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Sonoma County Waste Management Agency

Less toxic pest management

Help for the home gardener. Ask an expert! Ask a Master Gardener.

Master Gardener volunteers are trained and certified by the University of California, Cooperative Extension. Workshops and seminars about composting and gardening are given regularly by Master Gardeners at various libraries.

Visit the calendar section at Master Gardeners website for dates and times.
Master Gardeners (707) 565-2608/(707) 938-0127  

Common household pesticides show up in treated wastewater and in Bay Area creeks, sometimes at levels that can harm sensitive aquatic life. These fact sheets are designed to help you manage pests in a less toxic manner.

The following guides are available for download in Adobe PDF format. Some guides are provided in English and Spanish.

antsAnts—Controlling ants in your house (PDF: 227 KB)
Control de las hormigas en su hogar (PDF: 197 KB)
The Argentine ant is a frequent invader in California homes. Although they can be pests, ants provide an ecological cleansing and fertilization service of considerable importance. For example, they kill and eat many pest insects, aerate the soil, and recycle dead animal and vegetable material.

aphidsAphids—Controlling aphids in your garden (PDF: 628 KB)
Most plants can tolerate low to moderate numbers of aphids without noticeable damage. On some plants, however, large numbers of aphids can distort foliage and flowers and stunt plant growth. Some species of aphids can also transmit plant diseases when they puncture plant tissues to feed.

cockroachesCockroaches—Keeping cockroaches out of your house (PDF: 346 KB)
Mantenga a las cucarachas fuera de su hogar (PDF: 174 KB)
Although cockroaches are useful outdoors, where they help recycle plant and animal wastes, they are not welcome indoors. Research clearly indicates that roaches can carry disease-causing organisms from sewers, garbage cans, or bathrooms to kitchen counters and human food. Cockroaches can also trigger allergic reactions in some people.

fleasFleas—Keeping fleas off your pets and out of your yard (PDF: 377 KB)
Cómo mantener a las pulgas lejos de sus mascotas y su jardín (PDF: 133 KB)
The flea most commonly found in and around the home is the cat
flea, Ctenocephalides felis. Despite its name, the cat flea finds dogs and humans quite tasty too. Flea bites cause irritation, but also serious allergies in some animals and humans.

healthy gardenHealthy garden—Growing a healthy garden to manage pests naturally (PDF: 508 KB)
A healthy garden filled with a wide variety of flowering plants will be more resistant to significant pest damage. A healthy, diverse garden will also attract beneficial creatures, such as dragonflies, ladybugs, lacewings, syrphid flies, and “miniwasps,” which feed on pests.

beautiful lawnLawn—Tips for a healthy beautiful lawn (PDF: 1.02 MB)
Sugerencias para tener un césped sano (PDF: 252 KB)
Lawns can look beautiful without using pesticides and fertilizers that may contribute to water quality problems in a local creek, the Bay or Delta. The tips below will help you maintain a healthy and beautiful lawn that can out-compete weeds and other lawn pests.

mosquitoesMosquitoes—Keeping mosquitoes away from you and your yard (PDF: 1.04 MB)
Mosquitoes are delicious food for fish and other aquatic creatures, but their
buzzing and itchy bites make them a great annoyance to people. Mosquitoes can also carry a variety of diseases; so controlling them, especially by eliminating breeding sites, should be a priority for everyone in the community.

prevent problemsFinding a company that can prevent pest problems (PDF: 229 KB)
If you have a pest problem, you may be able to solve it yourself with the help of the resources listed at the end of this fact sheet. However, if you want or need to hire a professional pest control service, look for a company that offers less toxic pest control or Integrated Pest Management (IPM). IPM focuses on long-term prevention of pests and their damage through a combination of techniques such as habitat modification, biological control, and physical control.

pesticidesPesticides and water quality (PDF: 382 KB)
Pesticidas que presentan problemas (PDF: 100 KB)
Evidence shows that a growing number of commonly purchased and applied pesticides can be harmful to both people and the environment. Part of the problem is the toxicity of the pesticides themselves, but an even greater factor is the sheer volume of pesticides people use, which ends up in our water, air and soil.

rosesWonderful roses! (PDF: 1.05 MB)
To grow beautiful roses, you don’t need to use pesticides and fungicides that may contribute to local water quality problems. By choosing appropriate rose varieties, planting roses properly, and carefully following recommended cultural practices, you can grow roses that are less susceptible to pests and diseases.

snails and slugsSnails and slugs—Controlling snails and slugs in your garden (PDF: 456 KB)
Control de caracoles y babosas en huertos y jardines (PDF: 154 KB)
Amazing as it seems, our pest snails were originally imported from France for culinary purposes. Unfortunately, they escaped to become a major garden and agricultural problem.

spidersSpiders—Living with spiders, the helpful hunters (PDF: 526 KB)
Arañas las útiles cazadoras (PDF: 171 KB)
Spiders are beneficial creatures. Because they feed on large quantities of insects, they should be tolerated as much as possible in the home and garden.


pesticidesUse and disposal of pesticides (PDF: 368 KB)
Uso y desecho de pesticidas (PDF: 138 KB)
Even when applied according to label directions, pesticides make their way into our waterways, air, rain and fog. Even small amounts of pesticides can be lethal to marine life, birds, and other life forms. So what can we do? Instead of relying on conventional pesticides as our first line of defense against a pest, consider them as a last resort.

weedsWeeds—How to control weeds (PDF: 470 KB)
It is unrealistic to think that we can have a garden or a lawn that is entirely weed free. We need to manage weeds so they don’t become an overwhelming problem. This means tolerating some weeds in some situations. If you really want to solve your weed problem, you will need to spend some time, have some patience, and expend some effort.

yellowjacketsYellowjackets—Controlling yellowjackets around your home (PDF: 760 KB)
Control de las avispas amarillas cerca de su hogar (PDF: 221 KB)
With their potent sting, yellowjackets can be menacing creatures when it comes to a showdown over the picnic table. In years when the spring is warm and dry, yellowjacket populations can increase to the point of making outdoor activities difficult. But few people are aware that yellowjackets are voracious predators of insect pests such as caterpillars and flies.

PDF icon Some of these documents are saved in Adobe Acrobat format. If you do not own a copy of Acrobat Reader, you may download it free.

Sonoma County Waste Management Agency ● 2300 County Center Drive, Suite B-100 ● Santa Rosa, CA 95403