, ticks and is helpful in dealing with fungus gnats.   It can be mixed with soil to minimize insects in the soil.

Where do I get it?

Garden Centers and Hardware stores

Caution:

Make sure that the product you purchase is not a swimming pool product.   It should have crystalline silica content of no more that 1.5% or it is also called Amorphous Fresh Water Diatomaceous Earth.

Fatty Acids (Insecticidal Soaps)

What is it?

Made by adding potassium hydroxide to fatty acids extracted from animal fat or plant oil, also referred to as insecticidal soap or soap salts, this product is an effective insecticide, herbicide, fungicide or algaecide.  Insecticidal soaps, which should be applied as a spray, kills susceptible insects by dissolving the protective outer surface of the insect causing the cell contents to leak out.  Insecticidal soaps requires direct contact with the pests to impact their soft-bodies, it does not work on thicker skinned insects such as bees.   It works best on soft bodied insects such as aphids, whiteflies, mealy bugs and spider mites.  There is no residual insecticidal activity once the soap spray has dried

How do I apply it?

Insecticidal Soap requires direct contact by spraying as a liquid or fog.   Caution when using on plants as it can cause burning of plants with hairy leaves.   You may be required to repeat applications.   Spray in the evening or early morning hours so that the spray droplets do not dry out quickly which will improve the effectiveness of the application.

Where do I get it?

Garden Centers

Caution:

Do not use near ponds or water with aquatic life.

Mineral Oil

What is it?

Mineral Oil is produced as a byproduct of oil refining, white oils, paraffin oils or spray oils.   It can be used in a diluted form as an insecticide spray.   The oil creates a film barrier between the plant and the insect.   Use on fruits and vegetables to restrict insects and to control mildew.   It suffocates insects and insect eggs.  The oil also interacts with the insect's fatty acids and interferes with its metabolism.   It can also harm the plant.   Use it infrequently but when used make sure to thoroughly spray and include both sides of the leaves.   Do not apply in hot humid weather.

How do I apply it?

Sprayed in a 0.25 to 1 % solution - apply several times at 10+ day intervals.   Do not mix with other treatments without checking possible impacts.

Where do I get it?

Garden Centers and Hardware Stores

Pyrethrum or Pyrethrins

What is it?

A powder made from the dried flowers of the chrysanthemum, whereas the term "pyrethrins" refers to the six insecticide components occurring naturally in the powder.  It is a natural contact poison that works instantaneously but may require repeat applications if the dose level is too low (first application may only stun the target insect).  It can be used in lower doses as an insect repellant for mosquitoes and it can also be mixed with Diatomaceous Earch or Boric Acid to increase its effectiveness as an insecticide.

How do I apply it?

Can be applied as a powder or it is also available in liquid forms for spray applications

Caution:

Try to avoid using synthetic pyrethroids or products that also have piperonyl butoxide (PBO) added as they sometimes are marketed as organic but are not.   They pose risk to asthmatics; can cause allergic reactions in some people and target beneficial organisms due to increased toxicity of the unnatural ingredients added.

Where do I get it?

Garden Centers and Hardware Stores

Sulphur

What is it?

A dust or wet able powder used as a fungicide to treat fungal diseases on fruits and vegetables and also controls mites.   Sulfur is one of the few natural products available to control diseases.   It lowers soil pH and may disrupt desirable soil microorganisms.   It can also have a negative effect on desirable insects and burn plants if applied during hot humid weather (above 30oC).

How do I apply it?

Can be purchased in bags and applied using a drop spreader or diluted with water and sprayed with a pump sprayer.

Where do I get it?

Garden Centers and Hardware Stores

 More Information