What is the Difference Between Herbicides and Pesticides?

10 Feb '21

Spraying herbicide in the garden.

Insects and weeds are nuisances that every property owner faces at some point. Most people are familiar with the importance of spraying, but you might be confused by some of the terminology that is used to describe the best practices for pest control. The difference between herbicides and pesticides gets a little complicated, and it is worth knowing the truth about what these terms mean.

Many people naturally assume that pesticides refer to something that is used to kill insects and other critters. While it does, the word also encompasses so much more. A pesticide is technically any substance that is used to kill or destroy unwanted pests. Since weeds are considered pests, herbicides fall underneath this broad term by serving as a subcategory of pesticides.

Herbicides vs Pesticides 

What Is Considered a Pest?


A pest is anything that could pose a risk to your health, property or general enjoyment in life. Insects are known for carrying bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Weeds are also capable of poisoning humans and animals. A weed problem that grows out of control can ruin your property’s landscaping and cause you to dread looking outside. Some animals also fall into the category of being a pest. Rodents are a common problem in Arizona neighborhoods that require the use of pesticides.

What Are the Subcategories of Pesticides?

A pesticide is typically formulated with chemicals that affect a certain type of pest. Most pesticides are referred to by the types of problems that we use them to treat. For example, a rodent problem is treated with rodenticides. Insecticides work to eliminate those pesky bugs around your property. Herbicides are what we use to kill unwanted plant life in yards and commercial landscapes. If you are confused about what a technician means when they mention using a pesticide, you can ask them to break it down into one of these categories.

How Do Herbicides Work?

Herbicide for weed control in the garden.

There are many different types of herbicides. Each one is designed to target a critical part of a weed’s growth process. Certain herbicides are also designed to only kill specific plants. These are called selective herbicides. We use these in areas where you may want to kill weeds while allowing grass and other desirable plants to thrive. Non-selective herbicides kill everything they contact. These are perfect for using along walking paths and in rock gardens where you don’t want anything to grow.

Herbicides also have different effects depending upon which part of the plant growth process they target. Pre-emergent herbicides target the germinating seed so that it doesn’t have a chance to grow into a full-size plant. Post-emergent herbicides kill weeds that are already maturing into visible plants.

What Do All Pesticides Have In Common?

Whether you are using an insecticide or herbicide, it is important to use caution. Most preparations use chemicals to accomplish their mission, and these can have the potential to harm humans and animals. It is also important to use the right type of pesticide for the job. Herbicides will typically have no real effect upon rodents. Professional treatments eliminate the chance of using the wrong pesticide by mistake.


The pest control field is filled with interesting information that most people don’t worry about until they run into a major problem. Learning more about how and why a pesticide works makes it easier to feel safe and confident about your pest control options.

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Client Charles M., Mesa

I'm so very happy with Custom Weed & Pest Control. I had extremely tenacious weeds, and while they had to come out multiple times to get rid of them, it was covered under my warranty. Now they're gone, and I couldn't be happier.

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They did a great job and all my weeds are dying as promised. My backyard no longer looks like a jungle. Thanks

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