Difference Between Insecticide and Pesticide - FeraxFarm

What is the difference between insecticide and pesticide? Are they the same? Pesticides are substances used to control different kinds of pests. 

A pesticide is a substance or mixture meant to prevent, control or destroy any pest, including undesirable plants, plant pathogens, weeds, birds, nematodes, mollusks, fish, and microorganisms. 

Pesticide includes herbicide, insecticide, bactericide, fungicide, lampricide nematicide (to kill plant-parasitic nematodes), molluscicide (to control gastropod pests, particularly slugs and snails), piscicide (fish poison), avicide (to kill birds), rodenticide (to kill rodents like rats), insect and animal repellent, and lampricide. 

An insecticide is a type of pesticide used to kill insects- explicitly used against insects. Ant and wasp killer and snail bait are insecticides.  

Herbicides are the most commonly used pesticides, which account for about 80 percent of all pesticide use.

Difference Between Insecticide and Pesticide

In reference, insecticides and pesticides are similar products used on crops or close to crops to lower pest damage. 

Pesticide includes all chemical products used to control pests; on the other hand, insecticide refers only to products used against insects, like ants, beetles, bees, wasps, flies, and moths.

The insecticide, in other words, is a type of pesticide, but all pesticides are not insecticides. 

According to National Pesticides Information Center (NPIC), pesticides can be divided into more than 20 categories based on pest-targeted or specific control methods. Pests can harm a plant, including weeds, fungi, and insects. 

Types of Insecticides

Three different types of insecticides are there which are:

  • Systemic Insecticides
  • Ingested Insecticides
  • Contact Insecticides

Systemic Insecticides

Systemic insecticide is added to the soil, so plants’ roots absorb it. The insecticide moves into the plant once the roots absorb it.

This type of insecticide spreads to the external parts of the plant, like branches, leaves, fruits, and twigs. Because of this, a layer is formed on the plant area, which poisons herbivorous insects. [1]

Ingested Insecticides

Ingested insecticides are placed through the agricultural fields, so that pest insect eats them; this causes serious illness, injury, or even death of the insect. Rat and roach poison are typical examples of ingested insecticides.  

Also Read: Non Chemical Methods of Weed Management

Contact Insecticides

Contact insecticides act like projectiles that kill a specific target of insects by applying them to the target. 

These types of insecticides penetrate the insect through the body. Contact insecticides are used against arthropods, e.g., aphids that pierce plant surfaces and suck the plant juice.

For effective control, insects must come in direct contact with a contact insecticide. 

Classification of Insecticides Based on Chemical Nature

Based on their chemical nature, insecticides are grouped into four classes, which are: 

  • Organic Insecticides
  • Inorganic Insecticides
  • Synthetic Insecticides
  • Miscellaneous Compounds

Organic Insecticides

Organic insecticides are organic substances that are used to repel insects. An organic insecticide is made only from natural ingredients to kill insects. It’s not an actual insecticide; instead, it’s a repellent.

Various materials are used to prepare an organic insecticide, but most people like it because it is a safe way to control pests. 

Inorganic insecticides contain carbon in their chemical structure. Captain, glyphosate, and pyrethrin are examples of organic insecticides. [2]

Inorganic Insecticides

Scientifically, carbon is not present in the chemical structure of inorganic pesticides. Inorganic insecticides are compounds of stable chemicals that do not evaporate and usually dissolve in water. They are generally made by using mineral ores from the earth. 

Mainly inorganic insecticides are compounds of fluorine, selenium, sulfur, copper, mercury, boron, elemental phosphorus and sulfur, etc. [3]

Synthetic Insecticides

Synthetic insecticides are chemical products made by using chemical ingredients.

Carbamates, organochlorines, pyrethroids, and organophosphates are the major classes of synthetic insecticides. These insecticides penetrate easily into the insects and are poisonous to many species. 

Synthetic contact insecticides today are the primary means of controlling insects. 

Classes of Miscellaneous Insecticides

  • Nereistoxin analogues
  • Methoxyacrylates 
  • Pyrimidines
  • Naphthoquinones 
  • Benzenedicarboxamides
  • Pyridine azomethine 
  • Tetronic acids 

Types of Agricultural Pesticides 

In general, pesticides are substances that are made to kill different types of pests. These include herbicides, insecticides, insect repellents, fungicides, nematicides, rodenticides, etc. Well-known agricultural pesticides include: 

  • Herbicides
  • Insecticides
  • Fungicides
  • Rodenticides

Pesticides that are less well-known include:

  • Plant growth regulators
  • Attractants
  • Disinfectants
  • Plant defoliants

Herbicides Used in Agriculture

Herbicides are chemical substances that are used to kill or inhibit undesirable plant growth like weeds, agricultural pests, and invasive species. Some common herbicide examples are: 

  • Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid 
  • Trichlorophenoxy Acetic Acid
  • Trifluralin 
  • Bensulide
  • Pendimethalin
  • Carfentrazone etc. 

Insecticides Used in Agriculture

Insecticides are chemical substances used in agriculture to prevent insect damage by killing them or keeping them from engaging in destructive behavior. Some commonly used insecticides used in agriculture are:

  • Chlorpyrifos
  • Malathion
  • Boric acid
  • Heptachlor
  • Endosulfan 
  • Chlordecone 


Toxic substances extensively used on crops and livestock to protect them from harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and fungi are called agricultural disinfectants.

Proper disinfection measures are necessary to maximize crop and livestock protection to clean harmful and unwanted microorganisms.

Some common examples of disinfectants are: 

  • Hypochlorite
  • Sodium hydroxide
  • Formaldehyde and Aldehydes
  • Quaternary ammoniums
  • Iodophor 


Defoliants are chemicals like sprays or dust applied to plants for early leaf fall. Defoliants cause defoliation of plant leaves on application. Sometimes defoliants are used on crops such as cotton to facilitate its harvesting.

Some common defoliants are:

  • Thidiazuron
  • Ginstar
  • Finish etc.


Pesticides are chemical substances prepared to control pests. Several pesticides, such as Insecticides, Herbicides, Rodenticides, Bactericides, Fungicides, and Larvicides, are available to manage different kinds of pests.  

The difference between insecticide and pesticide is that insecticides are pesticides, but all pesticides are not only insecticides. Pesticides are used against all pest types like weeds, fungi, bacteria, viruses, rodents, etc., while insecticides are used against insect pests. 

Preventive measures should be taken while handling, storing, and using pesticides as they are toxic substances, especially while working with chemical pesticides.  


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