Issue 8, June 18, 2018

Home Pesticide Remedies--Use with Caution

Home horticulture remedies come in all kinds of special recipes passed down from one gardener to the next.  Some of these recipes include coffee grounds to repel ants, mint to keep mice away, dawn dish soap to remove aphids, and even using coyote urine to repel raccoons from a sweet corn patch.  And if you want to know, it can be bought on Amazon! These might be considered snake oil to some and to others a saving grace. I recently read a social media post about an old time remedy for slug control for Hostas. The procedure is to bury a container to the lip, and fill ½ with beer. This is supposed to attract the slugs in and as they fall into the beer, drown. Why must it be beer? Would another liquid work? I do remember my grandpa trying this and as a kid I thought it was pretty skunky beer.

As a lawn care applicator, when a homeowner suggest something like this for you to try in their landscape, there is a moment that we must step back and think. If you want to give it a try, here are your ramifications: as a licensed commercial applicator, you can conduct this home remedy on someone else's lawn, but you are responsible. Let me repeat- you are COMPLETELY responsible. You can be held liable for any/all damages that can occur with using home remedies that are not researched, studied, and registered through the EPA. This includes accidental deaths of other animals, species or any environmental impacts. This is associated with fees or fines as well as other loss damages. Is conducting a home remedy worth the risk or should one just use an EPA registered product that is labelled to control slugs?  

Another home remedy that has been mentioned was actually using a registered pesticide but not for its labeled use. It was using mothballs as a deterrent for rodents and snakes in the landscape. I can honestly say that if you have ever opened a drawer, closet or container that had moth balls in it you would think that the smell would repel almost anything. Mothballs contain high concentrations of naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene as active ingredients. The label use directions read that they are meant to be used in closed, airtight containers so that the fumes they produce are trapped. These fumes build up and kill any clothes moths that might be inside the container. If they are out in the open they can harm people, pets or wildlife that may touch or eat the mothballs or breathe the vapors. If you are asked to apply mothballs to a lawn area or even around a home to ward off vermin, this is not labeled use. If it is not stated on the label, then this is against the law. This means that you are subject to fines and fees. You will also held responsible if there are other things impacted in the yard due to the mothballs.  This doesn't apply to licensed lawn care applicators only, since moth balls are a GUP (general use pesticide) registered EPA pesticide. Anyone that uses this product and doesn't follow the label is in violation of the law and is subject to the same penalties.

Home remedies make for a great story to share and they could work but they are not researched, have not gone through rigorous testing and are not registered by the EPA. As a commercial applicator you are assuming all risk when you choose to use a pesticide inconsistent with the label or choose to use a home remedy with a product that is not labelled for any use as a pesticide, i.e. beer. I can think of a better thing to do with a cold one on a hot day? Can't you?  It is your best interest as a licensed operator/applicator to stick with products that have been registered with the EPA as pesticides and leave the home remedies at home. (Maria Turner)

Maria Turner

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