Alternative Pest Control

Invite “Good Bugs” to Your Garden

Spring and summer bring warm sunshine, fields of flowers, vines bursting with tomatoes and, of course, those destructive little pests and bugs! But did you know some are actually "Good Guys" in the garden? For example, ant lions really do feast on ants, and lacewings have a voracious appetite for aphids. Studies have shown that the use of chemical pesticides can actually cause outbreaks of pests by eliminating these natural predators.

Consider alternative pest management practices such as biological controls. Many nurseries sell beneficial insects like ladybugs. Ladybugs, both adults and larvae, are known primarily as predators of aphids. But they also prey on many other pests such as soft-scale insects, mealybugs and spider mites; and they devour the eggs of beetles and borers.

One of the best ways to promote biological control of pests is to encourage beneficial insects by choosing plants that provide them with pollen, nectar and shelter. Fennel, coriander and dill provide the tiny flowers savored by parasitoid wasps. These tiny wasps are aggressive beyond their size when it comes to pursuing aphids and caterpillars. And rather than pulling out all of your "wild weeds" such as dandelions, goldenrod and mustard, leave a few in the back yard. They're all good sources of food for many predatory insects.

Stewards of Our Waterways

By saying "no" to chemicals, you're also protecting our creeks and streams. Unintentional rinsing of chemical pesticides into storm drains pollutes our creeks and streams because stormdrains are direct paths to our waterways.

If your pest problem cannot be controlled biologically, consider using less-toxic pesticides like insecticidal soaps, dusts and horticultural oils. Apply pesticides sparingly, follow label instructions, and apply only to problem areas. Some don’ts to remember:

  • Don't let water run-off your yard right after applying pesticides.
  • Don't apply pesticides if rain is forecast.

Phasing-Out Diazinon

One teaspoon of diazinon makes 2.5 million gallons of water toxic to aquatic organisms like water fleas. Diazinon is one of the most widely used pesticides - 50,000 pounds of diazinon are used every year in the urban areas of Sacramento County. Water sampling reveals that toxic levels of diazinon are almost always present in our creeks and streams.

In December 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an agreement to phase-out diazinon. The phase-out of products for indoor use began in March 2001 with registration cancellation; retail sales stopped December 2002. Manufacturing of diazinon for lawn and garden uses stopped in June 2003, with sales and distribution by retailers ceasing in August 2003.

Proper Pesticide Disposal

Proper disposal of pesticides, such as diazinon, is just as important as proper use. Never dispose of chemical pesticides, or any other toxic waste, by dumping down stormdrains or sinks. Take your unused toxic chemicals to the San Joaquin County Household Hazardous Waste (HWW) Facility for disposal. The HHW disposal facility is located at the Stockton Airport. Free events are scheduled on a regular basis, call 800-449-4840 to find out the next time and location.

Additional Information

Visit these sites for more information on Alternative Pest Management:

  • Our Water Our World (OWOW) Our Water Our World is a joint effort by water pollution prevention agencies, participating retail stores, and pesticide distributors and manufacturers-- working together to reduce the risks associated with pesticide use.
  • OWOW StoreFinder Find stores in your area that carry less toxic solutions for your garden problems.
  • Finding a Company That Can Prevent Pest Problems 
  • "Pest Notes" from the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Project provide in-depth information on insect pests and alternative control measures.
  • The Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC) in Berkeley provides consultation, literature, and periodicals on non-toxic pest control to individuals, businesses, public agencies.