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What are the Active Ingredients?

Posted in Garden Advice on September 09, 2019

What's in the Product? 

Active ingredients (AI) are the chemicals in pesticide (or drug) products that are biologically active and kill, control, or repel pests. E.g. the active ingredients in an insecticide are the ingredient(s) that kill insects and/or stop them developing.

  • Product labels include the name of each active ingredient and its concentration in the product.
  • Active ingredients may be found in many pesticide products with different names.
  • Some active ingredients work on a broad range of pests while others are more targeted, killing only particular species.
  • There are families of active ingredients that work in the same basic way, e.g. pyrethroids. Using active ingredients from different chemical families and modes of action can slow the development of pesticide resistance, e.g. NO Fleas Total Protection contains a pyrethroid (permethrin) and an insect growth regulator (pyriproxyfen).

The active ingredients often make up only a small part of the whole product. Other ingredients may include:

  • Surfactants and emulsifiers – to improve contact of ai with surfaces, improve spray pattern and to keep emulsions in suspension.
  • Preservatives – to protect products from the microbial breakdown in storage.
  • Humectants – to stop products drying out too quickly.
  • Solvents – to aid penetration

These other ingredients are usually non-toxic and do not need to be referred to on labels. If they are toxic they may also be listed on the label.

Because of these other ingredients, it is important to note that two different brand name products that have the same level of the same active ingredients may perform differently because of the different ‘other’ ingredients they contain.

Kiwicare also lists under ‘Active Ingredients’ some ingredients of non-pesticide products that, although not biologically active, are those that do the job the products are formulated for, such as the surfactant in cleaners, plant nutrients and soil conditioners in fertilisers.

David Brittain

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