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The New Insecticides

The world of pest management in the landscape industry is one that has changed dramatically over the past 10 years. The marketplace has become much more competitive as the demand for products that provide the highest level of results increases. At the same time, the demand for more environmentally safe means of pest management continues to increase and in some areas, the regulatory and societal pressure to do so is very high. The industry that produces these products has shown a strong commitment to providing effective products that are generally of lower toxicity and designed for lower use rates. This has been good news for our industry during a time when it appears that we are continually under fire for the use of conventional pesticides to maintain landscapes.

Over the past two or three years, we have added some new products and new approaches to pest control in the management of turfgrass insect pests. A very positive sign is that most of these new products have use rates that are lower than the products that were released as recently as eight to 10 years ago. Additionally, these products appear to be less toxic than their predecessors (as measured by mammalian, avian and fish toxicity). The majority of our modern insecticides have ‘caution’ labels. This is another positive step for our industry as it demonstrates a general trend towards reduced toxicity in the products we use to manage insect pests in the landscape. In some instances, the toxicity of pesticides (to birds, for example) has been reduced by 100 times or more. In many cases, rates have been reduced by 10 times or more. This has been accomplished while still maintaining some fairly good residual activity and very good control of the targeted pests. In addition, it appears that much of the concern over pesticide use in turfgrass is often focused on insecticides. People seem to view insecticides with more apprehension than they do other pesticides, such as herbicides.

Insects are a troublesome component of landscape management, whether it is the direct turfgrass damage such as that caused by southern chinch bugs on St. Augustinegrass or the indirect damage caused by various animals destroying turf to feed on grubs in the soil (grubs also directly damage the turf by feeding on the roots), or even the threat they (fire ants) are to people and pets. The good news is that these pests can be controlled by insecticides.


Several new products have been introduced in the past two years for insect control in turfgrass, and for this article I will discuss several of them as examples of where the industry is headed. My discussion of these products does not indicate an endorsement nor does the exclusion of any recent product indicate anything negative about that product. Rather, in the context of this article, I am choosing to discuss several representative products and what they offer our industry.


Arena (clothianidin) is a new product from Arysta LifeScience that is in some ways similar to Bayer Environmental Science's Merit. It is in the same class of chemistry and offers many of the same advantages of Merit, in that it is a fairly broad-spectrum product that is used at a low use rate and has a relatively low mammalian toxicity. This product will be available as both a granular and sprayable formulation. Arena provides control of a wide range of white grubs, chinch bugs, billbugs, sod webworms and other insects, making it a valuable broad-spectrum product. The suppression of mole crickets and cutworms is listed on the label and it is my experience that applying Arena against small mole cricket nymphs can offer acceptable control. I have also observed some fire ant suppression when they are present in areas treated for mole crickets or white grubs.


Advion (indoxacarb) Fire Ant Bait is a new fire ant bait from DuPont that has shown good efficacy as a bait and works quickly. Fire ants are a tough customer to deal with and each year they continue to expand their range and become a “new” pest for many turfgrass managers. Their spread up the East Coast, movement into Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma, as well as introductions into Arizona and California further demonstrates the tenacity of this pest. Fire ants are a big challenge to manage and there seem to be as many products labeled for fire ant control as there are for all of the other turfgrass insect pests combined. Fire ant baits offer control at a reasonable cost, ease of application and reduced labor, but are generally slow acting. Some baits take weeks before you can see any sign of effectiveness on the mound. Advion gets to work in a matter of days, making it one of the fastest acting baits. However, this product does not offer long residual activity. The ultimate product for fire ant control might be one that was effective, fast acting, yet with long residual activity. There are plans to release an Advion (inodxacarb) Mole Cricket Bait during the summer of 2006. My trials with this product have shown it to be an effective mole cricket bait.


Allectus is a new approach to insecticide packaging and marketing. It is actually a combination of two well-established insecticides, Talstar (bifenthrin) and Merit (imidacloprid), into one product. There has been much discussion about this product. Some say the combination of two active ingredients is somewhat “anti-IPM” in that the use promotes more of a shotgun approach to insect pest management. Still others feel it is just what we need in the turf industry, especially the lawn care industry. Despite the many favorable characteristics of today's newer products, one criticism is often that they are narrower in their spectrum of control compared to the older products. Allectus, through the combination of two relatively broad-spectrum insecticides, achieves a wider spectrum of control than is typically offered by many current products. Whether you actually need that broad spectrum of control depends upon the situation. Personally, I feel that the marketplace will determine the fate of Allectus. If it fills a need in our industry and helps turfgrass managers do a good job of cost-effectively managing insects in turf, then it will be a success. Allectus is available as both a sprayable and granular formulation.


Provaunt (indoxacarb) 1.25SC sprayable is a product from DuPont (although it is not yet available on the market and is pending EPA approval) that is used primarily as a caterpillar or worm insecticide in turfgrass. It will be labeled for various caterpillars on ornamentals. This insecticide has performed well against a number a number of caterpillar species, including webworms, armyworms and cutworms. DuPont is also developing another new insecticide that has shown good performance against a wide range of species of white grubs. Although it is still a couple of years away, this product looks to be a welcome addition to the white grub arsenal.


Several companies are developing new products that will address problems including white grubs, mole crickets and chinch bugs. New insecticide chemistries that meet the needs of today's turf manager with good efficacy, low toxicity and reduced risk to the environment are harder and harder to develop. FMC, DuPont, Syngenta, FMC and Bayer, among others, are developing new chemistries that appear to have a fit in the turfgrass insecticide market.

The general trend for less toxic and environmentally disruptive products continues with the latest additions to our options for insect management. Often overlooked are the natural or biological alternatives available for insect pest control. While there are too many to mention here, there are options available, but it requires more effort to seek these products out of the vast forest of products available. Products for caterpillars that contain azadiracthin, an extract from the neem tree, are available in a range of products. These products can be effective on cutworms and other caterpillars, but usually require a few days to kill the pest. Other biological controls use a bacterium, Bacillus thuriengensis, for control of caterpillars. There is a unique strain of Bacillus thuriengensis var. japonensis that is being developed for use against white grubs and has shown potential to be a very effective biological control agent. Entomogenous nematodes, Beauveria bassiana fungi, diatomaceous earth and other products that have been around for years continue to be available to fill niche markets and specific environmentally sensitive sites to offer acceptable insect control.

Rick Brandenburg, Ph. D., is a professor of turfgrass entomology and the co-director of the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research and Education at North Carolina State University (Raleigh, N.C.). You can e-mail him at rick_brandenburg@ncsu.edu.

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