View Full Version : Surface feeding insects vs. ethical pesticide use

10-21-2002, 09:18 PM
I don't have much experience posting on this forum, so if I break etiquette, please forgive.

I run a small lawn service in Michigan and I saw a lot of insect activity on my lawns this year. I realize that the hot dry weather favored them and made insect damage more visible, but I can’t help think there is a better way then to treat for them after activity is discovered.

I am weighing the pros and cons of altering my program for next year to include a blanket Talstar spray for every lawn in late May or early June. I understand that it will have a two month residual, and the goal will be to prevent surface feeding insect damage. If the customers will pay for it, it looks like good business sense to do so, plus I will have ammo to counter customer complaints if they refuse and have damage later in season.

I hesitate because I (personally) feel that to (knowingly) apply pesticide without a target pest present (at the time) is irresponsible. Such treatments may have lead to the problem that took Dursban off the market. There is also the issue of killing off desirable insects…

So I ask the heavyweights of Lawn Care to weigh in and help me make a more informed decision.

And for the record, I did use the search function to see if this topic was raised before, and nothing came up. If this topic was already discussed, please point me to that thread.


10-22-2002, 09:58 AM
i see your mailing address is centerline, we should hook up, talk shop.
email me at: greenstarlawns@comcast.net
jonathan daniel

one of the big 3 in chemical lawncare around here,
( you know the 3 ) started charging people for surface feeding insects. this is after they told the customer base that it was included with there program. doing this covered there butt's in case any damage was found.

Green Sweep
10-22-2002, 05:16 PM
All companies here in Pittsburgh 'include' surface insect control. The majority of them (including us) will apply an insecticide (we also use Talstar) if surface insects are discovered. Chinch bugs were pretty bad here this year and they also appeared late in alot of lawns. So if I would have blanketed lawns in May or June, I would have wasted alot of money, and chemical (IPM!). I think that that our way is the best way to approach the problem.


10-24-2002, 07:24 PM
Talstar is the molecule of choice. But unless you purchase it on fertilizer, there is no need to blanket apply.
Talstar Flow may be sprayed only where & as needed. That's IPM.
Granlust Talstar EZ may be selected for the ease f granular treatment. So to can the various 0-0-7 Talstar "Nitrogen Free Fertilizer" combinations.

Any of these approaches will not only meet the ethical question but will also save you some money on the Talstar bill.

For the record, I usually do blanket Talstar here at the homestead (except part of the backyard=shade/fish pond, etc), but only because this is a high pressure lawn insect area & because we don't like Ticks. ants, & earwigs creaping around the perimeter of the house. So I also make it a point to treat right up to the foundation with 0-0-7 .069% Talstar or Liquid. Whichever is more convenient at the time.

Oh yeah. I'm typing this with my Lime Disease IV tube hanging out of my arm too. When given the choice, most folks would prefer Talstar on the lawn to Rocephin in the IV bag. Talstar is great on Ticks.


Tony Harrell
10-25-2002, 07:04 AM
I don't see anything unethical about following the label. Unethical would be a misapplication or telling the customer that there's a specific problem when there was none or charging for work not performed, these would also qualify as criminal.

10-25-2002, 10:16 AM
Tony brings up a valid point. If we haven't sold IPM as the service & follow the label, then ethics isn't the issue. The issue here then would be SHOULD we practice IPM for surface insects.
For as long as I've been in this field (20+years), Dursban was broadcast to all lawns in Round 2. Either as a liquid in a tank mix with weed control, or as a granular on fertilizer.

Merit did as much to change this as the EPA. Dursban wasn't the human health hazard the liberal left would have us all believe. Al Gore & his cronies have already been proven wrong on this point as was posted here by me when it happened.

Merit needed to be applied during the Round 2 window. The removal of Dursban was only a liberal pipe dream at the time of Merit's introduction. On my side of the counter, we all wondered what Metit would do to Dursban sales. The impact was astronomical.

And after nearly 10 years of Merit, who among us would be surprised to see an increase of Chinch Bugs after the exclusive use of a product that is barely able to supress Chinch? And most of the lawns serviced during this time frame (if you're good & kept them all during this time) were sold on the assumation (or even in writing) that surface insect control was included in the cost of a "regular program". Like weeds & crabs. We used to blanket Pre-M or Team 1.15 in Round 1, Dursban in Early Summer/Round 2, then blanket Sevin, Oftanol, or Diazinon on fertilizer in Round 3 for those customers who purchased Grub Control.

Do many of todays applicators practice IPM on Crabgrass? How about broadleaf weeds? I know. Some IPM weeds so we needn't debate that here. The point is, surface feeders had become a virtual inclusion by precedent. I know a lot of applicators who either now use Talstar only in Round 3 (which is getting too late in my book) or have omitted it all together. Merit got in the way of good surface insect control strategy. Neither of these 2 options spell summer relief for the lawns. So maybe the ethical thing to do would be to return to the days of old. Put Talstar on fertilizer out in Round 2 (while spraying weeds as needed & it's early enough to still prevent damage from Chich), and then use Mach2 on fertilizer for Round 3 after it's too late to get good results from Merit.

By the way, Mach2 needs to be applied at 2lbs AI/A to control all the grub species. A lot of guys are still using Mach2 at 1.5lbsAI/I & complaining about the performance on Chafers. The higher rate is not an option for them. They must be treated at the 2lb rate. The current .86%AI fertilizer combos can't do that unless it's applied at 5.44 lbs/M. New formulations will deliver the required the desired AI load at much more reasobale rates. Mach2 is a white grub specific Insect Growth Regulator that is even lower in mammalian toxicity than Merit. It cannot harm beneficial insects, the environment, or the applicator when used as directed. It only works on larva in the soil that molt. M.A.C.H. stands for Molt Accelerating Isecticide Halofenozide.

With the extrememly low environmental impact that Talstar & Mach2 deliver, our industry should be able to provide the performance it did in the past, while ensuring the safety of all parties concerned. This approach would speak to the ethical issue, while delivering sound agronomic performance & good value to consumers. All without breaking the bank of the applicator.

Just a thought.


10-25-2002, 07:21 PM
I really appreciate everyone’s input so far. Tremor, you gave me some real good food for thought, and really struck on the heart of my questions, thank you.

I understand your points on blanket treating for weeds, I routinely blanket treated my lawns with Dimension for round one and Momentum on round two. But I think a distinction can be made between these weeds and surface feeding insects. It is reasonable to expect crabgrass and/or broadleaf weeds to develop (somewhere, and to some extent) even in well established lawns. Blanket treating in these instances, I believe makes sense because if you don’t, a decent percent of them will call for a service call in between visits. Surface feeding insect damage is not as likely to appear on well established and maintained lawns, (it’s my opinion that poor performing, thin turf causes visible insect damage more often then insect damage causing poor performing, thin turf). The point I am driving at is weeds (crab & broadleaf) will occur with more certainty and therefore merit preventive/proactive treatments.

Tony Harrell, you wrote…

“Unethical would be a misapplication or telling the customer that there's a specific problem when there was none

The underlined portion of your sentence is the crux of my dilemma and a good starting point for the rest of my thoughts. If the target pest is not present in noticeable numbers at the time the treatment is performed, may not occur in damaging numbers, and may not damage the turf to the point where “brown spots” develop, even if I don’t treat. Then regardless if I am applying it consistent with its labeling, the application (seems to me) is irresponsible.

Factoring in the late arrival of some surface feeders, the evidence for preventive treatment of surface feeding insects seems to favor not doing it.

All that said, the bottom line is I really want to give my customers good service at a fair price. I once again thank everyone who contributed and I will keep on this thread to see if anyone else has anything to say.

By the way, f350 I sent you some e-mail accepting your offer to meet and I have not heard back from you, did you receive the mail? If you want to get together, I will buy the beer…

10-25-2002, 07:46 PM

Don't I wish I lived in Michigan. The Beers are cheaper there too...

So we have arrived at the point of where in the scheme of things do we decide that a pest's pressure is too great to practice IPM & we just begin to broadcast apply a preventative. Or perhaps even the most backward move; wait for damage to ocurr, then treat. Don't laugh. I know applicators that will tell their clients that the Grubs that caused the damage are the one's that can't be controlled. Then make more money seeding than they'd ever have the nerve to charge for a chemical treatment. Of course their NET profit is lower. But some folks are just as ignorant as they are nice.

The point to treat a low surface insect population is usually when your gut or (ack!) some university guy's research paper tells you to. In other words, if the pset population becomes evident in large numbers, on a succeptible host, at a time of year when the calender favors further development of the pest, & a smidgen of experience tells you to then treat.

Whenever I can find Chinch Bugs in early June on Fine Fescue, near a Cottoneaster bed with Pine Needle mulch on a southern exposure, it's time to treat. Only days will seperate the applicator from a disatisfied customer under these conditions. To not treat under these circumstance would be dishonest, unethical, & just plain dumb.

More to come,


10-25-2002, 09:57 PM
If you've been in this industry for any length of time, then you know that a mild winter will allow insect of all varieties to survive.

My brother is a big shot meteorologist and assures me we will have another mild winter. (So much for plowing making up the 2002 shortfall).

We can therefore assume that we will have another insect problem in 2003.

It is the RESPONSIBLE thing to do to apply a suface insect control in the late spring. (Sunny areas, of course)

10-26-2002, 07:18 AM
Whenever I can find Chinch Bugs in early June on Fine Fescue, near a Cottoneaster bed with Pine Needle mulch

STEVE:THEY got me big time this season(chinch's and web worms) and i need to do something about it next season if i am going to retain those clients...they got pissed but forgiving...
with this type of season we had this yr. it was hard to pinpoint damange ...i know here in n.j. that it was like a bomb went off..one day turf was ok and next showed damange..
what do you recomend for next season as for insect application?..i know that to COVER MAY A--- next season i need to blanket most of my sodded front lawns of my higher end clients....

should we be following the "growing degree days" or is there a rule of thumb out there as for application dates?
thankks anthony:dizzy:

Tony Harrell
10-26-2002, 08:02 AM
My experience so far is in structural pest control. IPM includes everything in the book. It's up to the applicator and the client to determine where the threshold is for each level of control based on what the label and/or law will allow. I used to do "PEST ELIMINATION" which simply means we start off with the hard stuff to reduce a population to 95% on the first application then followup 7-14 days later to take care of the rest. IPM as practiced by some well meaning souls leaves populations to propagate and reinfest. I'm so glad they're using IPM on the sod farms now. I'm already planning for the infusion of cash I'll get when the fire ants get here.

10-26-2002, 10:40 AM
If my personal ethic is to be legal, have happy customers and make a buck, blanket sprays of many pesticides would be ethical to me.

Infortunately, I have been shackled with a little different ethic (curse you again, Mom & Dad). Ethical decisions must be based on your personal knowledge, all of it. We are what and where we have been. And if you know it all about any subject, you are either a liar or have your mind shut down. So why would blanket sprays of anything be unethical to anyone, as long as the label is followed?

Well, what if you knew that after two years of application of most any pre-emergent for summer weeds, you could reduce your 3rd and future years application rate by 50%, and still have the same control, as long as you are using the same active ingredient? Would it then be ethical to you to use twice as much pesticide as necessary, even though it's legal?

And what if you knew that in the history of pesticide use, that the more a product is used, the sooner that target organisms adapt to be resistant to the pesticide? Would it be ethical to you then to apply blanket treatments, just in case a pest comes, and know that your practice is hastening the uselessness of the product? I don't care what everyone else is doing, when I make my ethical decisions.

But ethical decisions are convoluted and often difficult for everyone. For example, if a prominent entomologist were questioned in a media forum about the use of the yellow beetle bags to keep Jap beetles off your roses, would it be ethical for him to state that these things cause more harm than good? (These contain a beetle sex hormone, that draws beetles from as far as two blocks away. They are so strong to the beetles, and draw so many, you get too many to fit into the bag all at once, so you wind up with more damage to your plants from the high population of beetles. Best place for your beetle bag is your neighbor's roses. :D ) But he must consider that some chemical company spent a lot of $$ on researching and producing these, and they and a lot of retailers would not take kindly to this being publicized. Would it be ethical for him to commit financial and possibly professional suicide? Only he could answer that at the time the question is posed.

Many years ago, I would apply a preemergent to all my turf areas. As I learned where crabgrass and foxtail were likely to occur, I was able to reduce pre-em use by almost 65%. This past year, 3 properties received no pre-ems, and were spot treated post-em, at reduced cost to the client, and no compromise on my income. (One of these has had no pre-em for 4 years. That's my outdoor pre-em classroom.) Within 5 years I expect to use very little pre-em, only where I know I will get dozens to 100s of crabgrass germinations in a 1000 ft² area. So would it be ethical for me to continue blanket pre-em use? Not from my mind. Same theory for me with insecticides - only when necessary, and the more you learn, the less necessary they are.

10-26-2002, 12:06 PM
Another valuble comment Tony.

When practicing IPM, 2 different clients with similar properties (could be Ants in the kitchen or Chinch Bugs in the lawn) may have very different ideas or goals with respect to their expectations. One will tolerate moderate insect activity despite a predetermined decline in plant health. Another property (or specific plant specimen or lawn area or kitchen) might not be willing to accept any decline in plant performance or presence in the kitchen.

So we acknowledge that differing threshold limits must be set based on client expectations & some sound rules (which are agronomic standards) that are determined by the findings of science. These findings factor into the equation some of the following considerations: Plant vigor, Budget, our own fallibilty, Climatic condition, future climatic condition expected, length of time those conditions are expected, value of host (financial/emotional), location of host, & the likely performance of the prescribed remedy (chemical, cultural, or otherwise) that will be administered when the threshold level or levels (may be in "steps") are reached.

So absolutely Anthony. Growing Degree Day (GDD) data is very important for 2 reasons and must be interpreted in 2 ways. One is the plants condition based on it's GGD schedule. The other is for the specific pest based on it's own GDD schedule. I just got a GGD calculator (that I've never used) that is in EXCEL. It creates about a dozen columns of GDD information that is adjusted for specific pests. All of which are agriculture pests, primarily of fruit trees. Great for the commercial orchard owner. But it needs some serious modification for Turf & Ornamental use. I want to make these adjustments over this winter & maybe even use the fool thing next year.

Maybe one of us already has or can find a specific Turf & Ornamental GGD calculator. Or maybe we can work together over this winter to modify the one I already have. I'm going to start a new thread on the forum that I'll just call "GDD Calculator". If anyone wants to provide input, they can post their interest there. I'll then forward the document to each individual via email. Then we build the list of items we know we need into it. Then we each volunteer to look up & record the GGD data we need. When we're done the thing should work.

I know I can't be trusted to do this by myself or it would have been done by now!LOL!!!

See the thread to opt in.