Pesticide Safety

bee on flower; photo by Edwin Remsberg


At the end of this session you will be able to articulate and explain:

  • The different types of pesticides and how they work;

    • Insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, etc.

  • The terms “natural”, “organic”, “biological”, “synthetic” do not imply how safe or toxic a product is.

  • The different pesticide formulations, and which formulations pose the least risk of exposure to the user;

    • Ready to use (RTU) solutions, granules, baits,

    • Emulsifiable concentrates,

    • Wettable powders, aerosols, dusts, etc.

  • How to read, understand and follow a pesticide label;

    • Active ingredient,

    • Level of toxicity (LD50, signal word),

    • Type of PPE to use

    • How to mix and apply

    • Site and pest on which it can be used,

    • Reentry interval / days to harvest,

    • Environmental hazards, emergency procedures, etc.


    • Application is restricted to only crops listed on label

  • How to assess the risks vs. the benefits of pesticide use;

    • Potential risks: non-target species affected, off-site exposure, accumulation in the environment, reduction in natural predators, etc.

    • Potential benefits: better yield, reduced natural toxins in crops, less crop damage, aesthetic, public health improvements, etc.

  • Principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM);

    • Identify the problem – Is the problem caused by a pest?

    • Assess the level of damage

    • Determine if a control is needed (threshold)

    • Apply a control: use least toxic option first, correct timing / susceptible stage of pest, apply only where needed, etc.

    • Monitor and assess the result: keep records of pest damage, controls used and results

  • How to reduce pesticide exposure to the environment;

    • Alternative pest management strategies: cultural controls, mechanical controls, biological controls, tolerance for damage, etc.

    • Spot treatments instead of broadcast treatments

    • Principles of resistance and resistance management

    • Reduce pesticide drift: timing, weather

    • Protect water bodies (25 foot buffer zone required for all broadcast applications)

    • Keep products off impervious surfaces, don’t apply just before rain.

  • How to minimize pesticide exposure to humans;

    • Identify individual sensitivities

    • Selection and use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE)

    • Keep in original containers

    • Follow proper mixing and application procedures

    • Understand dose: exposure & toxicity

  • How to properly store, secure and dispose of pesticides.

    • Keep in a location away from children

    • Purchase the smallest quantity for your needs

    • Understand the storage needs of different formulations of pesticide: (powder, liquid, EC, etc.)

  • Become familiar with Maine Board of Pesticides Control (BPC)

    • Questions

    • Complaints

    • Pesticide Pick-Ups for old, out of date, expired

  • Why Master Gardener Volunteers do not give advice on the use of pesticides


Maine Board of Pesticide Control Pest Management Resources


  • How to read, understand and follow a pesticide label;

  • Acquire and keep dedicated PPE on hand to use when needed.  Know how to launder and re-use, if applicable.

  • How to access credible information on pesticides.