Save the Bees, No Pesticides Please
A review of pesticide products for Spring 2023
Spring is here in Sonoma County and the garden sections of our local stores are full of products to help us spruce up our yards. It's important to pay attention when purchasing insect control, weed control, and turf/grass products as dangerous synthetic pesticides are often hidden in these products.
Many stores no longer carry RoundUp or glyphosate. That's good, but you can still purchase very toxic pesticides. We have seen a lot of new pesticides coming onto the market to replace glyphosate. These new pesticides are less studied and often more dangerous.
We went to a favorite warehouse chain store store this week to show you what's on the shelves now. Learn about what's safe and and what to avoid to protect the health of your family, the environment, and the bees!
Pesticide Product Reviews
Rose and Flower Care - AVOID
Most rose care products contain synthetic insecticides that are extremely dangerous to bees, butterflies, fish, and birds. It seems cruel that a product marketed to use on flowering plants would be so deadly to pollinators. This product contains Acephate, a new but very dangerous insecticide that is showing up as a "safer" alternative to neonicotinoids. This pesticide, however, is just as toxic to bees and human health.
A great alternative to this product would be our natural DIY insecticide recipe that combines orange oil cleaner and water.
Weed and Feed Products - AVOID
All weed and feed products contain dangerous synthetic weedkillers. Period. This one contains the infamous 2,4-D, the "most dangerous pesticide you've never heard of". It is a chemical clearly linked with increased incidence of cancer for children, adults, and pets, yet it's commonly put on residential and municipal lawns. According to the manufacturer's safety date sheet, 2,4-D does harm to "adrenal, bone marrow, eye, kidney, liver, spleen, testes, and thyroid".
2,4-D is called a "selective" herbicide which means that it kills everything but grass. There are no organic selective herbicides. Be careful about purchasing any products that claim to kill weeds on lawns.
GroundClear Weed & Grass Killer - OMRI Certified for Organic Gardening
This product is certified organic by OMRI (Organic Materials Research Institute). If you are going to purchase a weedkiller, make sure that it is OMRI or WSDA (Washington State Department of Agriculture) certified. Products without these certifications may contain dangerous, non-listed chemicals like heavy metals or arsenic. You'll need to be careful with this product as it could burn your skin or eyes but it is listed as having only minor toxic effects on humans and the environment.
Instead of this product, you could also make your own DIY herbicide blend using our recipe or cover your weeds with cardboard and a layer of wood chips.
Lawn Weed Killers - AVOID
This herbicide product is made to put on lawns. It won't kill the grass but it will kill everything else. In industry this is known as a "selective" herbicide. There are no safe or organic selective herbicides so this product is one to avoid. In addition, this product contains three (3!!) different dangerous herbicides: 2,4-D, Dicamba, and Quinclorac. Companies know that when herbicides are mixed together the toxicity is more than the sum of the parts. More toxicity to weeds also means more toxicity to humans. In addition to 2,4-D, which was discussed in a previous product, this one contains Dicamba, which is notorious for drifting long distances after it is sprayed. It also damages DNA and is linked to liver and bile duct cancer.
It's worth noting here that the same company is offering both an OMRI/organic herbicide AND the most toxic synthetic herbicide mixture in the store. The labeling and marketing of the products is similar and likely intentionally misleading.
DeadWeed Brew, Not Certified Organic - AVOID
This product says it's "for organic gardening" but it is not certified OMRI or WSDA. It could contain dangerous hidden ingredients that don't necessarily need to be reported. It could be safe, but there's no way of knowing. Best to avoid.
Sluggo Plus - Avoid
The original Sluggo was a safe product. It only contains Iron Phosphate, which impacts slugs and snails but is safe to other invertebrates and insects. In addition to Iron Phosphate Sluggo Plus also has a dangerous but organic insecticide called spinosad. It's good to note that all insecticides, whether certified organic or not are dangerous to bees and butterflies! It's not entirely clear why gardeners would need to kill earwigs and rolly polly bugs, especially at the expense of bees. Yes, it's OMRI certified but it's still a product to AVOID.
Weed Preventers - AVOID
This product says it "prevents" weeds which means it stops seeds from sprouting (a "pre-emergent" herbicide). There are no safe or organic pre-emergent pesticides. This product contains a dangerous older synthetic herbicide called Trifluralin and is classified as a possible human carcinogen.
Instead of using a pre-emergent herbicide cover the ground with cardboard and a layer of wood chips to stop seeds from sprouting.
Home Insect Killers - AVOID
This is the most dangerous product we found at the store. It's an insect killer that is marketed for use around your home to kill bugs like cockroaches and spiders. It contains two dangerous synthetic insecticides Bifenthrin and Cypermethrin, both considered to be cancer causing and extremely dangerous to bees. They are extremely harmful to fish and will easily make it to nearby waterways. They act on and damage the nervous system. The manufacturer's safety data sheets on these chemicals read like a horror story.
We hope you find these product reviews useful. Send us a message if you'd like us to look over the products you're finding in your local stores this season. You can also check out our recipes for safe DIY pesticides and Non Toxic Neighborhoods list of preferred products. Happy gardening!