Organic or Synthetic Pesticide? What are the differences?

These days we are staying in our homes more than ever. Spending so much time at homes provides us the opportunity to observe more pest activity inside and outside our properties. Don’t be alarmed if you begin seeing more occasional insects than usual and of-course keep an eye for unusual activity, but remember, many living organisms are present in every home ~ whether that be a house, apartment, yurt, cabin, mobile home… It only becomes an issue when the population of a certain species overwhelms envioronments, our living spaces, destroys food sources, or potentially causes harm through illness or bodily injury. When we get to this point, we call that invading organism a pest. These living organisms can take the form of insects, rodents, mold, or weeds just to name a few.

So what options do we have? How to we live with these organisms that are beneficial to our surrounding ecosystems without destroying habitats? How do we manage pest populations responsibly and keep our world healthy? The answer to these questions and many more is usually… “it depends.” It depends on the type of pest and your goals for the pest management plan.

There are several situations where conventional, or also called synthetic, pesticides are acceptable and sometimes the best solution to manage pest populations. In many other instances, organic pesticides can be just as effective with proper applications.


Lets take a look some of the differences:

Organic Options

-Are usually synthesized from botanical, organic, animal, or minerals (EX: Neem Oil – from the Neem Evergreen Tree)

-Generally target a small spectrum of pests keeping other non-target species safe

-Breakdown faster and easier in the environment

-Can be more expensive to purchase and apply

-While generally lower toxicity to humans, can still carry dangerous and potent levels of toxicity (EX: Lime-Sulfur Fungicides)

Synthetic Options

-Are typically synthesized from natural sources, but are chemically altered to create a new compound (EX: Copper Sulfate)

-Generally target a broad spectrum of pests and can harm beneficial insects such as pollinators

-More persistent than organics and remain in the environment for much longer periods before breaking down

-Are more readily available due to longer shelf life and generally less expensive

-Can harm predator pests that control populations of other species causing other pest populations to increase

It is important to note here that “organic” is not synonymous with safe and “synthetic” is not synonymous with danger. Knowing the differences between the two and how the interact with the organisms in your environment is what keeps us safe and allows us to responsibly manage the pests in our communities.

Not sure what to do next? Call Harmony. We have the knowledge and the experience to help you control pests!

Call Today! 804-647-9215


1.) Organic vs. Conventional (Synthetic) Pesticides: Advantages and Disadvantages

*Authored by Tim McCoy, Extension Associate, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs and Daniel Frank, Director, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs; Edited by Dana Beegle, Publications Manager, Virginia Tech Pesticide Programs