What are Insecticides and their Types?

Our fully inclusive guide on what insecticides are, and their different types.

People will often underestimate how powerful insecticides actually are. Usually used to either repel or extinguish small pests and insects in the home / garden vicinity, they can’t be all that toxic, right?

Wrong. In fact, insecticides include some of the most dangerous and toxic chemicals in them that are currently used – and bought – in the present world.

The vast majority of these are used indoors, too, with many of them being used not only in the home, but in public places such as hotels, theatres, and restaurants. Many pesticides are also used within agriculture, also, particularly on farms and in gardens.

More often than not, insecticides are used to kill off and keep at bay critters such as cockroaches, flies, mosquitos and similar.

Of course, they’re important to have around! Take mosquitos for example, who can spread fatal diseases such as malaria to humans. If they weren’t kept at bay, this could be dangerous.

Want to learn more about insecticides and their types?

Read on for our fully inclusive guide on what insecticides are, and their different types.

Is there a Difference Between Insecticides and Pesticides?

Now, it’s very easy to get confused between insecticides and pesticides – they do a very similar job after all – but there are some very distinct differences between insecticides and pesticides. So what are they?

Very simply, an insecticide is used solely to kill or repel insects in the vicinity, like we stated above.

Whereas a pesticide is a chemical agent solely used for killing pests on plants, and can include insecticides inside of them.

It’s that easy. There isn’t a lot between them.

How are Insecticides and Pesticides Most Commonly Used?

As we mentioned above, both insecticides and pesticides are used commonly by humans in day to day life as well as being helpful in agriculture.

We’re going to start off by taking at how insecticides and pesticides are used in the typical domestic home.

In the Home

In the home, household insecticides and pesticides are used to repel and kill any insects that are causing a disturbance, or can cause harm to humans and animals in the domestic home. Ultimately, they can help to prevent the spread of diseases, such as malaria from mosquitos, for example.

Next up, we’re taking a look at insecticides and pesticides in agriculture.

In Agriculture

Usually, plant pesticides will be used in crop fields in order to protect plants from pests, rather than trying to repel them directly.

In agriculture, pesticides and insecticides can also control the spread of diseases and bacteria on produce. They can even help to prevent these spreading from city to city – and in some cases even country to country – as pests which spread diseases will harbour on produce when it’s transported.

What are the Main Types of Insecticide?

When it comes to insecticide, there are different types. However, there are four main different kinds of insecticide to be found:

  •         Botanical Insecticide.
  •         Microbial Insecticide.
  •         Manufactured Insecticide.
  •         Inorganic Insecticide.

All of these differ, as they have different chemical make – ups, so will vary in degrees of effectiveness and, of course, in toxicity.

Understanding the different kinds of insecticide is absolutely crucial in knowing which product is right for you to use.

So how can we begin to understand them, and what makes them different?

Read on as we delve deeper into the world of insecticides, and their four different kinds.

The Botanical Insecticide

First things first, we come to the botanical insecticide, which is also often referred to as the organic insecticide.

The reason behind their name, is because they are derived from the extract of plants. However, regardless of this, botanical insecticides can actually be toxic because many of the toxins we know actually occur in the environment naturally.

The down side to using botanical insecticides, is that in comparison to their synthetic, man – made competitors, they don’t always last as long and are more likely to break down. So for longevity, they aren’t as effective as other kinds of insecticide.

Some botanical insecticides contain:

  •         Neem.
  •         Pyrethrum.
  •         Pyrethrin.
  •         Citrus oils.

In the case of Pyrethrum, this is taken from the chrysanthemum flower. The way that this acts, is that it paralyses soft – bodied insects. These include aphids and scales.

A Neem insecticide is taken from the Neem tree. This can be used to control more than two hundred different species of insects, nematodes, and mites. The seeds and leaves taken from the Neem tree make for a great repellent, however, don’t necessarily work as a deterrent for an already there infestation.

It won’t surprise you to hear that Citrus oil comes from citrus peel. This is effectively used as a flea dip, as well as being a good repellent. It is poisonous on contact in the case of aphids and mites.

Finally, Pyrethrin comes from the daisy – yes you heard us right, daisy – family. This has been well known as causing an allergic reaction in not only people, but in pets too. This is what makes it an extremely effective way of controlling many insects.

Microbial Insecticide

Next up, we come to the microbial insecticide.

A microbial insecticide is known as not being toxic to humans, and as being an incredibly effective way of controlling certain kinds of insects such as caterpillars, thrips, and even Colorado potato beetles.

These tend to be used either in the home, or in the garden. They work as they include an agent called Bacillus Thuringiensis, which immediately paralyses any insects that consume it.

Manufactured Insecticide

A manufactured insecticide will include the likes of malathion, carbaryl, and pyrethroids. These are just a few of the different kinds of manufactured insecticides.

Carbaryl which is also referred to as Sevin, can be extremely useful against beetles and caterpillars, and it can remain on the plant for three or four days. Sevin can actually also kill beneficial insects, which isn’t great, meaning it can actually be the cause of many destructive bugs coming into play, including mites and aphids.

Malathion, however, works particularly well on insects that feed by sucking. It will remain on the plant for two or three days.

And now we come to pyrethroids, which are specifically toxic to honey bees, and strangely, fish. However, pyrethroids can also be great for controlling many other kinds of insects for any amount of time up to ten days.

Inorganic Insecticides

Now, we reach the polar opposite to organic insecticides, with inorganic insecticides.

Inorganic insecticides are usually soaps and oils. Soaps which are insecticides tend to be made from fatty acids, and in order to be affective in what they do, they must come into direct contact with the pest at hand. The prime kind of insect that soap insecticides will help to control include leaf hoppers, white flies, scales, aphids, and even mites.

When it comes to inorganic insecticide oils – or horticultural oils – which tend to be based with petroleum. When sprayed on these insects, they will be affected by the oil as it will cause asphyxiation in them, and it does this by blocking the spiracles through which the insects actually breathe.

These particular oils are very useful in the battle against insects such as mites, scales, and aphids. In some cases they can even be successful in fighting against certain kinds of plant diseases, such as powdery mildew, for example.

Is there Any Way of Categorising Insecticides by their Toxicity?

Last of all, but by no means least, many of us are actually fairly reluctant to use insecticides because of their toxicity.

They vary in degrees of toxicity – as you can see from what we’ve discussed above – in their relationship towards humans and pets.

So how can we really tell how toxic the pesticides we are buying are? Is there any scale?

Luckily, there is a scale of colour which indicates the toxicity of insecticides on their packaging.

It goes as following:

  •         A red warning will indicate it being extremely poisonous.
  •         A yellow warning will indicate it being poisonous.
  •         A green warning will indicate it being moderately poisonous.
  •         A blue warning will indicate it being lowly poisonous.

It might not surprise you to hear, that nowadays, many red labelled insecticides are actually banned because of their levels of toxicity.

These are the “man – made” insecticides we were talking about earlier on, whereas botanical insecticides tend to be less poisonous – however still include toxins.

One of the biggest concerns of the non – organic insecticides, are the environmental effects they can have, as they can spread pollution into the air, as well as bodies of water including rivers, and even the sea.

It’s also not a good idea to use them in enclosed spaces, as when breathed in by people and pets, the toxins of these can be unhealthy and effect your respiratory system negatively. We would always advise exercising caution in your use of insecticides, and pesticides.

Thank you for reading!