As the year progresses, our office gets a number of calls and walk-ins about pest problems in the yard, garden, pasture, and other sites. And the question is two-fold: what is it and what can I do about it.

Once identified there are (typically) a few options on how to control the pest, whether the pest is weed, insects, mites, or disease. But with the control options and great products at our disposal, they won’t do what they are meant to if we don’t read and follow the label.

True, labels are great for putting one to sleep. True, I’m the guy who wants to assemble something without reading the directions.

But if you have fleas in the yard, duckweed in the pond, downy mildew on your Crepe Myrtles, armyworms in your hay meadow, gummy stem blight on your tomatoes, or smartweed in the pasture, the recommended “solution” won’t do you much good if you don’t follow the label.

The pesticide product label gives you important information about how to use the pesticide effectively and safely. Read the label before you buy the product and each time before you use the product.

You may only use the pesticide on sites or crops listed on the label. For instance, the pesticide label will tell you whether or not you may use the pesticide inside your home. If you are treating a vegetable garden, be sure the label says you can use the pesticide on your garden crop.

Also, there are turf and ornamental pesticides may not be used on food plants. The label may tell you what plants should not be treated because of the chance of injuring the plant, or under what conditions you may, or may not, apply the pesticide.

The pesticide label also tells you about special precautions you must take when you use the pesticide. These include keeping people, and especially kids, safe. It will also include statements warning about not contaminating foods, feeds and water; not applying pesticides when it is windy; or not allowing the pesticide to drift or runoff.

The pesticide label will contain a signal word that will tell you how toxic the product is to humans. There are three signal words: CAUTION, WARNING or DANGER. Signal words will usually be in capital letters. Least toxic products carry the signal word CAUTION. Products with the signal word WARNING on the label are more toxic. The most toxic pesticides have the signal word DANGER on their labels.

The pesticide label lists personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing that you must wear when mixing and applying pesticides. The label will also tell you how long you must wait until you can reenter a treated area, or how long you must wait to harvest food plants after an application. It provides first aid information under a section called “Statement of Practical Treatment” or “First Aid.”

The pesticide label will also tell you how to store the product safely, and how to dispose of the empty container or unused pesticide properly.

Always remember to read and heed the six most important words on the label: “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.”

Please, always READ and follow the label directions exactly.