A pesticide is a substance or a mixture intended to destroy, repel or prevent a living organism that is considered to be a pest. A herbicide is a substance or mixture used to destroy or inhibit the growth of plants. According to the EPA, a herbicide is considered to be a pesticide since it rids the area of unwanted plants, such as weeds.
Pesticides are important because they are an effective method of preventing pests from invading a home or destroying plant life. Herbicides, also known as weed killer, are important when maintaining the landscape because they prevent unwanted grass and other weeds from invading areas that are intended for other vegetation.
There are numerous types of pesticides that specifically target certain pests. Insecticides control insects, acaricides control mites, ticks and spiders, and fungicides control fungi. Along with the other pest control agents, a herbicide is a type of pesticide that targets the control of plants.
Some pesticides function as contact poisons, which kill pests on contact. Stomach poisons kill when they are swallowed by the pest. Fumigants kill pests when they are inhaled or absorbed. Selective pesticides are targeted to kill a certain type of plant or animal.
There is no such thing as a non-toxic pesticide or herbicide. By definition, each is intended to control or eliminate a living organism. However, some pesticides and herbicides are less toxic than others. If the product label reads CAUTION, the product is less toxic and should only be kept out of the reach of children and animals. If the label reads WARNING or DANGER, the product is very toxic, possibly lethal, and should be stored in a locked cabinet.
It is a misconception to believe that common household pesticides and herbicides are not as risky to use as commercial ones. Carbaryl and chlorthaldimethyl are both commonly used in household lawn care. Both are classified as potential carcinogens.