Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

What is a pesticide?

Kentucky has the dubious misfortune of being the worst state in the country in terms of illegal use of pesticides to kill wildlife. During the past decade we have had successful prosecutions for the illegal use of  Furadan to kill coyotes and birds of prey and the use of endrin to kill birds on perches. Unfortunately these are only the high profile type cases that the EPA and USFWS deal with and people in Kentucky continue to illegally use pesticides, probably daily or weekly, around the home and garden.  Why?  I suspect some of it has to do with ignorance concerning what is a pesticide and how it can be legally used.   A pesticide is any substance, either a commercial product or a home remedy, that's meant to prevent, destroy, or repel pests, or reduce their damage. The use of pesticides falls under the federal jurisdiction of FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act).  In the case of wildlife or vertebrate animals, there are also ramifications for illegal use under state and local animal cruelty laws and if a migratory bird is killed, the USFWS becomes involved.  I think another reason is that many "home remedies" are promoted by various sources and these become like "Gospel" in terms of their purported effectiveness, even though we all know humans have a tendency to embellish certain information.  How do you know if you can use a particular substance to repel or kill wildlife?  It is very simple. Read the label.  The label is the law and if the intended use is not listed on the label, then it is illegal to use.  I will clarify this with several examples the first being the use of mothballs to repel bats, snakes, and other animals from attics or structures.  Mothballs or napthalene does have a label for use as a pesticide, but the label is for moths in confined spaces, like a chest.  It is not labeled for use, in most cases, as a repellent and it is therefore illegal to use it in this manner.  Furthermore, this chemical is a known carcinogen, or a substance that is known to cause cancer.  Let's examine another use of a chemical, regular old household ammonia, to evict squirrels or raccoons or other critters from a chimney.  Household ammonia is not labeled for this use and is therefore illegal to use.  Breathing the fumes of this corrosive substance, from the vapors, can have human health effects.  Finally, let's look at vinegar to kill plants (used as a herbicide).  Yes, vinegar at higher concentrations of 20-25% can kill plants but it does not have a label for this use and the normal white distilled vinegar purchased at the store is about 6% acetic acid but pickling vinegar is about 18% acetic acid.  Since it is an acid, this chemical can cause chemical burns to the skin and particularly the eyes and if breathed, can irritate the lining of the nose, throat, etc.  The point of this discussion is that if a chemical has not gone through the regulatory process, vital information is lacking about its safety, how to use it safely, what concentration should be used (big difference between a 0.5% solution and a 5.0% solution), and you can't know or trust every single manufacturer to be honest or competent to knowingly or unknowingly add something that could be harmful to humans or the environment into the product.  Finally, just because something is sold over the counter or through the internet, does not necessarily mean it is legal to use in Kentucky.  For example, one garden store in Kentucky was selling a gopher bait with an active ingredient of strychnine,  a highly toxic substance, that is illegal to use in Kentucky because we do not have any gophers in the state and this chemical has been banned from being sold for a variety of reasons.  So the short, to the point purpose of this article is to inform you, always follow the label, it is the law and if a product, even a home remedy is not labeled for use as a wildlife pesticide, then do not use it.

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