The good, the bad, and the pesticides

February has been designated as National Pesticide Safety Education Month.

The purpose is to reinforce the principles of safe pesticide use. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about pesticide safety and to share best practices for using pesticides safely in and around your home.

If you choose to use pesticides in your home or garden, knowing how to safely handle them can protect the health of your family, pets and the environment.

What is a pesticide?

A pesticide is any material or product — natural, organic, or synthetic — that is used to prevent, control, suppress, repel, or kill some kind of destructive pest.

The term “pesticide” is the broad term under which all others fall. The “cide” ending comes from Latin and it means to cut or kill.

The pesticides commonly used by homeowners include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides. We frequently forget that disinfectants and insect repellents are also considered pesticides.

The key to using any pesticide safely is to follow the directions on the label.

There you will find safety precautions; what to wear when applying the product; how to apply it; what the product can be used to control; where or what you can use the product for; how to store it properly; how much to use; and first aid measures.

Remember, the label is the law when it comes to pesticides. Using the product in a way that is not consistent with the label is illegal.

The site and pest must both be listed on the label. Read the label before you make a purchase and every time you use the product, even if you have used it in the past.

Sometimes the label changes. Ingredients can change.

Don’t assume when using pesticides.

Only purchase as much pesticide as you need to treat the problem or what you will need for the season. That way you won’t be stuck storing product or trying to figure out how to dispose of it.

Look for the least-toxic pesticide. Instead of using a broad spectrum insecticide — which kills all sorts of insects — look for one that is selective.

Choose pesticides that are not toxic to bees.

There are many ready-to-use products for homeowners to buy. Consider those instead of a container of concentrate.

It can be tricky trying to figure out what to use. Read labels and don’t necessarily take home the first product you see on the shelf.

Properly protect yourself when you use a pesticide. Again, the label will tell you what type of protective equipment you should be using. Non-absorbent gloves, hat, eye protection, face shield, long-sleeved shirt, coveralls, and footwear are all things to consider.

Proper cleanup afterwards is also important — of you and your equipment.

Storing pesticides properly is another component of their safe use.

Keep products in their original containers with labels attached. Products should be stored out of reach of children and pets.

Do not store pesticides around food, water, animals, seed, fertilizer, or flammable materials.

Close containers tightly after each use. Keep them out of direct sunlight.

Keep your storage area clean and organized. Check containers for leaks.

Mark the container with the date you purchased it so you can keep track of how old it is. Some products will break down over time and they may not work as well.

Be prepared for spills and leaks by having some kind of absorbent material on hand, such as cat litter.

When you are done with a pesticide dispose of the empty container properly. Do not reuse the container.

The label will tell you the proper way you may dispose of it.

Pesticides that are available to the public may say that you can place the empty container in the trash.

According to the NYS DEC “when using up a pesticide that requires dilution, triple-rinse the container, and use the rinse water to dilute the last batch. Drain all containers used to mix or store pesticides for at least 30 seconds. Discard clean, empty pesticide containers — including aerosols — in the household trash. Never dump unwanted pesticides down the sink or toilet, into storm drains, streams, or on the ground.”

Partially used or full containers of pesticides cannot be put in the trash. They are hazardous waste.

The best thing to do is to safely store them until you can get them to a household hazardous waste collection program. Check with your local or county Solid Waste Management department to see when their next collection program will be held.

Pesticides are not always the answer for controlling a problem in the home or landscape. They should be a last resort, not the first thing we reach for.

A good Integrated Pest Management approach will offer cultural, physical, mechanical, and even biological control measures.

If you do have to go the pesticide route, regardless of the type of product, handle them with caution and stay safe.

Have a gardening question? The Master Gardener office is open,

Please wear a mask when visiting the Cornell Cooperative Extension office and check in at the reception window.

Master Gardener volunteers are normally in the office Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. until noon. You can stop in at the CCE office at 420 E. Main St. in Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or e-mail it at:

If you are new to gardening or thinking about starting a vegetable garden this year join us at noon Friday via Zoom for “Vegetable Gardening 101.”

We will explore picking the perfect spot in your yard, how to start a successful garden and much more.

This program is free, but registration is required. Visit the events page of our website

Our next Garden Talk will be on March 4 at noon via Zoom.

Join us to learn about “No Mow Yards” with Master Gardener Connie B.

Manicured lawns are a staple for most front yards. They require a great deal of money and work to keep lush and provide little to no support of a diverse ecosystem.

This program will explore alternatives to the front lawn that are biodiverse, nature friendly and low maintenance.

Registration is required. Visit the events page of our website

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