Today there is an environmental awareness that did not exist even a decade ago. After the problems with DDT, the public is understandably wary of the indiscriminate use of chemicals. Several of the chemicals widely used today in pest control, such as organophosphates, are thought to have the potential to cause serious environmental damage.
One of these, chlorpyrifos, has reportedly posed a severe risk to 97% of America’s most threatened flora and fauna. Yet this chemical is routinely used to eradicate termites and mosquitoes.
In March 2015, the World Health Organization reported of five insecticides that are probably linked to cancer in humans. With increasing evidence that these chemicals may damage the environment and adversely affect people’s health, it is little wonder that organic alternatives for pest control are growing in popularity.
The various terms used by different companies involved in organic pest control do not always mean the same thing and can be confusing.
Genuine organic pesticides are controlled by the EPA’s National Organic Program. They are made of natural substances that kill pests and remain virtually unchanged when used. However, the term ‘organic pesticides’ can also refer to any naturally occurring substance such as certain oils, spices, vegetables and similar items. The latter tend to be preventative rather than being able to eradicate problems.
Adding to the confusion are products that contain pyrethrum. This is derived from the dried flower heads of members of the daisy family, such as Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium. Although the manufacturing process means the final result is synthetic, it is commonly sold both as natural and organic. The name of the natural plant extract and the synthetic products are often used interchangeably.
‘Natural pest control’ typically refers to using other organisms, such as ladybirds and nematodes, to kill pests. These are popularly employed in gardens and horticulture.
The phrase ‘Eco-friendly pest control’ is sometimes used indiscriminately for anything that allegedly does not harm the environment. It can refer to true organic items or to synthetic chemicals with a supposedly low impact on the surrounding ecology.
These and similar terms occur in advertising and it is the responsibility of the homeowner to check the true nature of the product. For this article, the term ‘organic pest control’ is used throughout.