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General Questions

A collection of questions about pesticides and pest management dealing with the home and farm environment including gardens, lawns, structures, and other related topics.

Show or hide the answer How do I find out how to control a pest problem?
I have a pest problem that I want to control with pesticides. How do I find out what to use on the pest?

First, consider if pesticide use is really necessary and proper. In many cases, pesticides are a pest management method of last resort. Often they are a waste of money and time and can be a poor choice for home pest control.

If you see a problem, the first step is to find out what is causing it. If the problem is actually caused by a pest, identify this pest. Next, consider: Is the pest problem serious? Is the problem worth the time, cost, and trouble? (For example, it might be simpler to replace an infested house plant than to treat it!) Another consideration is: should you act now, or watch and wait? For example, will a pesticide be effective at this stage of the pest’s life cycle? If you need to act, ask yourself if using a pesticide the best way to control this pest. If so, do you have the right pesticide for the job, and the equipment and skill to handle and apply it correcctly?

To properly control a pest, you must first properly identify it. It is only after you properly identify the pest problem that you should then attempt to control it.

For help in pest identification, pest and pesticide management and decision-making, contact you local Extension agent. A list of local Extension offices for Virginia is available at

Also, on the Extension web site you will find information on a variety of topics, including pest control.

Specifically, the Pest Management Guide series is helpful in providing VA-based recommendations. Sections may be obtained from your local Extension office or from the VCE website. The url for the PMGs is:

Show or hide the answer What controls are available for organic growers?
I don't want to use chemical pesticides! What controls are available for organic growers?

Many biological farmers and organic gardeners avoid the use of most chemical pesticides in order to either meet organic certification requirements or because they are concerned about the safety of most chemical pesticides. Here are a few sources where you can find information about alternative controls:


Show or hide the answer How do I go about reporting a pesticide misuse to authorities?
I feel that a pesticide has been misused. How do I go about reporting this misuse to authorities?

Pesticide misuse can be reported to your state pesticide regulatory agency. In Virginia, this is the Office of Pesticide Services, which is part of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. There are regional pesticide investigators located throughout Virginia who will investigate pesticide misuse situations. Information on reporting pesticide misuse is available on the VDACS web site.

Show or hide the answer How do I properly dispose of old pesticides?
Old pesticides are commonly found in homes and on farms. Perhaps the most common source of waste pesticides are where consumers buy too much pesticide to do a job and never use the products.

For consumers (homeowners and landowners) disposing of old pesticides in their original containers can be as simple as using the products as labeled, IF they are still legally registered. To find out this information either contact your local chemical or garden retailer or your local Extension agent.

If these products are less than five years old and they have been stored properly they are likely to still be usable. Proper and safe use would be the most efficient means of disposal. If they have been subjected to freezing and heating in an outside storage area, they might not be viable pest controls. Even after a year under conditions where a product might freeze or heat up over 90 degrees F, products may lose their viability or may even change physically or chemically into certain by-products. These by-products might not necessarily be less toxic than the original product.

Other old pesticides such as DDT, lead arsenate, dieldrin, endrin, aldrin, toxaphene, 2,4,5-T, and chlordane have been banned for quite some time and are ILLEGAL to apply as directed on the product label. These products must be properly disposed of according to federal and state law. The only viable means to do so is to turn these materials into a local hazardous waste collection site. Many of these activities or services are sponsored by your local waste management authority. We suggest that you contact these authorities - listed either on the web under your local government or in the phone book under the government blue pages.

In addition, for landowners (owners of land either once used as a farm or actively farmed) there is a pesticide cleanup program sponsored in Virginia by the Virginia Pesticide Control Board, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Virginia Cooperative Extension. The information on this program can be obtained through your local Extension office or by looking on the VDACS Office of Pesticide Services website. In the future, this program may also be expanded to other homeowners.

Be extremely careful in handling old pesticide containers. Many can fall apart just by picking them up. Wear proper chemical resistant gloves to handle these containers. If they are intact, you are encouraged to seal them in another leakproof container such as a heavy mil plastic bag or multiple plastic bags, or plastic "Rubbermaid" type container. Then make sure these are stored in a cool dry and secure place (preferably outside the living areas of your home) until you can dispose of these materials properly.

If you have any questions about how to deal with waste pesticides contact your local Extension agent.

Show or hide the answer Are herbicides (weed killers) considered pesticides?
Weed killers are the same as herbicides. Does that mean they are pesticides?

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s definition of a pesticide, (YES) a herbicide (or weed killer) IS a pesticide. The reason we use EPA's definition is that they are the federal agency that regulates and registers all pesticide products in the United States. All (US) applicators apply pesticides under regulation of the EPA and their state, territorial, or tribal pesticide regulatory authorities.

EPA's definition is as follows:

"A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for:

  • preventing,
  • destroying,
  • repelling, or
  • mitigating any pest.

Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.

Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant (growth) regulator, defoliant, or desiccant."

Show or hide the answer Why are some animal treatments not registered?
Why are some animal treatments that look like pesticides not registered by the US Environmental Protection Agency?

Animal drugs are regulated by the FDA (US Food & Drug Administration) under FFDCA (Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act). Animal drugs are products used to control bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms on or in living animals, as well as any internal parasites of living animals. Products used for control of external invertebrate/insect parasites are considered pesticides and are regulated by the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency).

This information can be found at 40 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) Part 152.5 (definition of pests) and Part 152.6(d) (substances excluded from regulation under FIFRA (Federal Insecticide, Fungicide & Rodenticide Act) - animal drugs).

Source [7/28/06]:

Richard Pont
U.S. EPA/Office of Pesticide Programs (7506C)
Certification and Worker Protection Branch

Show or hide the answer I'm told that I will need a Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) permit to apply pesticides to, near, or over water. How can I learn more about this requirement?

A recent court ruling (January 2009) determined that Clean Water Act (CWA) National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits are required for:

  • all biological pesticide applications, and
  • chemical pesticide applications that leave a residue in water

when such applications are made in or over, including near, waters of the U.S.


Permits were supposed to be in place by April of 2011.


As an EPA-authorized state, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) administers the Virginia Pollution Discharge Elimination System (VPDES).  DEQ drafted a Pesticides General Permit Regulation (9VAC25-800).  It was adopted by the VA Water Control Board in February of 2011.  It issues a "blanket" general permit for pesticide applications made to, over, or near waters of the state.


However, EPA was granted a 6-month extension for NPDES. Subsequently, the Director of VA's DEQ suspended the effective date of the VPDES pesticides general permit -- so our state is "in synch".  The VA Pesticides General Permit Regulation has a revised effective date of October 31, 2011.


The Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VPDES) Pesticide Discharges General Permit regulates residues of applications of pesticides to, near, or over water.  Specifically, the VPDES general permit covers point source discharges into waters of the state that control:

  •  mosquitoes, black flies, and other flying insect pests;
  •  aquatic weeds, algae, and pathogens;
  •  aquatic nuisance animals (ex. snakehead fish and zebra mussels); and
  •  forest canopy pests (ground and aerial canopy spraying).


Applicators who apply pesticides as described above will not be required to submit a registration statement (notice of intent) to the State Water Control Board.  However, operators working under the VPDES general ("blanket") permit do have some specific requirements to fulfill.  The permit requires use of Integrated Pest Management practices, visual monitoring, and reporting of any adverse affect due to the application of pesticides. In addition, application records and development of a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) is required for operators that exceed certain annual application thresholds.


For a list of basic requirements, thresholds, and other information, refer to this website:


(Scroll of April 2011, the Pesticide Discharges General Permit Regulation information, including a fact sheet and template for a Pesticide Discharge Management Plan (PDMP) is at the bottom of the page.)


DEQ contacts:


Fred K. Cunningham, Director

Office of Water Permits & Compliance Assistance

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

phone: 804.698.4285



William K. Norris, Environmental Specialist II

Guidance & Regulation Coordinator - Senior

Office of Regulatory Affairs

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

phone: 804.698.4022



To follow the status of the  General Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System / Permit for Pesticide Discharges [9 VAC  2 5 - 8 0 0 ], visit this section of the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website:


To track the NPDES, refer to this section of EPA's website:


Updated on April 14, 2011
Show or hide the answer Does Virginia Tech offer pesticide residue testing services to the public?
If not, where can I find these services? I am trying to test my water and soil for pesticides around my home.

Although we do conduct pesticide residue testing as part of our research projects, Virginia Tech no longer offers pesticide residue testing as a public service (due to budget constraints). We do still offer soil and plant nutrient testing services to the public through our local Extension offices, for a fee.

We do maintain a list of soil testing services on our website at PESTICIDELINKS.ORG. Just use the keyword = “testing” to view this list. There are a number of reputable laboratories listed there.


If you are seeking a locally available service, please consult your yellow pages under "SOIL TESTING" or "ENGINEERING SERVICES." Look for companies that do environmental site assessments for example. An ASTM-approved list is provided in the database referenced above.


A word of caution. Pesticide residue analysis is a complex and expensive process and it requires expertise to interpret the results. Samples must be collected properly to avoid contamination. To avoid high costs, you should limit the tests you are seeking to a few logical choices. Once the results are completed, you will need to consult with an expert to determine what they mean. If a pesticide is present, these tests will find it. The results can range from parts per trillion to much larger amounts. Finding a trace of something in a sample doesn't necessarily mean that the pesticide can do harm or is available to do so.

Show or hide the answer What can I do about honey bee swarms in my home?
With the domestic honeybee in a global health crisis, pesticides are even less of an acceptable option to dealing with swarms around the home. But when homeowners see a swarm they often call a pest control operator or reach for a pesticide container to first before considering other options. They should ask themselves -- what can I do to get rid of the bees without killing them?

More and more local beekeeper organizations are offering swarm removal as a public service. The Virginia State Beekeepers Association has a link to most local beekeeper organizations in Virginia. Many offer swarm removal through a link or page on their websites.


Here is a list of important information to have before contacting a beekeeper:

  1. What does the swarm look like? If the swarm has a “nest” then it is likely not honey bees but hornets or wasps especially if it is “papery” looking. A swarm of honey bees will cluster into a roughly round shape on an object like a tree branch.
  2. Where is the swarm (physical address)?
  3. Contact name and phone number.
  4. What has the swarm landed on? How high up is the swarm?
  5. Are there any special concerns in the area? (children, water hazards, bees in the house etc).

A beekeeper is a good source of information as to how to handle each situation with a swarm. Another source is your local Extension agent. For this information go to:

Show or hide the answer Does Virginia law require pesticide applicators to notify the public prior to an application?
Do Virginia pesticide laws and regulations include a notification requirement?
The regulations sometimes referred to as notification laws for Virginia pesticide applicators are actually tenant protection regulations and do not relate to the certification or regulation of pesticide applicators. They are specific to pesticide application in structures and are enforced on landlords, associations, and property owners. They require these entities to notify tenants of pending pesticide applications. They do not direct or enforce notification on pesticide applicators. It is the responsibility of a landlord to notify tenants of a pesticide application and work with a contract applicator to conduct their business accordingly.  Virginia does not require notification by pesticide applicators for any type of application or site, except where required by label directions. Applicators are reminded that any use inconsistent with a pesticide label is considered a violation of state and federal laws.
The tenant protection rules cited below are part of a set of uniform guidelines (similar to uniform building codes) that fall under local jurisdiction and to common community boards such as condominium associations to enforce. In most cases it appears that local violations would be enforced by local entities, similar to a violation of building code where it would be enforced by a local building inspector. No state agency would initially enforce the law unless the local jurisdiction couldn't enforce them.
On the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (Office of Pesticide Services) website these rules are cited as follows:

Pesticide Notification Requirements

While there are no pesticide notification requirements in either the Pesticide Control Act or the various regulations promulgated under the Act, other Virginia laws have pesticide notification requirements related to multi-family or multi-unit dwellings.  Specifically, pesticide notification is required under the Condominium Act (§ 55-79.80:01 of the Code of Virginia), Virginia Real Estate Cooperative Act (§ 55-464.1 of the Code), the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (§ 55-248.13:3 of the Code) and the Property Owners Association Act (§ 55-510.3 of the Code).  These laws are not administered by OPS and we are unable to provide any interpretations or information regarding compliance with any of the requirements of these laws.  Issues or concerns related to notification requirements prior to the application of pesticides should be addressed with the property owners’ association or the management company responsible for the common areas where the application will occur. When in doubt, you should consider seeking qualified legal advice.

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Combined FAQ - EPA Regions

EPA Agency-wide Frequently Asked Questions database.  You can browse through the database, search, or submit a question. Here are a few FAQ links:

Fertilizer Certification

Online Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training


Virginia Cooperative Extension offers a free online training and testing program (Fertilizer Applicator Certification Training, FACT)

Upon successful completion of this online training program, users meet the requirements of becoming a Virginia Certified Fertilizer Applicator as administered through the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). The link to the FACT website is and complete instructions on how to access the system, enroll in the training, complete the training and testing, and contact information for any questions are provided.

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