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What Is the Difference Between Pesticides and Insecticides?

You may think that pesticides and insecticides are the same thing — insects are pests too, right? — but this is not true. In fact, these two chemicals are completely different. 

What is the difference between pesticides and insecticides? Pesticides work on all sorts of pests, from mites and bugs to slugs, fungi, rodents, etc., while insecticides only work on insects. There are many different pesticides (for different pests), and insecticide is just one type of pesticide. 

So, do you want to learn more about different types of pesticides, their use, proper safety recommendations, and much more? Read on. 

Different Types of Pesticides

There are many different kinds of pesticides — just as many as there are pests — and they are usually classified by the pest that they kill. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Insecticides, kill insects
  • Herbicides, kill plants
  • Rodenticides, kill rodents 
  • Bactericides, kill bacteria
  • Fungicides, kill fungi 
  • Larvicides, kill larvae


As mentioned, rodenticides are a type of pesticide that is used to kill rodents. The first thing that springs to mind when you think about rodents is probably mice or rats, but rodenticides are also useful to deter all sorts of animals from that family, like squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, bats and more. 

Rodents often need control since they can destroy crops and objects easily. They might also carry bacteria and disease, and they can be dangerous if they feel threatened. 

However, rodents are also mammals, so rodenticides have a similar effect on every mammal. Even if you don’t want it to, a rodenticide could affect your pets like cats and dogs, other small pet rodents, birds, and even you. Eaten by any mammal, a rodenticide could be dangerous. 

Since they are commonly used with bait, you have to be careful not to let your pets get to it first — bait is usually designed to be attractive to animals, so this could pose a threat to your pet. Children may also be interested in these baits, so you have to make sure it’s not easily accessed. 


Herbicides are used to kill various unwanted plants. If you have a yard, you know that plants can be pests too, especially if you want a perfect, neat lawn. Herbicides can help with that since they kill weeds or stop them from growing, depending on the herbicides. 

You can even get a herbicide that specifically targets the plant you want to get rid of. This is great when you want the rest of your plants to stay unharmed. 

At the same time, there are herbicides that are not specific, and they will kill every plant they come in contact with, which is not always desirable. Perhaps if you’re looking to clear a surface out, but usually not in residential use. 

Herbicides can work either by contact or systemic action. In the former case, you would spray the herbicide on the parts of a plant you want to get rid of, and the rest won’t be affected. So, for instance, only the above-the-ground part of a weed will go away, but the roots will remain. However, these herbicides act quickly. 

Systemic action, on the other hand, means that the herbicide is absorbed by the plant, killing it completely, from leaves to roots. These herbicides need some time to act, but they are effective. You can spray the herbicide on a leaf, and the entire weed will die within a certain amount of time. 

If you have pest plants that are stealing nutritious elements from your beloved plants, then it’s likely the right time to use a herbicide. These chemicals are usually mixed with water and placed in a sprayer. When you get one, you should carefully read the label. Remember that even though they are meant for plants, herbicides can be toxic to people, too, so you should take necessary precautions when using them. 


Another common and big problem in gardens is fungi. They attack plants and prevent their proper growth. This is where fungicides come in handy as a way to control the most common types of fungi, like mildew, rusts, mold, blights, etc. 

Most fungicides have a simple way of working — they attack the cell membranes of fungi and ruin their energy production, which prevents them from spreading. Keep in mind that your plants may not have fungi since this is often misdiagnosed. Find an expert in plants and consult with them. 

To prevent fungi from spreading, you can make sure that you only water near the ground and that you enable enough ventilation in the room. Keep your gardening tools sanitary as well. Remember that fungicides are not that effective if the plant is already affected and has developed symptoms of fungi infection.

Home Use of Pesticides

While pesticides can be effective in protecting your home and garden from unwelcome guests, they can also be harmful to your health and the health of beloved animals in the household. You could inhale them, eat them, or even absorb them through your skin — which is very likely since the skin is generally exposed, especially on the hands.

To prevent any of this from happening, you should wear gloves, long sleeves, or even complete protective gear. After you are ready, you can open the container. Remember to wear protective glasses as well. 

While you mix the pesticides with water, you shouldn’t be smoking. This could cause a bad chemical response, and your hand moving from the pesticide to your mouth can carry traces of the pesticide, thus infecting you. 

You shouldn’t eat either, for similar reasons. This is generally obvious, and it will be printed on the label, but it’s worth mentioning. You should also use only the amount stated on the label because more won’t make any difference, and you could harm yourself and your surroundings with a higher amount than necessary.

The mixing should be done in the fresh air, not inside. You shouldn’t prepare more of the mixture since storing will deteriorate its effectiveness. Naturally, keep children and pets away from the mixture, as well as their belongings. Wash any body part infected by the pesticide and throw away clothes that have been drenched with it. 

Store the remaining pesticide somewhere safe and not easily accessed. If you spill pesticide, you shouldn’t rinse it away, but rather put some sawdust on the spill, or any absorbent material and then sweep it into a bag.

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If you want to use the pesticide inside the house, make sure that you get one labeled for home use. Keep the room ventilated and leave the room after you apply it. The label will say for how long you should stay away. Use the pesticide only where absolutely necessary. 

Remove any food from the room, clean any things that the pesticide might have touched, or cover them beforehand. 

In general, it’s best to read the label and apply the recommended rules to a tee. 

After you apply a pesticide, you should wash all the tools you have used, clothes that you wore, and any areas where the pesticide was. 

What Is The Difference Between Organic and Synthetic Rodenticides

There are both natural and synthetic pesticides. 

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Animals and plants often have natural defense mechanisms against their predators, and these compounds are often used as natural pesticides. For instance, the poison from poison frogs can be used for this purpose. 

Synthetic ones are created in laboratories to target different pests. They are far more powerful, but extremely dangerous not just to pests, but humans and the natural world as well. 

Both of these are effective and safe when used properly. But no matter which pesticide you choose, you should know that too much of anything is really bad for the ecosystem. Even the natural pesticide can be damaging if higher amounts of it get into the water and ruin the reproduction of fish. So, be careful and use only as much as you need and as prescribed on the label. 

Final Thoughts

While insecticides and pesticides are not the same, insecticides are a type of pesticide. However, the precaution when using any type of pesticide, should be the same. They are meant for pests, but can easily harm humans and other creatures. Make sure that you follow instructions properly and good luck getting rid of those pests! 

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