Things to Consider Before Using Pesticides

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As we enter the spring season, we will begin to encounter more insects and diseases in our landscape. Many of these pests like Japanese beetles and black spot on roses are familiar to us because they recur each year. These pests may be familiar to us, but controlling them is often difficult. Then each year we have some new pests that attack our plants, and we have no idea what they are, or how to control them. This brings me to the first step in controlling a pest, identification of the pest. Knowing if the symptoms are caused by a disease or an insect and then identifying that disease or insect can be a challenge. After identifying the pest, we need to use the best method to control the pest or determine if we need any control at all. If control is recommended, using the correct pesticide is best, both environmentally and economically. For example, spraying an insecticide on a plant that has a disease is a waste of money and time.

Now that you know the pest you are trying to control and the proper pesticide to use, you need to be sure to read the label of the pesticide and apply the pesticide accordingly. Always follow the label recommendations when using pesticides. You should only use the rate(s) stated on the label. Twice the rate will not give you twice the control, and it may damage your plant(s). Another part of controlling pests is remembering the beneficial insects, specifically the pollinators. Many labels now will have a pollinator warning or instructions about how and when to use that product in order to have the least impact on pollinators. If the label does not address pollinators here are a couple of tips to remember: 1. Spray pesticides in the evening when possible. Pollinators are normally less active at that time of day, and therefore less likely to come in contact with the pesticide. Mid-afternoon applications are the most harmful to the pollinating insects. 2. If possible, do not spray the pesticide on the flowers, because that is the plant part pollinators are most likely to visit. For example, spraying after deadheading your annuals, so fewer blooms are on the plant, would be a good time to spray.

Plants that you know are going to have certain insects each year should be scouted on a regular basis, so you can treat lower pest populations, rather than higher populations which can be more difficult to control. This gives you a productive reason to stop and smell the roses.

For more information regarding this, please visit: NC Extension Gardener Handbook, Chapter 8: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) or NC Extension Gardener Handbook, Appendix B: Pesticides and Pesticide Safety.