Licensed to Kill Garden Pests - U of I Extension

News Release

Licensed to Kill Garden Pests

This article was originally published on April 19, 2012 and expired on May 15, 2012. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.

Nothing tastes better than your home-grown produce – and nothing is more infuriating than finding out that you are sharing it with pests.

Pesticides are an important tool in pest management, but there are restrictions on their use in school gardens or community gardens. The University of Illinois Extension's Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) has prepared a new fact sheet, "Making Pesticide Applications in School/Community Gardens," to address frequently asked questions, which is available at

According to Extension education Ellen Phillips, to use pesticides legally and safely, there are a few things you must know. For instance, the Illinois Pesticide Act may require you to obtain a license from the Illinois Department of Agriculture to apply pesticides to gardens that are not your own.

"Whether you need a license or not depends on two things – what type of pesticide you are applying and where you are applying it," she said.

If you are applying pesticides on land that you do not own, such as a school or park, you must have a license. If you own the land or if you rent/lease it, such as a community garden plot, you need a license only if you apply a Restricted Use Pesticide (RUP). Most of the products sold in garden centers or home improvement stores are General Use Pesticides (GUPs). A license is not required unless they are applied to someone else's property. Pesticide type is indicated on the top of the label on the product container.

Why is licensing needed? "It is necessary to demonstrate to the public that you know how to apply pesticides safely and effectively. Plus, it's the law," said Phillips. To get a pesticide operator license, it is necessary to score at least 70 percent on the General Standards exam (100 multiple-choice questions) and then apply for a license.

Operators work under the direct supervision of an applicator. An operator can become eligible to apply for an applicator license by scoring at least a 70 percent on an appropriate category exam (50 multiple-choice questions). There are various categories, including Turfgrass, Ornamentals, Fruit, Vegetables, and Rights-of-Way. Each has a separate exam.

"Your entire range of pesticide use must be covered by the categories on the applicator's license, so this could mean taking several exams," Phillips explained.

There is no charge to take any exam, although there are fees for the actual license. U of I Extension offers study materials and training clinics for a fee. Testing is coordinated by the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

For more information, please visit or call 800-644-2123 (commercial) or 877-626-1650 (private).

Source: Ellen Phillips, Extension Educator, Local Food Systems and Small Farms,

Pull date: May 15, 2012