How do I handle this poison pest killer
August 12, 2011 1:39 PM   Subscribe

What do these pest control directions mean?

I'm preparing to spray a pest control product containing Bacillus Thuringiensis on my petunias to control cutworms. The lengthy instructions contain a small section titled "EVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS" containing just two sentences - "Do not apply directly to water. Do not contaminate water when disposing of equipment washwaters or rinsate." They mean potential drinking water, correct? Otherwise how do you wash up?

The stuff itself is a thick dark green liquid which is to be mixed with water 2-4 teaspoons per gallon and sprayed on the plants. It's also used for vegetables and says it may be used up to the day of harvest. (my boldface.)

The "FIRST AID" section tells you to rinse skin with plenty of water for 15-20 minutes if you get it on you and remove any clothing that comes in contact with it, and call poison control, same for the eyes. So how does that reconcile with using it on vegetables right up to the day of harvest? What if worms get to the strawberries?

There have been a couple of AskMe posts on this bacillus but they don't address this aspect.
posted by longsleeves to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
It's probably talking about bodies of water. Lakes, swimming pools, sewer systems, etc.

To clean off, take your hose and rinse over a bucket. Throw bucket over your lawn or some other area not close to the sewer systems.

The water from the lawn and from your plants will evaporate and leave the pesticide on the plants/soil.
posted by royalsong at 1:46 PM on August 12, 2011

Found this:

Seems generally safe? The first aid instructions may be for liability-minimizing purposes if something ever went wrong that they haven't seen yet.

It may also say do not apply to water directly because, given its thickness, applying water to it may help ensure a good mixture.

In general, this is a technical writing failure.
posted by hanoixan at 1:51 PM on August 12, 2011

Bacillus Thuringiensis (bT) is a bacillus which does something very specific to the ability of caterpillars to digest food. You could probably drink the stuff and it wouldn't hurt you (depending on what oils or carrying chemicals it's mixed with) as could any creature that's not a caterpillar. The only real environmental risk of this (assuming you're not a caterpillar) is that you might accidentally contaminate breeding hosts of endangered butterfies. That would be a gardening faux pas.

The directions you're quoting "Do not contaminate water when disposing of equipment washwaters or rinsate" are probably intended for large-volume applications, where you might be cleaning out a huge sprayer full of the stuff, and you'd be better off not dumping the rinse water into lakes or what have you.

For you, at your home, rinse out your sprayer and dump it on the lawn. The stuff is harmless.
posted by rusty at 2:18 PM on August 12, 2011

All that stuff in FIRST AID is standard cover-your-ass on every garden pest or weed control product. Don't spray it directly in your eyes, probably. Otherwise, bT is not to be worried about.
posted by rusty at 2:19 PM on August 12, 2011

"Enviromental Hazards" implies that the danger is that if you dump biocides somewhere where it gets washed into a stream/river/lake, it will cause harm to wildlife (because that's what it's designed to do - kill wildlife - only you want to only target the pests, not the entire ecosystem of a lake). The international hazard symbol provides a good demonstration of what it means, as they usually do.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:16 PM on August 12, 2011

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