Why reduce pesticide use?


Pesticides can harm wildlife and the environment, but they are common place on farmland and even surprisingly frequent in parks and gardens within cities.

  • The use of pesticides has caused a decline in insect numbers, which has had a knock-on effect on the populations of various bird species, such as house sparrows.
  • Many pesticides used to control unwanted invertebrates are also harmful to beneficial creepy crawlies, such as pollinators and the insects that predate on pests.

Pesticides are an overarching term that includes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

What can you do to help?


The easiest thing to do is reduce, or even avoid altogether, the use of pesticides within your Naturespace, or replace them with a range of wildlife-friendly alternatives.

Naturehood pesticide pledge

Avoid pesticide use wherever possible, using eco-friendly pesticides only when absolutely necessary.

  • Leave plants, insects, slugs and snails alone if they are not causing you harm.

  • Never use pesticides on plants when they are in flower because of the danger to bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other pollinators.

  • Promote natural pest control by encouraging natural predators to visit your Naturespace.

  • If you do use pesticides, try and choose eco-friendly and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely, using only what you need to reduce the damage to the wider environment.

Alternatives to pesticide use

You can use integrated pest management to lessen the impact of weeds, pests and diseases. This is essentially where you use a combination of methods together for greater impact. Take a look at some of our alternative pesticide suggestions that can be used alone or to complement each other.

Switch up your perspective

Consider if the plant, insect or fungus is truly causing an issue, or whether you can be a little more relaxed in your garden to allow wildlife to thrive.

Plant selection

Choose plants that are adapted to your garden and soil type and look out for plant varieties that show resistance to pests and diseases. Consistent watering and appropriate feeding will promote strong, disease-resistant growth.

Crop rotation

If you grow food, rotating your crops can help reduce the build-up of some pests and diseases, which flourish in soils when similar crops are grown for several years in a row. Allowing sufficient space between plants can also help avoid problems.

Mulching and weeding

Regular hand picking of weeds and hoeing is effective in getting rid of annual weeds. If repeated, digging can destroy perennial weeds too. Mulching with straw, leaf litter or compost can prevent weeds from growing, plus will introduce more organic matter to the soil.

Building barriers

Growing plants such as carrots and brassicas under an insect-proof fine mesh can reduce and even eliminate some problems such as root flies. Planting in raised beds or elevated pots is another way to create a physical barrier from slugs and snails.

Diverse planting

Ensure your Naturespace contains different plant types and use flowering plants to attract natural predators of pests such as hoverflies.

Companion planting

Plant strongly-scented plants such as marigolds, sage and lavender near your vegetables or flowers, as these can deter pest insects. Other plants can be used to distract potential pests. For example, Nasturtiums can lure butterflies away from laying eggs on your cabbages and act as sacrificial plants.

Early detection of fungal infections

Acting quickly to remove infected leaves before fungal infections take hold can prevent long-term and widespread issues. If a plant is prone to fungal infection, look at fungal-resistant varieties and consider adequate spacing between plants to allow air flow. If disease outbreak does occur, you can treat plants with products that work without chemicals. For more information take a look at the RHS website.

Natural pest control


You can help manage pests by introducing a natural predator. This doesn’t mean releasing a new creature into your Naturespace, but rather it involves creating conditions that are beneficial for the animals that will eat the pests in your garden to encourage them to visit your Naturespace.

  • The larvae of hoverflies are excellent aphid predators.
  • Birds will eat slugs and slug eggs.
  • Hedgehogs will eat slugs and snails.
  • The two-spot ladybirds are well loved by gardeners for eating greenfly and mealybugs.

Further useful advice on appropriate biological controls for different pests can be found from the RHS.

If you need any more information on pesticide alternatives, why not take a look at these helpful guides:

Non-chemical weed control
Controlling pests and diseases without chemicals


Make sure you record your Naturespace actions within your Naturespace profile, so that we know what you have done.

©Earthwatch 2018  

Get Involved

Unless otherwise credited, all illustrations © Chris Shields, and all wildlife photographs © Steven Falk
Connect with Naturehood:
By selecting one or more of our five priority species, you can help us find out more about their life cycle and how their habitat affects them, and access specific activities to help you support that species.
This feed shows you the activities you can complete next. We’ll remind you when there’s an activity coming up for you to complete.
We need to know as much as possible about your Naturespace – it could be your garden, a window box, an area of your school grounds or even a public space like a park. To fully take part in Naturehood you’ll need to work through the four stages in this section.
If you’ve taken any of the Naturehood actions since setting up your Naturespace, record them here. Please click on the ‘Tell us’ button next to the relevant action icon.
If you belong to one of our designated Naturehoods, a map of the area will appear here and you will view data specific to your Naturehood. Otherwise you will be assigned to the “Global” Naturehood and will view data from across the UK.
If you manage to get a great photo of one of our five priority species within your Naturespace, you can tell us about it and upload images here.
Sign up to our Naturehood Newsletter

We will never sell or share your personal details for marketing purposes. We will respect your privacy; you can change how we contact you at any time. Your details will be held on Earthwatch’s secure database in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulations.

By selecting one or more of our five priority species, you can help us find out more about their life cycle and how their habitat affects them, and access specific activities to help you support that species.
The species quizzes are a fun way for you to get started with Naturehood and test your knowledge on any of our Naturehood 5 species. Click on any of the species icons to get started.