Published on 06/22/21

Stop, read, apply: pesticide safety for homeowners

By James Morgan

As we head into summer, we start to see problems with weeds, diseases and insects in the landscape and around vegetable gardens. Some of these pest problems can be solved without the use of chemicals, but if the pest population reaches damaging levels, using pesticides may be warranted. Remember that using pesticides is safe and legal but requires reading and following label directions in their entirety.

The first step is properly identifying the pest or problem in order to select the correct control method. Your local University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agent can help in selecting the correct pesticide and recommended application rate. Once that is determined, it is very important for your safety and for the environment that you follow all label directions and safety precautions.

The pesticide label gives you all the information needed to safely and effectively use the product, and you should never take liberties with label directions. For example, doubling a recommended rate will not achieve quicker results and can have an adverse effect on the intended site.

Follow these guidelines when you use a chemical pesticide:

  • Read the label before you buy or use the product and make sure that it is registered for the pest and site you intend to treat. Observe signal words like DANGER, WARNING and CAUTION. These signal words tell the user how toxic a product is if it gets on or enters the body.
  • Read the entire label and follow all instructions. The label will have important information about storing pesticides, disposing of excess pesticide, handling spills, first aid, and poison control.
  • Observe all safety precautions on the label. Examples include “Keep out of reach of children” and “Do not use near fire, sparks or flames.”
  • Wear proper protective clothing as listed on the label. This should include liquid-proof gloves and shoes, long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Do not eat, drink, smoke or go to the bathroom while handling pesticides. Wash your hands before and after use.
  • Observe the reentry periods before allowing pets and people into the treated area. Make recently treated areas off-limits until it's safe.
  • Avoid mixing pesticides near wells or open water. It's critical to avoid contaminating water sources.
  • Do not apply pesticides to blooming plants. This is especially important if honey bees or other pollinating insects are visiting them. If you have to spray, do so early in the evening and use a non-dust formulation.
  • Evaluate your control efforts. If it is unsatisfactory, consider these possibilities: correct identification of pest, using the correct pesticide on the correct site, timely treatment, old product or pest resistance to the pesticide. Rain can also hinder treatment effectiveness.

If you come across a product that has been sitting in a storage shed or no longer has a label, contact your county Extension agent for help. It may be tempting to just mix a little and spray, but that’s not a good idea. Most product labels can be found at Follow the exact instructions to ensure your safety and to achieve the best results. You should never use a product that you are unsure about. Remember that the safe and legal use of pesticides requires that the entire label be followed exactly.

The home and garden edition of the 2021 Georgia Pest Management Handbook is another great resource for selecting pesticide products. The home and garden edition covers pest control around homes, on pets, and for pests of home garden vegetables, lawns, fruits and ornamentals, providing current information on the selection, application and safe use of chemicals and other control methods.

To order a $29.95 print copy of the home and garden edition of the 2021 Georgia Pest Management Handbook, visit the UGA Press website or To order by email or phone, send a message to or call 800-848-6224. A Kindle edition can be purchased for $22.49 at

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