What is the Difference Between Pesticide and Herbicide?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2019
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The primary difference between pesticide and herbicide is that a pesticide is generally used to kill or repel pests of all types, including insects and occasionally plants, and an herbicide is normally designed to kill certain types of plants, such as weeds and other problematic plant species. Pesticide is a term that is fairly broad because there many different types of products, including herbicides, that fall under the pesticide classification. Any product that is designed to deal with some sort of pest, including bugs, rodents, and plants, could be considered a pesticide. Herbicide is a term normally used only to describe products designed for killing or controlling troublesome plants.

Most pesticide and herbicide products are available for sale in the majority of lawn and garden centers. Both types of products can be either chemical-based or made with natural ingredients. Pesticides are used to control bugs, weeds, and rodents as well as fungus and algae. Not all pesticides will control all types of pests, and people normally have to seek out specific types of pesticides to deal with their individual pest problems. Herbicides, which are generally used to control unwanted plant growth, are typically available in either selective or non-selective forms.


Selective herbicides are created to either kill or control a specific type or types of plants. The selective herbicides might be more desirable for a person with a garden who wants to get rid of certain troublesome plant species without harming more desirable plant growth. Non-selective herbicides generally kill any types of plants they come in contact with. The non-selective herbicide variety is often used on sidewalks, driveways, and roads for getting rid of growth that appears in cracks between rocks or concrete. Both selective and non-selective herbicides are considered forms of pesticides.

Pesticide and herbicide exposure can be potentially harmful or even deadly to humans. A person who has small children or pets might want to be careful when using pesticide and herbicide products because the effects of the products are typically worse on kids and pets. There are some types of pesticides and herbicides that are not chemical-based. Some examples of ingredients often used in natural varieties of pesticides and herbicides include neem, garlic, and soap. Even though the natural products are considered safer to use, they could still cause some irritation on contact, particularly in people who have allergies to the ingredients, and they might also require frequent applications because they are usually not as strong as the chemical-based products.


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Post 4

Herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides are all types of pesticides that target different types of pests. Many trained agronomists cannot understand the difficulty in understanding that herbicides are a type of pesticide.

Post 3

@burcidi-- Not just you, even some herbicide and pesticide companies confuse the two! I saw a weed killer commercial use pesticide instead of herbicide on TV!

Post 2

@burcidi-- Don't get confused. Pesticide is for pests. This can be insects, rodents, ticks, etc. Herbicide, as the name suggests, is for plants.

Unless the pesticide or herbicide is selective, it will affect other living organisms in the environment. This is why herbicides are usually sprayed directly on top of the plants that are to be eliminated. For example, I have a herbicide to get rid of weeds that I spray directly on top of the weeds and nowhere else. Otherwise, it will kill the grass as well.

Post 1

The article mentioned that pesticides can be used to kill weeds. Doesn't that make some pesticides, herbicides?

Do herbicides kill pests along with plants and weeds?

I think I'm still confused about the difference.

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