Q: What is a pesticide?
A: Pesticide is an umbrella term that includes insecticides, herbicides and other agricultural and lawn-and-garden chemicals, but also many industrial, institutional and home-cleaning products. Pesticides are designed to be harmful to a target pest and purposely introduced into the environment to manage insects, bacteria, weeds, rodents and other pests. Under state and federal law, a pesticide is any substance intended to control, destroy, repel or attract a pest.
Biopesticides (biochemical and microbial): Naturally occurring substances that control pests by a mechanism other than toxicity. For example, sex pheromones used as mating disrupters for insects and pests. A microbial pesticide’s active ingredient is a living pathogen. For example, a bacterium that infects a pest and then kills or inhibits it.
Fungicides: Pesticides that target mold and mildew.
Fumigants: Gaseous pesticides injected about two feet into the ground before crops or trees are planted. The gasses move through the soil to control a wide variety of soil-borne pests and diseases that can cause significant damage to crops. These pests include nematodes (microscopic worms), fungi, bacteria, insects and weed seeds. Fumigant pesticides are not sprayed.
Herbicides: Pesticides that kill or inhibit the growth of weeds and unwanted plants.
Insecticides: Pesticides that control insects.
Miticides: Pesticides that control mites that feed on plants and animals.
Rodenticides: Pesticides that kill rodents like mice, rats and gophers.
Q: What is an active ingredient?
A: The chemical or chemicals in a pesticide formulation that are biologically active and capable, in themselves, of preventing, destroying or repelling insects, fungi, rodents, weeds or other pests. The remainder of the product consists of one or more inert ingredients such as water, solvents and emulsifiers.
Q: What is an adjuvant?
A: Emulsifiers, spreaders, water modifiers and other compounds added to improve the effectiveness of a pesticide. Adjuvants are exempt from federal registration, but must be registered as pesticides in California.
Q: What is a restricted use material?
A: Restricted use materials are pesticides deemed to have a higher potential to cause harm to public health, farmworkers, domestic animals, honeybees, the environment or other crops compared with other pesticides. With certain exceptions, restricted materials may be purchased and used only by or under the supervision of a certified commercial or private applicator with a permit issued by the County Agricultural Commissioner.
Q: What is drift?
A: Drift is the movement of a pesticide through the air away from the intended target. This drift can be in the form of mist, particles or vapor (gas). Drift refers to any off-site movement of a pesticide – not just to illegal applications. Off-site movement often depends on factors like weather, the application site or the pesticide used. It can happen when traces of pesticide from one or several legal applications accumulate and remain in the surrounding air. Drift can be noticeable as a cloud of pesticide spray or dust, or can be invisible and odorless. The residues in air are usually, but not always, below the level of health concern.
Q: What is integrated pest management (IPM)?
A: IPM is a strategy that relies on monitoring, ground rotation, modifying irrigation practices, and supporting natural pest enemies and other non-chemical means to help prevent and treat pest problems. IPM focuses on long-term pest prevention and uses pesticides only when other approaches fail.
Q: What is Organic?
A: Organic is a production term – it does not address the quality, safety or nutritional value of a product. Organic farmers can use pesticides derived from natural sources and pesticides that include synthetic substances within the regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program if other strategies and cultural management practices fail to control pests and diseases.