It’s one of the few constants in an ever-changing universe. Week after sweltering hot week during the growing season, farmers are in their fields scouting for signs of insect damage to determine what pesticides will be needed to keep troublesome pests at bay.Until recently, homeowners never had to bother with scouting, thanks to the hefty arsenal of broad-spectrum pesticides available to them, designed to take out a wide range of pests.Unfortunately for them, many of these broad-spectrum products will soon be a thing of the past. The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, which imposes a strict ban on any pesticide product that may threaten human health, especially that of infants and children, has led to the phasing out of several key broad-spectrum products, most notably Dursban and Diazinon.Experts say this is only the tip of the iceberg. “What we’ve seen is the removal of many of these old chemicals that have been around for years and have been used effectively,” said Dr. Wheeler Foshee, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System pesticide specialist. “What we will end up with is a range of chemicals that are safer for humans and the environment but that do not offer the shot-gun approach that broad-spectrum chemicals provided.””Simply put, the old days of spraying a broad-spectrum pesticide that was cheap and could clean up everything are pretty much gone,” he added.As a result, consumers, much like farmers, will have to become scouts. They will have to learn how to identify the types of pests on their landscapes and ornamental plants before they can determine what chemicals are best suited to their situation.Actually, it gets even more complicated than that, Foshee said, because in addition to identifying the types of pests, homeowners will also have to learn something about their life cycles. “As we say in the business, they’re going to have to go out and poke around and see what’s going on in their yard,” Foshee said. “In the future, the pesticides available to homeowners are going to have a much more narrow range. This will require homeowners to properly identify the pest and, in some cases, its state of development to determine when these new insecticides should be applied.”Foshee said being able to identify pests is important because most insects are actually beneficial.”When you look at the entire insect population, less than 1 percent of insects–actually far less than one percent–is comprised of actual pests,” he said. “Lots of times, homeowners see these insects crawling around, and they want to spray it, even though they are benign or even beneficial in the sense that they’re preying on the pests that are actually causing the damage. That is why proper identification is so critical to good pest management.”While all of this may sound complicated, there’s a wide array of resources available to help homeowners learn about these new pesticides. The best resource by far, Foshee said, is the local Extension agent.The Internet is another valuable resource, although Foshee warns some websites may abound in false claims. The best sources of accurate, unbiased information tend to be land-grant university websites, which specialize in turf- and ornamental-related pesticide research.Granted, many homeowners will never take the time to acquire this level of expertise and will end up paying professionals to do the job for them. While conceding there is no harm in this approach, Foshee says homeowners should be careful to deal only with licensed, certified companies.
Pesticide Ban Keeps Homeowners Busier Than Ever