Least Toxic Control of Pests In the Home and Garden

Choose a Pest

There are alternatives to pesticides for managing insects, rodents and weeds effectively without exposing your family to harmful toxic chemicals. If you have tried to manage pests without chemicals, including methods of exclusion, improved sanitation, monitoring population levels, then, and only then, should you consider spot treatment of a least-toxic pesticide. It is important that you weigh the risks associated with the use of a pesticide against the problems caused by the pest. Consider all your options carefully, being mindful that any chemical solution can have human and environmental health risks.

What is a Least-Toxic Pesticide?

A least-toxic pesticide is a pesticide that has low human and environmental health hazards. Many least-toxic pesticides are botanicals, essential oils or derived from other plant or natural mineral sources.

The term 'least toxic pesticides' does NOT include a pesticide that is

  1. determined by EPA to be a possible, probable, or known carcinogen, mutagen, teratogen, neurotoxin, reproductive toxin, developmental neurotoxin, endocrine disrupter, or immune system toxin;
  2. a pesticide in EPA's acute toxicity category I or II; and,
  3. any application of the pesticide using a broadcast spray, dust, tenting, fogging, or baseboard spray application.

One popular and effective least-toxic pesticide is Boric Acid.  Boric acid, formulated from a natural mineral, is an effective insect stomach poison. When properly applied, it has a relatively low toxicity compared to other pesticides.  While boric acid is somewhat slower acting than other materials, it is highly effective over a long period of time. But remember, all pesticides are poisons designed to kill, and should be handled carefully. Boric acid should be applied only in areas where it will not come in contact with people - cracks and crevices, behind counters, and in baseboards. Applicators should wear protective clothing, gloves, and a filter mask. Other least toxic pesticides include diatomaceous earth, vinegar, oil of lemon eucalyptus, Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt), neem and horticultural soaps.

Least Toxic Control of Pests factsheets can be ordered individually or as a compilation by emailing Beyond Pesticides. Check back often as we are continually updating our factsheets that are available online. For more information on integrated pest management and utilizing least toxic alternatives, check out our Children and Pesticides page.