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Best Management Practices for Handling Pesticides in the Home Landscape

A pesticide is any substance intended for preventing, destroying or repelling any pests, such as insects, rodents, diseases or weeds. Their active ingredients vary, but they all contain one or more chemicals that control the pest.

Some pesticides are referred to by their chemical names, while others are called by their more familiar brand names. One of the most important things you can do before using a pesticide is to read the label. The label contains useful information that tells you the active ingredient any the amount of it contained in that pesticide. It also tells you how to properly apply the pesticide and how to protect yourself, others, and the environment in the process. Japanese beetle

Follow these guidelines for successful handling of pesticides:


  • Know what problem needs to be controlled and its best possible solution before purchasing a pesticide.

  • Know what active ingredient is effective for controlling the pest.

  • Be sure you don't already have the product on hand before purchasing a pesticide.

  • To prevent problems of storage and disposal, purchase only what you will need to do the job. Don't purchase a large container just to be economical.

  • Read the label paying close attention to

    • The active ingredient.

    • Proper mixing and application.

    • Protective measures (clothing: long pants, long sleeves, gloves, goggles, etc.) to keep pesticides from entering your body through your eyes, mouth, skin or lungs.

    • The proper number of days to wait before harvesting produce. This is the time that must pass before it is safe to consume the crop treated with the pesticide. On the label it is called "days to harvest" or "harvest interval."

    • Signal words
      CAUTION slightly toxic
      WARNING moderately toxic
      DANGER highly toxic

    • First aid measures to be taken in case of an accident.

    • Code numbers (four numbers usually printed close to the manufacturer's name and address) in case you need to identify the product.

    • Proper storage and disposal.

  • Know that you, as the pesticide user, are legally responsible for following all the directions on the label.

  • Use only the recommended amount. "If a little is good, more is better," is not true!!

  • When necessary, calibrate the application equipment to ensure proper application rate. You can get more information on calibration from your local Cooperative Extension Service Office.

  • Be careful that the pesticide goes only where it is needed.

Do not spray pesticides on sidewalks, streets or driveways. Runoff can contaminate surface water.

Do not spray overhead unless properly protected. Drift and skin contact can be hazardous.

Do not spray a pesticide before it rains. The chemical could be washed off and into surface water. One exception is to spray a fungicide before it rains as long as it has time to dry on the plant.

Do not dump excess pesticide in one location. Concentration from dumping in one location can contaminate ground water.

Do not dump excess pesticide down a drain. This will contaminate surface water at the water treatment plant. If you have excess pesticide left over after treatment, you can reapply most pesticides to the target crop plant to dispose of it. However, this is not true of pre-emergence herbicides.

Once you have finished using the pesticide, you need to properly store and dispose of any leftover chemicals.

purple violet

  • Write the purchase date on the label and cover the label with clear tape to protect from water or sunlight.

  • Always store pesticides in their original containers, out of reach of children and in a locked cabinet.

  • Store them in a place that remains cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Storage in extremely hot places could cause an explosion. Allowing a pesticide to freeze could render the chemical ineffective, particularly liquid formulations.

  • Powder formulations should be kept dry to prevent chemical reactions that alter the active ingredients.

  • Dispose of unused pesticides properly, according to the label and local landfill specifications. Consult your county Cooperative Extension Service for more information.

  • Dispose of empty containers first by triple rinsing, pouring the rinse water back in the applicator for use. Then wrap the container securely in newspaper before placing in the refuse can.

  • Do not save excess diluted pesticide in spray container until next application period in order to prevent pesticide breakdown and inactivity, and sprayer clogging.

  • Clean sprayer out after application.

How You Can Help Reduce the Use of Pesticides

The concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) originated in the 1960s. The focus of IPM is to use a variety of ways to manage pests, and not always with chemicals. This may include using horticulture practices that discourage pests and encourage beneficial predators and parasites. IPM also stresses correct identification of pests, which helps users determine the best timing of pesticide applications based on the pest's life cycle. The use of chemicals can also be reduced through the IPM tactic of determining how much pest damage a plant can handle before control is necessary.


Developed by Mary Ann Madauss, Master Gardener and Annette Meyer, Daviess County Extension Agent for Horticulture

Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people
regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.


Scoutcat logo courtesy of C. Ware, copyright 2000

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