Pesticides, Herbicides, and Insecticides: What’s the Difference?

From on June 16, 2009 in Landscaping

A pesticide is any chemical used by man to control pests. These intruders come in various shapes and sizes. They include but aren’t limited to: fungus, bacteria, insects, plant disease, snails, slugs, or weed infestation.

A pesticide can attack and kill by touch or ingestion. It can kill immediately or over time. It really depends on what you’re trying to control and the recommended use of the chemical in play. There are significant differences between many common household pesticides, so before you put them to the test, understand what they’re designed to control. It goes without saying, but weed control isn’t going to stop aphids from devouring your rose buds.

If you don’t want to use pesticides, there are alternative methods of controlling pests and producing a healthy garden, which we’ll get into a little below. First, we will focus on pesticides, specifically the differences between two popular types: herbicides and insecticides.

weed.jpgPhoto credit: Lorri

An herbicide is used to control weeds or kill unwanted plants. Usually, dandelions in the lawn or crab grass that germinated in the spring. Some herbicides will eliminate every plant they touch, while others are designed to eradicate only specific types. Nonselective types of herbicides are use on railroad tracks or to control weeds around industrial areas. Selective herbicides are designed to kill broad leaf plants and weeds. This chemical is commonly used on lawns and golf courses.

An insecticide is often confused with pesticide. The truth is an insecticide is just one of many pesticides. It’s designed to control or eliminate insects. It kills by touch, ingestion, or both. If a plant is sprayed with an insecticide and is eaten by an insect, the insect will die. There are several variations and uses of insecticides. Most households use a short-term insecticide. This acts quickly and then soon turns into a non-toxic agent. These chemical include: snail bait, ant killer, and wasp killer. Residual insecticides are long-term killers. They’re useful in the control of flies, termites, and roaches.

Now, can we live without insecticides and still produce a superior garden? There are several natural methods you can use that are definitely worth a shot.

birdfeeder.jpgPhoto credit: webhamster

  1. Stopping snails: Use a barrier of ash or wood chips around the garden.
  2. Controlling grasshoppers: Mix molasses and water in a spray bottle. Then just spray the hoppers when you see them. The sticky concoction will clog their airwaves and they’ll suffocate. Sorry if that sounds a little cruel.
  3. Promote birds to inhabit your backyard by providing feeders. The birds will do a fine job of controlling the insects for you.
  4. Leave tuna cans full of beer or water and then partially bury them around the garden. Earwigs and snails will seek them out and then drown.