National Pesticide Information Center




Insecticides are pesticides that are formulated to kill, harm, repel or mitigate one or more species of insect. Insecticides work in different ways. Some insecticides disrupt the nervous system, whereas others may damage their exoskeletons, repel them or control them by some other means. They can also be packaged in various forms including sprays, dusts, gels, and baits. Because of these factors, each insecticide can pose a different level of risk to non-target insects, people, pets and the environment.

Keep these tips in mind when using insecticides:

  • Practicing Integrated Pest Management can significantly reduce the amount of insecticides needed to control many insect problems.
  • Using more than one insecticide product in the same location can increase or decrease each one's effectiveness. It may also result in a greater risk to health and/or the environment.
  • Broad-spectrum insecticides are effective against all insects, even the good ones. Other insecticides target certain insects. Using a targeted insecticide minimizes the risk to beneficial or non-target insects.
  • Some insecticides work immediately to kill insects while others may need some time to take effect.
  • Insect growth regulators like pyriproxyfen and methoprene do not kill insects; they make it impossible for exposed insects to molt (grow) or lay eggs properly.
  • Insecticidal baits can be used instead of spraying large areas, especially for social insects like ants. This can decrease the risk of exposure, but remember to place baits where children and pets won't have access.

If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Additional Resources:

Insecticide Properties:

Insecticide Poisoning:

Last updated September 22, 2015