Pests and pesticides
For most of us, pests and plants are a part of everyday life: from the mosquitoes that bug us, to the algae that grow in our swimming pools. Health Canada is responsible for evaluating and registering pest control products so that your health and safety, and the environment, are protected.
Learn about common pests, pest control, and how to properly use, store, and dispose of pesticides.
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Pesticides are made from both man-made (synthetic) and naturally occurring (biochemical) active ingredients. For example, the lawn care product 2,4-D is synthetic, while a pesticide with acetic acid (found in vinegar) is biochemical.
When people talk about using pesticides for "cosmetic" reasons, they usually mean using pesticides to make lawns look good.
Preparing, storing, and using homemade pesticides can be dangerous to your health and the environment. Any pesticide should be used carefully, whether it is store-bought or homemade.
Insect repellents (often called bug spray) can help protect you from mosquito and tick bites. Insect bites can cause several health problems, from itchiness and irritation to potentially serious diseases.
Pesticide spray drift happens when a pesticide stays in the air long enough to drift off the area being sprayed and onto other areas by accident. Pesticides commonly sprayed include herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides. Spray drift near your home could come from pesticides being applied to lawns, gardens, parks, or nearby farming areas.
To be healthy, we need to eat a variety of foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Pesticides play an important role in making sure there is enough food for everyone, by protecting food and crops from pests (insects, weeds, and fungal diseases).
You do not have to use pesticides to have a healthy lawn.
Pest control tips
Ants may be black, brown, red or yellow and can create new colonies by a process of swarming or budding. The appearance of winged queens and smaller winged males means that swarming is taking place.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied, pear-shaped insects that have long antennae and a characteristic pair of cornicles (short tubes) extending on either side of their abdomen. Their translucent bodies are most usually green, red, brown, yellow or white.
Bats are flying creatures of the night, not much bigger than a house mouse. Bats can live up to 10 years. The wingspan of the two most common Canadian species, the little brown bat and the big brown bat, ranges from 20 to 35 cm (8 to 14 inches) although some can be larger.
Carpenter ants construct nests by burrowing into wood. Because of their preference for moist, decaying wood, their presence in a home can signal a moisture problem, or wooden structures suffering from decay.
Although unattractive and considered a nuisance, especially when found indoors, these creatures are not harmful.
The hairy chinch bug is a common species of chinch bug in Eastern Canada. Hairy chinch bugs, with their piercing-sucking mouthparts, feed on the sap of grass plants.
Homeowners are often bothered by the appearance of sluggish flies in their homes in late winter and early spring. These flies are collectively called "clustering flies" but may actually be any of the three most common types of flies.
Cockroaches have been an insect pest for about four million years with more than 3,500 species that exist worldwide.
Despite their scary appearance and reputation, earwigs are not directly harmful to humans. In fact, they are often beneficial, acting as scavengers of decaying matter and predators of insect larvae, slug eggs, aphids, and other garden pests.
Fleas are not just an annoyance, some people and animals suffer allergic reactions to flea saliva resulting in rashes. Flea bites create a small, hard, red, itchy spot, slightly-raised and swollen with a single puncture point at the center.
Gypsy moths are a concern because the larvae feed voraciously; mostly on the leaves of deciduous trees, but also on some conifers. During the larval stage, a gypsy moth caterpillar can eat an average of one square metre of foliage.
Ladybugs are among our most beneficial insects. They are voracious and efficient predators of insect pests. A single one will consume thousands of insects pest in its lifetime.
Moles are insectivores. Most do not eat plants, but feed mainly on earthworms, insects and grubs. Voles resemble house mice, but have a shorter tail, a rounded muzzle and head, and small ears.
Mosquitoes are aquatic in their immature stages, and must have still or very slow-moving water in which to develop. The entire lifecycle from egg to adult can take less than 10 days when the temperature is favourable.
Pigeons tend to breed and roost in groups. The largest problem that they cause is the amount of feces they produce. It is the accumulation of pigeon feces that may pose a health hazard to the general public.
Scampering and scratching sounds in the walls of your home at night, signs of gnawing or chewing, or damaged food packages can mean you have an infestation of mice or rats.
Silverfish are covered with shiny silver scales that give the body a metallic sheen. Silverfish and firebrats are nocturnal insects that are commonly found in attics, basements, bathrooms, wall voids, subfloor areas and cracks or crevices.
Slugs and snails are molluscs, as are oysters and clams. They are similar in structure except that the snail is protected by a hard, calcareous shell that makes it less susceptible than slugs to dry conditions and sun exposure.
Spiders commonly found in Canadian homes include house spiders, wolf spiders, cellar spiders, fishing spiders and, much more infrequently, black widow spiders.
The three most common types of tent caterpillars in Canada are the Eastern tent, the Western tent and the Forest tent caterpillar. Tent caterpillar outbreaks are periodic but do not happen on a regular cyclic basis because they largely depend on several environmental and biological factors.
Wasps are medium-sized insect pests 10 to 25 mm, and are easily recognized by the bands of black and yellow or white on their stomachs. However, many other types of harmless wasps look similar and can be mistaken for pests.
The white pine weevil causes extensive damage to many types of evergreen trees. These beetles are dark brown with white and tan patches on their backs and a prominent hooked snout of the weevil.
White grubs are the larvae of certain beetles, such as June beetles and chafers. Grubs are one of the most difficult lawn pests to deal with. Grubs are white or yellowish and have fleshy, wrinkled, C-shaped bodies with tan or brown heads and six spiny legs.