Here is Lesson No.11 in our "Learn about Lawns" Series.
Sometimes, even with good lawn care practices, weather conditions or other factors can cause pest problems to develop. Pesticides can help control many lawn pests. But pesticides have risks as well as benefits, and it's important to use them properly.
The chemicals we call pesticides include insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides. These products are designed to kill or control pest insects, weeds, and fungal diseases. Pesticides can be very effective. But don't be tempted to rely solely on pesticides as a quick-fix solution to any lawn problem. Serious, ongoing pest problems are often a sign that your lawn is not getting everything it needs. In other words, the pests may be a symptom of an underlying problem. You need to correct the underlying problem to reduce the chance that the pest will reappear.
All pesticides are toxic to some degree. This means they can pose some risk to you, to your children and pets, and to any wildlife that venture onto your lawn, especially if these chemicals are overused or carelessly applied. Pesticides can also kill earthworms and other beneficial organisms, disrupting the ecological balance of your lawn.
Use pesticides to minimize pests, not eradicate them. Eradication is often impossible and unnecessary.
Be sure you have accurately identified the pest so you can choose the best pesticide for the job and use it most effectively. Obtain professional advice from your county extension agent or a local expert.
Spot treat whenever possible. In most cases, it isn't necessary to treat the whole lawn with pesticides if the problem is confined to certain areas. Spraying more than necessary is wasteful and can be environmentally damaging.
Store pesticides out of children's reach in a locked cabinet or garden shed.
When Spraying, protect your skin, your eyes and your lungs. Wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants, eye protection and a respirator.
Wash this clothing separately before using it again.
Read the entire label and follow its instructions as well as any local and state regulations.
Keep children and pets away from pesticides, and make sure no one goes on a treated lawn for at least the time prescribed by the pesticide label.
If you have questions about a pesticide, call EPA's tollfree National Pesticide Telecommunications Network (1-800-858-7378). For general information on minimizing pesticide risks, call or write EPA for a free copy of the Citizen's Guide to Pesticides. The number to call is 703-305-5017; the address is: EPA, Office of Pesticide Programs, Field Operations Division,H7506C, 401M Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20460.