Updated: Apr 9, 2021
Many people like the idea of things being “natural” or “organic” and this also applies to pest control products and services. Much of this desire is based on the belief that natural or organic products are better for you or “safer”. Let’s have a look at whether this is indeed the case for pest control products and services…
Natural pest control does not mean safe pest control.
Some of the most toxic chemicals on earth are natural. It is very important not to assume natural = safe. For example, boric acid is natural and is often used by those interested in DIY Pest Control to make their own ant and cockroach baits. However, it can cause irritation and nausea if ingested, and there is evidence that it can impact female and male reproductive organs, reducing fertility.
Regulation of natural pest control products
Perhaps the biggest concern with natural pest control products is that they are often exempt from the government pest control product registration process. Depending on the formulation (products containing essential oils are often exempt from registration), the natural products you see on the shelf may not have been assessed by the government to ensure they are safe and they work as claimed. (This is a bit of a flaw in the registration process and should be fixed).
By contrast, products containing synthetic insecticides undergo extensive testing and independent assessment before being registered and available for sale.
Be careful with companies claiming natural, organic or safe.
There are quite strict laws in place regarding making claims about products or services being natural, organic or safe. Regarding natural or organic claims, any company making such claims need to be quite specific about what they mean. When it comes to making “safe” claims, it is important to remember that all insecticide products are “safe” if applied in accordance with the label.
Natural insecticides worth considering…
Many natural remedies/products do not work very well, or at all! If they did work, the “big companies” would be onto it. However, one natural insecticide that works is pyrethrum, which is extracted from the chrysanthemum flower. Pyrethrum is very useful as a “knockdown” agent but is very short-lived. This is a disadvantage if you want long-lasting protection, but can be very useful in food establishments where you may not want insecticide residues.
In fact, many of the modern synthetic insecticides used in pest control were developed based on the chemical structure of pyrethrum. The chemical manufacturers modified the structure to make insecticides that are faster and longer-lasting. These are called pyrethroid insecticides.
Essential oils are often promoted as having insecticidal or repellent properties. Citronella and tea tree being two of the more commonly used essential oils. It is certainly true to say they do have some insecticidal/repellent properties. However, the reality is that they are not as good as the synthetic alternatives. For example, citronella may repel up to 80% of mosquitoes. But when you want to avoid getting bitten by disease-carrying mosquitoes, 80% protection isn’t really good enough… you really want to be nearer the 100% protection provided by the leading synthetic products.
Are synthetic insecticides safe?
Insecticides are often considered “unsafe” – the argument goes that as they are designed to kill insects they must also be toxic to people and pets. (For some reason, the same argument doesn’t apply to natural insecticides?!). However, although there certainly used to be some “nasty” insecticides on the market many years ago, modern insecticides are specifically designed to target insects and have good safety profiles against mammals (people and pets).
The bottom line is that if insecticides are applied according to the label and protective clothes are worn during the application, there are minimal safety concerns. However, it is important to ensure any treatment has dried before people and pets return to the area – once dry there are minimal risks if a person or pet touches the treatment.
However, if you have any insecticides at home it is important to have them stored in a locked cabinet out of the reach of children and pets, so to avoid accidental ingestion. To be fair, this applies to a lot of household products. The reality is that there are likely to be products far more dangerous than insecticides under your sink – cleaners and dishwasher powder for example.
Smart pest control is using less insecticide
At SpidermanSE, safety is our number one priority, so we always choose the best products with the best safety profiles. Using less insecticide is smart from a safety and environmental point of view. As such, we always take an “Integrated Pest Management” approach to pest control treatments. This involves making recommendations about site hygiene and preventative measures, to reduce the pest pressure thus minimising insecticide use.
To summarise SpidermanSE is certainly not against “natural” pest products – we sell an automated aerosol spray based on natural pyrethrum to our customers – it’s just that the best performing products for professional pest services are not natural based products.
We’re here to protect your family and pets from pests and the diseases they carry, and we’ll always choose the best and most appropriate treatment to keep you safe.