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The Garden Writers Association

Last Update 08/29/12
Be Careful with Synthetic Insecticides

 Always read the label and follow the directions

I've got an insect problem centered around a weevil know by the popular name of Sri Lanka Weevil or the scientific name of Myllocerus undatus. These beetles apparently were not satisfied munching on the invasive carrotwood weeds growing between the fences in my side yard, they decided to move to my Meyer lemon tree. I was willing to let them have their way with that tree, but then after I planted a carambola tree and ice cream bean tree, they decided to start munching on those plants also!


Enough was enough, I lost my patience with these critters making my plants look ragged so I went to Home Depot to purchase an insecticide recommended by the University of Florida Extension Service to control this weevil. I am not a big proponent of using synthetic pesticides or insecticides unless I really have to, and as you will see, there is good reason for my reticence.

The product I chose was Ortho's Systemic Insect Killer which contains 8.0% of Acephate as one of its active ingredients.

Acephate is an organophosphate which is the general name for esters of phosphoric acid. Organophosphates are the basis of many insecticides, herbicides, and nerve gases.

Acephate kills insects by direct contact or ingestion. Once in the insect's body it works by disrupting its nervous system functions. The product is composed of phosphorus, nitrogen, and sulfur oxides which are absorbed by the plant on which chewing and sucking insect control is desired. For this reason the label advises against using the product on plants that will be used for food or feed.

My personal decision and risk to use Ortho's Systemic Insect Killer on my fruit trees is based on the fact that they are not currently producing fruit. By the time they do, this poison should be thoroughly decomposed (in 20 days) and hopefully the pest Myllocerus undatus will be under control and no longer damaging my plants.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Pesticide Information Center Acephate Technical Fact Sheet

"Before pesticides are registered by the U.S. EPA, they must undergo laboratory testing for short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) health effects. Laboratory animals are purposely fed high enough doses to cause toxic effects. These tests help scientists judge how these chemicals might affect humans, domestic animals, and wildlife in cases of overexposure. When pesticide products are used according to the label directions, toxic effects are not likely to occur because the amount of pesticide that people and pets may be exposed to is low compared to the doses fed to laboratory animals."


What Animals were fed high doses of Acephate?

If you are an animal lover, this may turn your stomach, but the following animals were force fed or exposed to this poison to test its effects

Birds: mallard ducks, pheasants and bobwhite quail

Fish: rainbow trout, bluegill, largemouth black bass, channel catfish and goldfish

Insects: bees

Mammals: rats, rabbits, guinea pigs, mice and dogs

If you intend to use Ortho's Systemic Insect Killer, please be sure to carefully read and follow all label directions. Ortho's label warns that this product: 

"Causes irreversible eye damage and skin irritation. May be harmful if swallowed or absorbed through skin. Do not get in eyes, on skin, or on clothing. Wear goggles. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. Remove contaminated clothing and wash before reuse. When handling this product, wear chemical resistant gloves, long pants, and long-sleeved shirt. When using outdoors, spray with the wind to your back and do not use when wind speeds are 10 mph or more. Wash the outside of the gloves with soap and water before removing."



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