Fumio Matsumura

University of California, Davis

Insecticides is the term coined to describe chemicals used to control pest insects and related invertebrate pest species. Insects are by far the most important species against which these chemicals are targeted. Other major groups of pest organisms include mites, ticks, and nematodes. Acaricides (for the control of mites and ticks) and nematocides (for the control of nematodes) are chemicals specifically used to control these pests, but they are still considered subgroups of the broadly defined "insecticides" group.

Not all insecticides are designed to kill pest insects, despite the use of the suffix "-cides" which gives the connotation of biocidal agents. Insecticides have been defined to include any chemical that can be used to reduce damage caused by insects. Thus, nonlethal chemicals such as pheromones, repellents, hormone mimics, growth regulators, feeding inhibitors, anorectic agents (which cause loss of appetite), behavioral disrupters, food attractants (used in traps and as bait), and anesthetics, as well as those causing physical problems such as surfactants, sticky substances, desiccants, and barriers (such as oil film on the surface of water for mosquito larval control) are considered to be insecticides.

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