In the US, 78 million households use pesticides (EPA, 2011) in and around homes targeting pests ranging from bed bugs and mice to aphids and weeds. These pesticides can be extremely effective at reducing pests which cause health issues, economic losses, and compete with turf and ornamental plants. However, if used improperly, pesticides can be detrimental to human health and the environment, as well as increase homeowner costs. Understanding proper selection and application of pesticides will help homeowners use pesticides in a manner to keep themselves, their families and the environment safe while effectively managing pests in their homes and gardens.
The MSU Pesticide Education Program (PEP) can help determine the best way to manage your home and garden pest problems. PEP can answer questions and direct you to appropriate resources and professionals regarding pest identification, selecting proper pesticides, reading the label, proper safety precautions, and diagnosing pesticide poisoning. The MSU PEP can also assist homeowners in identifying pesticide injury from drift or the introduction of contaminated soil amendments.
MSU Schutter laboratory received over 112 garden samples in 2009 and 2010 with symptoms consistent with pesticide contamination including cupping of leaves, stunting of plants, and twisting of growing tips. Pesticide contamination often comes from soil amendments containing residual pesticides including compost, manure, and grass clippings. Home yards and gardens may also be contaminated from pesticide drift originating from applications outside your property causing non-target symptoms on desirable plants and trees. Any pesticide may drift if misused, thus causing non-target toxicity. Follow the link above for more information on what to do if you suspect you have pesticide contamination in your yard.
The MSU Extension Master Gardener Program educates homeowners on home horticultural issues. MSU Extension staff, specialists and gardening professionals teach a series of classes to train home gardeners research-based horticulture practices. In addition, the Master Gardener Program can answer home horticultural questions and connect homeowners to relevant resources.
The MSU Extension Schutter Diagnostics Laboratory is a diagnostic lab for identification of plants, plant disease and insects. Additionally, the Schutter Diagnostic Lab provides management advice and education for the public. Homeowners may contact the lab and bring in samples for identification. Please see the Schutter Diagnostic Lab homepage for more infromation regarding sample submittal.
The University of California Integrated Pest Management Program has a detailed article outlining pesticide use for homeowners including safety precautions, pesticide selection and application, as well as ways to reduce environmental impact. Becoming familiar with the information in this article prior to buying and applying pesticides is a good starting point for pest management around the home.