What Are Insecticides? How Do They Work?

What Are Insecticides? How Do They Work?

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Nasir Hanif

Each year, 20 to 40 percent of the global crop production is lost to pests, including insects. This is why farmers use insecticides to kill insects.

Are you wondering what are insecticides? We will explain more about insecticides, how they work, and how they have changed over the years in this insecticide guide.

What Are Insecticides?

Insecticides are types of pesticides to kill, repel, harm, or mitigate different species of insects. They can:

  • Disrupt the nervous system in insects
  • Damage only the exoskeletons
  • Control the insect reproductive cycle
  • Repel insects 

When choosing insecticides, you can buy gels, sprays, dust, or baits. Insecticides, when applied in low doses, should directly only affect the insects.

Insecticides are classified based on their chemistry and toxicological action. They are classified whether they are ingestion (stomach poisons), penetration of body coverings (contact poisons), or inhalation (fumigants).

How Do Insecticides Work?

Stomach poisons are only effective when ingested through the mouth. This is why these types of insecticides are useful for insects that bite and chew such as beetles, grasshoppers, or caterpillars. You can apply the spray or dust on the leaves and stems for the target insects to eat.

Contact poisons go through the skin of the pests and are best for arthropods, like aphids. These insects typically suck the juices out of the plants. You can find synthetic organic and naturally-occurring compounds. These compounds use plant extracts and use toxic agents in them, but these types do not have protection for longer invasions.

Fumigants use toxic compounds that enter the respiratory system. These chemicals include nicotine, hydrogen cyanide, methyl bromide, and naphthalene to kill insects.

What Are Synthetic Insecticides?

For larger areas, synthetic contact insecticides are the primary agents to control insects. They penetrate insects quickly and are toxic to more species.

Since these insecticides were created in the mid-20th century, insect damage has been controlled and crop losses have decreased. They have also helped control diseases from insects to animals and humans including malaria, typhus, and yellow fever to name a few.

What Are Biological Pesticides?

When buying insecticides, you can also choose more natural versions that have less toxic effects on the environment. These compounds are organic and are already produced by plants to defend against pests. 

Common extracts used in commercial products include:

  • Neem oil
  • Pyrethrum
  • Rotenone
  • And other essential oils

Tree rosin is also tested as a natural insecticide. 

In addition, many fragrances from conifer species tend to deter insects including wintergreen.

Other compounds use a microbial-based insecticide, like Grandevo – Marrone Bio, to stop feeding, repel insects, kill insects, and reduce reproduction. This modern pest management program works for crops such as vegetables, nuts, and fruits.

Don’t Let Pests Destroy Your Plants

Now that you know the answer to what are insecticides, you know that you have options to help protect your plants or crops from insect damage. There are several options available depending on how much protection you need.

Interested in learning more? Keep exploring our site for more great information from controlling pests with insecticide tips or other ways to protect your home.

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