spraying plant in the garden


Pesticide Use Reduction

Reducing our use of pesticides makes sense! Pesticides are designed to kill or adversely affect living organisms. Children are especially vulnerable because of their smaller bodies and developing organs. In addition to harmful effects on humans, pesticides can wreak havoc on wildlife or pets, even when they are correctly applied.

Pest problems get solved when the cause of the problem is identified and dealt with.

Despite this common sense appeal for pesticide use reduction:

  • About 90% of home owners in the United States use approximately 136 million pounds of pesticides a year. This is about 3 times more per acre than the average farmer applies!
  • Twenty-four out of the 25 most common pests are only problems because their natural predators have been killed by pesticides.
  • Of the 48 most commonly used pesticides in schools and homes 21 are possible human carcinogens, 27 cause reproductive effects, 31 affect the nervous system, 31 cause liver or kidney damage, 41 are sensitizers or irritants, and 17 cause birth defects.

Guides to Safer Products & Practices

“The old ‘spray and pray’ approach is simply outdated,” says Frank Meek, Technical Director of Orkin.

The best long-term solution for pest problems is to use multiple, environmentally sound control techniques that work together to discourage pests from returning. This technique is call Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Attracting birds to eat unwanted insects in just one example of techniques you can use. More examples are described below.

Integrated Pest Management Controls

Cultural controls eliminate conditions favorable to pests. Tactics include:

  • Improving and amending the soil
  • Choosing hardy, native plants for landscaping
  • Mowing regularly
  • Maintaining clean sites and good water management

Mechanical controls eliminate pests by physically removing them. Examples include hand-picking or rinsing (with water) insects off garden plants, or using an old-fashioned mousetrap in your home.

Biological controls use other organisms to eliminate problem pests. Applying ladybugs to plants infested with aphids is a biological control.

Chemical controls include pesticides. Pesticides are potentially hazardous and should be used with extreme care.

Read the Label FIRST

If you have to use chemicals, always read the label before you buy to select the appropriate product for the job. “CAUTION,” “WARNING,” and “DANGER” on product labels indicate you are dealing with a hazardous material.

Try the least toxic solution first using some of the alternatives listed below, and find more alternatives from the resources below. Use only the recommended amount, and wear the proper protective equipment (gloves, glasses, long pants, long-sleeved shirt, mask, etc.).

Pesticide Alternatives

Aphids Leafminers Caterpillars Sawflies ThripsHose down plants or use insecticidal soap, summer oils, or use yellow sticky traps. Order lacewings and ladybugs for aphids.
Mosquitoes Flies Ants Ticks Silverfish Slugs WaspsUse pyrethrins for flying insects and ground level plates of beer for slugs for snails.
Aphids Bagworms Carpenter ants Lacebugs Scale Whiteflies Grubs TermitesUse parasitic nematodes for grubs, beetles, and grasshoppers; boric acid for ants; bifenazate (Floramite) for spider mites; and bait stations with diflubenzuron (Siren Termite Bait) for termites.
Aphids Whiteflies MealybugsUse insecticidal soap for aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs.
Aphids Soft-bodied insectsPyrethrins, horticultural oil, or insecticidal soap.


Herbicides (such as 2,4-D and glyphosate) kill many broadleaf plants; however contested studies have linked 2,4-D to cancer. It is moderately toxic to birds and highly toxic to fish. Glyphosate causes cell death in virtually any plant.


Use better mowing techniques, mulch, and care for the soil, hand weeding when necessary.

A healthy lawn is less likely to have weeds. Use grasses developed for your area, hand weed, dethatch and aerate. Add native plants and mulch beds to reduce the size of your lawn.

Dispose of Waste Properly

Boulder County runs a FREE household hazardous waste collection facility, facility located at 1901 63rd Street, Boulder – immediately west of the Recycling Center.

Contact Us

Air Quality Program

Main: 303-441-1564
Submit a question


3450 Broadway
Map and Directions
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Boulder County Public Health logo