Mosquito Control Using Conventional Insecticides vs. Botanical Insecticides: The Pros & Cons

There are several options when choosing which insecticides to include in your toolbox for an effective mosquito control program. Whether you decide to use conventional, synthetic insecticides or natural botanical insecticides, both have respective pros and cons. A PMP’s decision typically comes down to several key factors including training, application equipment, frequency of service, environmental conditions and ultimately, and arguably, the most important factor – what their customers want them to use around their homes. Let’s take a look at the key attributes of conventional synthetic insecticides versus botanical insecticides and how they compare.

Effectiveness

Most PMPs would argue that effectiveness is the leading attribute for comparison purposes. It is also probably the most challenging given how different botanical insecticides work vs. synthetic pyrethroid insecticides. It is best to break down effectiveness to two key components, speed of kill and residual control.

Speed of Kill: Most synthetic pyrethroids kill mosquitoes fairly quickly but typically not as fast as botanical insecticides. That is because certain botanical oil components when properly combined and formulated have modes of action that are extremely fast, often faster-acting than synthetic pyrethroids. Both of these options kill adult mosquitoes on contact.

Advantage: Botanical Insecticide

Residual Control: When providing mosquito control on a regular service schedule, residual control is important. How long will the insecticide used persist after each application? This is especially difficult to answer when it comes to mosquitoes since there are several variables that come into play. Such as the mosquito species and the environmental conditions (i.e. moisture, vegetation, etc.) in and around the treatment area. Not to mention that adult mosquitoes are constantly being introduced from outside the treatment area. In general, synthetic pyrethroid insecticides provide longer residual protection since they are synthetically derived to persist longer, especially when microencapsulated formulas are used. But the residual activity of both the synthetic pyrethroid and botanical products come primarily from their repellency, rather than kill, and each option actually provides a different type of repellency.

Botanical insecticides provide what is called “true” repellency. Many botanical components in these products act in the vapor phase. Mosquitoes that come in the vicinity of the application will be repelled by the vapors. In contrast, synthetic pyrethroids are called excito-repellents. The mosquitoes have to touch them and then the irritating effect can cause them to behave erratically and potentially repel them. The residual mosquito control achieved by a specific insecticide application is dependent on two important factors: the thoroughness of the initial application to contact and kill as many adult mosquitoes as possible and the length of time the repellency of the insecticide remains effective following the application.

While the active ingredients in both types of products break down when exposed to ULV, heat and water, the plant oils in botanical products tend to volatilize a little faster. Botanical products classified as minimum-risk cannot be formulated with microencapsulation technology that can extend the residual effectiveness of an insecticide.

Advantage: Synthetic Insecticides

Safety

Botanical insecticides utilize active ingredients that are naturally derived, not synthetically made. Many are classified by the US EPA as minimum-risk and are exempt from federal EPA registration. To qualify as a FIFRA 25(b) minimum-risk insecticide, the active and inert ingredients must be food grade on the approved active and inert ingredients lists provided by the EPA. Botanical insecticides do not persist or bio-accumulate in the environment and are ideal for use in green service programs.

Advantage: Botanical Insecticides

Application Equipment Options

Both synthetic and botanical products are formulated to be used in the same type of commonly used application equipment for mosquito control including compressed air sprayers, mist blowers and foggers. Both are available in easy-to-use, easy-to-mix concentrates.

Advantage: Draw

Label Application Restrictions

Unlike synthetic pyrethroid products, botanical products, excluding pyrethrin-based products, have no water set-back restrictions and can be fogged over water and other environmentally sensitive areas where mosquitoes reside. And because botanical insecticides do not accumulate in ground water, they do not have label restrictions related to impervious surfaces. Finally, botanical insecticides do not have pyrethroid or neonicotinoid use restrictions.

Advantage: Botanical Insecticides

Risk to Pollinators

A major concern when doing a mosquito control service is the potential impact the product could have on pollinators. Since botanical insecticides do not bio-accumulate in plants and the environment, their risk to pollinators, outside of direct application to insects, is minimal. Also, the vapor-phase will tend to repel pollinators from visiting the treated plants while the treatment is active.

Advantage: Botanical Insecticides

 

Meet the Author:


David Newfang, ACE
Western Region Technical Representative, Rockwell Labs Ltd

David Newfang has over 13 years of field experience in the PMP industry, which includes experience as a pest control field rep for different California pest control companies, as well as a termite inspector, quality assurance specialist, and most recently, a branch manager for Dewey Pest Control in Pasadena, CA

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